Bar Review: Barrio East

Last night I had my work leaving drinks at Barrio East on Shoreditch High Street. Having never been there before I wasn’t sure what to expect of my reserved area, ‘The Caravan,’ but it was everything I’d dreamed of and more.

What strikes you as you walk in the door of this South American-inspired bar is the brightly coloured lego-esque furniture in the front room. And from there onwards things keep getting quirkier, with splashes of colour just about everywhere you look. The friendly bartenders serve up an array of delicious cocktails (Top tip: Get there between 4pm and 8pm for bargain price cocktails and £5 discount on wine) as the music gets you in a dancing mood.

There are three different rooms or areas at Barrio East, each with its own distinctive style. But the one I liked best (and had, by happy coincidence, reserved for my gathering) was The Caravan. Located directly beside the dance floor, it is exactly what it says on the tin: A caravan. In a bar. Amazing. Seating up to 15 people (allegedly – though I’d say 13 tops if you want to be comfortable rather than elbowing each other in the face) it’s comfortable, wonderfully kitsch and also has the added bonus of feeling like an elevated throne from where you can look down at the drunken antics on the dance floor below with a self-satisfied smile.

An hour or so after we arrived, when we were happily ensconced in our self-styled ‘caravan of love,’ with bottles of wine and plate of nachos a plenty, the band arrived. It’s always a bit nerve wracking when a band turns up on a night out; it has the potential to either make or break the evening. But fortunately in our case it made the evening. Freddie and the Freeloaders (great name!) were just the ticket, and soon had us dancing away to their soulful tunes.

Weird as it sounds even the toilets deserve a mention in this place; when you walk in you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported to Brighton seafront at the height of summer, with rows of painted beach huts (the toilet cubicles).

In short, this place is great – a little gem that’s a big break from the norm. If you like your bars to be crazy, quirky and kitsch then this is the place for you. Once you’ve tried it no local boozer will ever seem the same again. You have been warned…

A caravan. In a bar. AMAZING.

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Offer me up

I love an offer, me. In fact I just can’t get enough. Which is just as well considering I will soon be earning considerably less as a part time office worker (though I like to think my inner JK Rowling will burst free on my one freelance day a week and keep the coffers topped up – nay, overflowing. Well, a girl can dream).

There’s something deeply satisfying about handing your debit card to a cheerful sales assistant and seeing their little face drop as, with your other hand, you unholster your smartphone from your pocket and wave a voucher code in their face courtesy of your latest app (or, for the less technologically savvy amongst us, brandish an actual voucher that’s been carefully torn from the pages of a newspaper or magazine).

Today I was delighted to find not one but two offers (cue squeals of delight) on my O2 Priority Moments app that seemed worth checking out. I didn’t get off to the best start with Hotel Chocolat, whose promised ‘Mother’s Day chocolate mini-slab’ failed to materialise as it was “out of stock.” Not ideal.

Unperturbed, I made straight for The Body Shop (that’s a fragrant lie, I was actually led on a wild goose chase out of Liverpool Street station, around the block and back to where I’d started by my Google Maps app – the Body Shop actually being about ten feet away from Hotel Chocolat, where I had begun my merry dance. But hey, you can’t be appy all the time. Geddit? Sorry, I’ll get my virtual coat).

“I think you’ll find this entitles me to fifty per cent off today’s purchases,” I said to the lady at the counter with a conspiratorial wink.

“But there eez an offer on today,” she said in faltering English, with a broad smile and a flourish of her hand.

I blinked at her, processing her comment. “Your point being?”

“Well, if there eez an ozzer offer, I may not be able to geev you zat one.”

I scanned the shop for evidence of the offer to which she was referring. “But these signs say there’s a thirty per cent discount to customers who sign up for a reward card.”

She grinned at me. “Yes.”

“And I don’t want a reward card. I just want to redeem this offer.”

Her smile faltered. “All I am saying eez that it may not be possible to redeem ze offer because of ze other offer.”

“I see. So you want me to browse the shop, select my items, come back to the till and only then will you be able to tell me if I can have fifty per cent off?”

“Yes,” she said brightly. “I just warn you now eez all.”

After a moment’s deliberation I relented, deciding that the benefit of being granted a fifty per cent discount would – just about – outweigh the risk of traipsing around the shop selecting items that would have to be put back should I not be granted the deal.

As fate would have it the gods were feeling benevolent, and when I reached the till a smiling man scanned my smartphone and pronounced the deal would be honoured.

“What a relief,” I said, “that lady said the other offer might make this one invalid.”

“Oh no,” said he, “that offer’s got nothing to do with this one. Yours was always valid.”

Smiling thinly, I picked up my bag and turned to leave.

“Have a nice day,” said the smiling moron as I walked out.

No thanks to you, I thought uncharitably.