“I met her in a tango bar …” It’s the stuff of stories, plays and films, these tango bars where dancers pivot between the tables and dangerous liaisons form in the clouds of cigarette smoke. Sadly (or maybe not) the tango bar is almost entirely a product of fiction. Yes, there may be a bar at a tango club, but when the dancers are dancing they tend to take over the place, and, after the first couple of collisions, dancing round the tables is less fun than it sounds. But the idea still has a romantic appeal. What if you retreated from the rain and found yourself in a bar where people were just getting up and dancing. Can you imagine it?
Imagine no longer, for such a bar exists – and conveniently to hand near London’s Liverpool Street station. Theatre Delicatessen is at 2 Finsbury Avenue, EC2M 2PA. It’s a regular cafe bar, serving coffee, sandwiches and both alcoholic and soft drinks. Prices are what you would expect in this part of the world, but the toasted sandwiches are good and the staff are friendly. So far, so normal. But at 7.30 on a Tuesday night, the lights go down, tango music starts playing and gradually people get up and start to dance. By nine o’clock the dancers outnumber the drinkers, but it remains a regular bar with people sitting and watching. There are studio rooms off the café space, so every so often, as one sort of class or another ends, people flood into the room and stop and stare. There is even someone wheeling a bicycle across the dance floor. It’s a milonga (tango dance party) but in a space that is definitely not reserved for dancers.
Somewhere around ten o’clock, Alfredo Martin Espindola starts singing sad country tango songs to his guitar and the dancers pause and then translate his singing into movement and the people come and go and the bar staff serve, quietly but efficiently, and Spaniards explain the lyrics and, outside, it starts to rain. It’s a tango bar. It’s definitely worth a visit.
For me, the atmosphere was quite a change from the rather intense milongas that I’m used to. There was rather more talking and rather less dancing. The place is open until 11.00, so there’s no rush. Have a chat. Have a drink. Take a turn or two around the floor.
As far as dancing goes, the place works well. Tables are pushed back, so you have room to dance. The floor was usually busy, but not over-crowded. (The photo was taken at the end of the evening as it got quieter.) The sound system is good and there wasn’t too much background noise from the bar. In fact, if anything, the place was on the quiet side, without the buzz you often get at a milonga. It was definitely a chilled Tuesday evening rather than a lively weekend feel. Inevitably, but with some justification, women complained of a shortage of men.
The floor is some sort of lino-type tiling, easy enough to move on, but you have to take care where the tiles are not perfectly level, so you can trip on the joins. The dancers all knew what they were doing and the line of dance moved easily round the floor.
Red Room Tango is never going to be the highlight of the week, but for an after-work venue on a Tuesday, it hits the spot really well. And if you fancy watching some dancers while you enjoy an early-evening beer, it’s somewhere you should definitely consider. It’s a tango bar (but without the cigarette smoke). What’s not to like?