It was the best of nights, it was the worst of nights.
On the one hand I was back in my dear Park End: the reassuringly drunk crowd queuing outside, the promoters bobbing about trying to look like they were doing enough to deserve their free entry and many complimentary drinks, the bouncers carrying a man with blood spattered across his face out a fire exit – home sweet home. However on the other hand I felt that I was in some sort of dream state whereby my brain kept making little jarring mistakes (I think it is testimony to my normal state of sobriety when in Park End that though I recognised that this or that had changed I also seriously struggled to remember what it was like beforehand), but even if the details escaped me I did know one thing – I did not like it.
All seemed well as I headed up the stairs towards the sports bar: same old carpets, same old dubious stains, but that was where the similarity ended. Wooden floor boards now stretched before me towards the bar. Gone were the worn sofas and armchairs and in was swanky executive leather seating. Gone was the practical bar aesthetic replaced by a much more chic outfit complete with a bar length shelf of bottles of Grey Goose. Slightly disorientated I decided not to linger and instead headed to the familiar thump of the R&B room. Here it seemed little had changed, though once again the new proprietors seem to have been unhappy with the flooring which has been replaced with large slate tiles.
Satisfied that there was nothing to worrying here I decided to try my luck on VIP – after all, the reporter story had worked on getting me this far without paying or queueing. SHOCK HORROR! VIP was gone! I could just walk straight in, no irascible woman or stony-faced bouncer on the door. Instead a big bald bloke gruffly welcomed me and instructed me to don an aloha flower garland. Sand blasted floor boards and a beach themed bar fully equipped with cocktail-making barmen offering free tasters opened up in front of me; for once there was no opportunity for me to try to convince the staff of why I deserved a bottle of captains’ cava despite not being on the list. Talking to the barman while he made me my £7 cocktail, I found out that the intention was to make Park End a more stylish club, devoid of cliques and open to all – I wonder how the dream will fair once it opens its doors to its first term time Wednesday night and to its attendant hordes of ties, team shirts and blazers?
All these thoughts of Wednesday nights had given me quite a thirst for the fruity flavours of the real Grey Goose of the sports team, the mighty VK. I headed to the sports bar, sure that this was one tradition that could not have been tampered with, and sure enough there were VKs: blue and yellow and- no, just blue and yellow, no ice storm delights for me. I settled for a yellow, however I couldn’t help noticing it tasted a little bitterer than normal as I duly strawpedoed it. Perhaps VK becomes more difficult to swallow when it has a £4.50 price tag.
The rest of the night passed in an enjoyable blur as I steadily approached my overdraft limit. The hip-hop floor was as good as ever and I poked my head in on the cheese floor for long enough to determine that it was also relatively unaltered. However, at some point I can only guess that all the change got a little too much for me and I retreated from the Atik to the Cellar and its reassuringly familiar sweat and grime. To top the night off we then staggered just far enough along Broad Street to see that Hassan was not yet back from his holidays, before heading to a just-closed McDonald’s and on to a thankfully still open kebab van, where I bought chips, cheese and beans before sitting down on the steps of Univ to mull over the events of the night.
Though I am sure that a Saturday night in Brookes’ freshers week is not representative of what Atik will be in a few weeks (rumours abound of a new supplier which promises to halve the price of Wednesday night drinks), overall I am quite disappointed with the new Park End. I definitely do not think that it’s worth £8 entry on a Saturday night and if I wanted cocktails I would have gone to Kazbar. Why you would mess with what works? And I think that Atik is gravely mistaking the demands of their clientele with the push for chic – after all, all I want following a good crewdate is cheap VKs, copious straws and a nice bit of hip-hop on the side.