KATIE MAIR checks out Lola Lo. Despite expensive cocktails, she likes it.
Good for: Dancing, a dose of unpretentious fun, fans of a theme pursued with ruthless aplomb
Bad for: Posers, cheap drinks (cocktails set you back up to £8.95). Killjoys.
Promising two bars worth of ‘the pure essence of South Pacific joie de vivre,’ ‘a bounty paradise,’ and ‘a tropical oasis where the party goes on and on,’ the newest addition to Cambridge’s already throbbing clubbing scene has certainly made some big claims.
Initial impressions are good: distinctly empty dance-floor aside (to be fair, it was a launch night, everyone was weird and old, and the vibe is bound to be a whole lot different when it is populated by students on hula-girl swaps), there was a definite sense that the owners are trying something different.
Empty but enjoyable
The décor is impressive: generic tribal stickers on the pillars, enlarged versions of Hawaiian shirt print on the walls, lashings of raffia to capture the ruffle of the beach hut on the bar. There are themed cups in the shapes of generic tribal gods. There are a lot of receptacles promising imaginary ‘monkey nuts’, and other tropical offerings.
The music in the first floor bar ranged from Sean Paul to Eurythmics to Katy B: not everyone’s cup of coconut milk, but a pleasingly diverse range if you like a full platter of pop. It’s the ‘Aku-Aku Bar’ on the next floor up that you want to head to for dancing, though.
Anywhere with a flashing dance-floor gets instant points. Who doesn’t feel great getting down on a cheeky chessboard? My dancing-partner and I were reminded of the ‘Cheesy Room’ in our respective (and happily alliterative) Wolverhampton and Watford Oceanas. No, not classy. Yes, big laughs. This flashy room of fun is possibly the most exciting thing to come to Cambridge since Rolf Harris did that art exhibition.
The best floor in Cambridge
Thankfully, the music hadn’t been based on the S Club/Foundations/Backstreet Boys mega-mixes that the DJs back home usually match to the kitsch dancing-arena. Starting with more commercial R’n’B (Beyonce, Cee Lo Green, a satisfying helping of Rihanna), and moving to slightly more innovative mash-ups towards the end, it was all pleasingly danceable. So danceable, and so flashy, that one reveller even started break-dancing.
Lola’s loos were good, with no need for awkward social negotiation, as there were no toilet attendants. In the ladies’, there was Neem Tree flavour soap, and matching Mulberry flavour hand cream, and good, powerful hand-driers. That was a nice touch.
The men’s were: ‘brilliant. Trough-urinals provided generous quantities of urinating space and the atmosphere was primed with the addition of one of those big heads from Easter Island.’ You heard it here first.
Onwards and upwards, then: the next floor up is the terrace. The roof is partially covered with a mesh of fairy-lights, giving the confusing illusion that one is simultaneously inside and dangerously close to the night sky. It also meant that smoking seemed very cheeky indeed, because it didn’t feel very much like a smoking area. With another bar, bounteous seating and quieter atmosphere in which it is actually possible to converse, the terrace proves a nice counterpoint to Cindies’ concrete lunge-jungle.
The lack of pretension was the most refreshing thing about the place: you would come for a good time, a massive snog, and a really sugary cocktail. It might be club Tropicana, but the drinks are not free – in fact, the drinks aren’t cheap at all. Having said that, it does seem less painful to be supping overpriced cocktails from an absurd pewter beaker than downing overpriced Corky’s from a tiny plastic shot glass.
The exotic theme was a wise choice, because when you feel like you’re on a lovely tropical island, you feel pretty benign and benevolent about basically everything. It is a bit like going on a little holiday, without the carbon footprint and the inevitable diarrhoea.
It will be interesting to see how Lola Lo evolves once exams are over and students are back to their usual routines. Wednesdays are offering ‘Kitsch’, which might prove a rival to Cindies’ traditional night of fromage, and students usually choosing Life of a Thursday now have the ironically sinister alternative of murder, with ‘Let’s Kill Disco’. Lola Lo has got most bases covered, and its proximity to the Van of Death can only add extra incentive to a night out next to a multi-storey car park.
Conclusion: Lola GO.