Customers from Hell
Louise Gordon, head sommelier at The Westbury in Mayfair, recalls an encounter with one of the last big City Boy spenders
When I worked in the City, we got used to traders and the like coming in, flashing the cash, getting drunk straight off the trading floor – you couldn’t really expect much less from the clientele of a bar slap bang in the middle of the Square Mile.
When it came to drinks, these City boys knew what to ask for – what was expensive, what was fashionable – but they rarely had any idea about what they were actually ordering. They’d just go: ‘Yeah mate, Cristal mate. Louis XIII all round.’ That was the standard script, recited every evening.
One guy was particularly foul. He trotted in at lunchtime in a suit that probably fitted him once, pushed back his greasy hair and began ordering the big names in his broadest Sarf London geezer accent. He and his cronies ditched work that afternoon, and were still at their table when we closed, 12 hours later. It had been quite a session – one of his pals was slumped over the table as I began asking them to drink up.
‘All right sweetheart,’ began this guy, the ringleader of the group, ignoring my call of time. ‘How much for you to give us another bottle of...’ I can’t remember his exact request, because as he spoke, he produced a huge roll of £50 notes from his pocket and began peeling them, one by one, from the wad, stacking them on the table. ‘How much?’ he asked again, placing each note on top of the last. ‘Just tell me to stop.’
‘I’m really sorry sir, it’s gone 1am and legally we can’t serve you anymore,’ I began, but he ignored me and continued to present his cash in increments of £50: ‘Come on love, just tell me to stop.’
Eventually I had to cut straight across him. ‘Look, I’m sorry,’ I said, ‘but I’m afraid you’re going to have to drink up and go.’ Finally he looked up at me, still piling up the pink papers. ‘OK then, I’ll go,’ he acquiesced, without missing a beat. ‘And how much for you to come with me? Just tell me when to stop.’
His non-comatose friends loved this – I got the impression I wasn’t the first woman he’d tried to buy on his way out of a bar.
I raised my eyebrows and glanced disparagingly at the neat pile of 50s. If he’d been Brad Pitt, then maybe, I thought – he was way into the thousands by now – but he was a particularly horrible man, so I gave him a look to say ‘dream on’, and went downstairs to enlist the support of two barmen who’d just come off their shifts.
When I reappeared with the muscle, my suitor must have had second thoughts, because he immediately tried to leave. Unfortunately for him, however, 12 hours of hard drinking had not been kind to his sense of balance and, as he leant on the table to push himself up, it overbalanced towards him and deposited several glasses of cognac on his lap. He slumped back down into his seat, defeated by the furniture.
His mates snickered, settled up and carried him off to a taxi as brandy glasses crashed onto the floor. But for the sake of a couple of quid in glassware I was quite happy to get him out of there.
As told to Sam Walton
Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine - January/February 2009