I HAVE attempted some silly things in an effort to triumph a fear of heights. There was the charity skywire from my university library (the only time I entered it, and witness how fast I fled). During my gap year, I leapt out of a manky little contraption which looked like a prop from ‘Wacky Races’. A video somewhere records swearing suitable for 12,000 feet. And when I was still making television programmes, I straddled a microlight / moped with wings to research a location, as did my presenter who accidentally unfastened his seatbelt whilst leaning to look at the speck of his house... I must have developed a relaxed attitude to altitude since, because I was utterly undaunted by a drink at 600ft. Maybe that’s dipsomania?
Since living in London, I have been awestruck by Tower 42. A 1970’s stalwart which resembles a razor blade from the ground and the NatWest insignia from the air. It was their H.Q. until the Bishopsgate Bombing of 1993. I have a friend who took in the aftermath from his campus bar. He told me that reams of paper filed through smashed windows like hellish ticker-tape.
The chunky stainless steel frames force the eye to travel to the top and simultaneously tone down the windows. We live in a gradually more glassy London. I believe that in two decades we will harbour as much affection for this over-used material as we do today towards 1960’s concrete.
We were booked into ‘Vertigo 42’ for an hour and a quarter of Champagne and backdrop. The lobby looked like the bridge of the Enterprise and gently hummed. Once through airport style security, we were ushered to the bar’s very own lift, in Silk Cut purple. After an ascent taking half a second per floor, we pinged into a night club lobby with chaise longue, then the mirrored corridor bar.
Our tight ledge looked over Liverpool Street. We went just before sunset and saw a city threatened by night fight back with filaments. Long trails of brake lights looked like a lava flow.
The house fizz is minimally marked-up delivering petite, pleasant lemon-lime bubbles. You could spend £100s, although for less than £50 it was revitalising rather than distracting from the landscape. Earthy ceps which smelt of truffle were loaded on warm brioche with a slightly over-poached egg. A board of charcuterie unpeeled - I imagine - from a packet. was garishly garnished with slippery pickled onions. These clashed with the Champagne – how thoughtless. I expected a menu afloat with sturgeons’ eggs rather than hearty peasant planks.
Music was vigorous, urging ‘voulez vous coucher avec moi?’ I suppose the spike is a great aphrodisiac to escort a date to gaze, giddily at the glazing. There were plenty of city boys too exercising their Coutts cards. Easy to deride them, but if they stop spending, those providing our eating opportunities will be wounded.
I heard someone say that London looked beautiful, but didn’t agree. -An impressive, vital expanse. But never beautiful.
Soon the tower will be in the shadow of Richard Rogers’ Leadenhall Tower, set to soar 737ft. Then the Heron Tower will extend over 800ft, including a five storey aquarium. The Pinnacle will eclipse them both at nearly 950ft. And providing they resolve the economics, the London Bridge shard, at over 1000ft, will truly scrape the sky.
As my ears popped during the plunge of the little lift, which alleges to fit 13, I realised that the building interests me far more than the bar. If I experienced Vertigo on the ground, I would have found it a little less than ordinary…
‘Vertigo 42’ - 25 Old Broad Street, London. EC2N 1HQ. T. 020 7877 7842