Leicester Square review
Everybody looks wrecked in the morning but I'm the middle-aged kind of wrecked, where you roll out of bed feeling like you've only had five minutes kip. These sleeping kids in Leicester Square are the other type: they look like they're at the tail-end of a long night out that still hasn't ended yet. I'm glad I don't have to do that anymore -- I much prefer Leicester Square during the day.
If you come here on a Friday or Saturday night then the crowds are unbelievable. It's the human equivalent of those mudslides that flow slowly over an entire town. You enter the viscous thick of it as soon as you leave the tube train and ride it up the station stairs to the street. The trick is to step out of it when it passes your pub and hope the bouncers are a bit blase. Once you've made it past them (I never got past them) then you'll have a wall of jacketed backs five people deep at the bar. That's the worst part about drinking round here: trying to grab the barmaid's attention over the hollering of fifteen guys all ten feet taller than you. Then you have to wobble your sloshing bottles and pitching pints back through a maze of tables to the tiny patch of standing space you somehow managed to grab by the door. And then you stand in the same spot for the rest of the night because you don't want to lose it. But hey, it's Leicester Square, and that's what you're supposed to do when you're young.
But it's nice and quiet this morning. It's just those two kids sleeping on each other's shoulders and a few suits staring into space as they suck on a cigarette. The Shakespeare statue has become a perch for birds and the only bright lights still shining are the big cinema billboards.
The only worker in sight is a bouncer outside the 24-hour casino. There are two types of casino in Leicester Square. You've got the posh ones like the Empire and the Grosvenor where you have to put on a suit to lose a few grand playing poker. If you can afford to lose lots of money then that's where you go. And then you've got the lowly arcade outside the Hippodrome. If you can't afford to lose any money then that's where you go. When kids play an arcade machine at least they get a game out of it, but adults just drop a quid in and press a button, watch a few lights flash on and off and that's their game over already. Nobody knows what's going on with a fruit machine. It's just big buttons, a few fruits and flashing lights. Twenty quid later you might get a couple of pounds out and feel all happy because you won something.
If you want some cheap theatre tickets then try the TKTS booth in the centre of the square. There are a couple of other ticket shops down Cranbourn Street but they look a bit pricey to me. And there are some nice pavement restaurants in Irving Street if you've got some time to kill before your show starts. But remember that this is tourist central so everything costs ten times more than it should.
I’ve been here before…
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