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The View from the Top: drinks at The Cube

Hey look mum, I can see my house from here: braving the vertigo to look through the Tetris blocks.

Call me slow but I finally made it up to the bar at the top of The Cube on Saturday night.

My friend has just scored a new job (and a pay rise – you go girl!) and feels on top of the world right now so we thought this would be a suitable venue for a celebration.

We really just went for the view. Another friend who has just moved into The Cube, says the building is rumbling discontentedly about the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse (the bar is part of this restaurant and attached to the Laurent Perrier Champagne Bar on the 25th floor). Rumours of problems with staff and management seem to be reflected in the decidedly mixed Trip Advisor reviews that point towards an establishment with much potential but many unresolved issues.

The Good:

After getting in the wrong lift (and being followed by a gaggle of similarly clueless bar seekers) we took the express up to the 25th floor. The elevator door opened on to throngs of Brum-glamazons, heading to and from the bar. The surprisingly narrow opening to the main room led out onto a large curving sun terrace.

The feted view stretched out before me, through the Tetris-like façade of the building on to the canals and Broad Street below. It stretched out as far as the horizon. For a moment I was Blake Lively in that perfume ad, staring in awe at the thousands of twinkling lights and the potential of the metropolis, while Midnight City thumps in the background. Then the record screeched off as the husband pointed out ‘ugh, look at the burned-out car and that derelict warehouse – what a view!’

I chose to look beyond this aesthetic bump in the vista. The city is its flaws surviving alongside its gems, after all. We took our seats at a table on the furthest edge of the terrace. I gingerly looked over the edge and my vertigo eased slightly as I discovered a small ledge on the floor below. There would be no tipsy toppling tonight!

And just then, the sky burst into colour. A firework display to mark the end of Arts Fest was beginning over in Centenary Square and we undoubtedly had the best view. The explosions were reflecting perfectly on the mirrored walls of The Cube and the whole terrace burst into applause at the end. It was unexpected and magical.

It was also bloody cold up there.  To make the most of the terrace, a few discreet but well-placed halogen lamps wouldn’t go amiss.

Another plus was the behaviour of everyone on the terrace. If this building was on Broad Street, there would no doubt have been a drunken tragedy by now. But here, everyone was polite, courteous and, well, refreshingly un-Brum-night-outish. It’s good for the city to possess a variety of nightlife and for its entertainment to extend beyond the predictability of Broad Street.

The Bad: Firstly, the bar needs more staff. A long wait to be served is expected on a Saturday night but when the bar area is permanently five-deep, something has to be changed. Is it really worth the expensive prices when the drinks are being made by inexperienced bartenders? I was told I could not order a B52 (one of the easiest cocktails I know) because no one had enough experience to mix it. Not good enough Marco.

The bar knows it has the best location in town. Why not make the rest of its features as special? Bring in some showy mixologists who can also train up the rest of the bar staff. Get in a pianist or a smoking- hot house jazz-band. Some of our group also thought that the bar and restaurant were too brightly lit for the evening. This bar could be seductive, grown-up and glittering with candles  to let the city lights speak for themselves but the over-reliance on indoor halogens means the atmosphere loses the dangerous allure of a truly great bar.

Drinking a martini, having a Blake Lively moment.

The Ugly:  The terrace was pretty well-behaved as I mentioned but over in the bar area there was some big-game hunting going on and we quite enjoyed the people-watching safari. On the way down, we realised why the lift area was so crowded. Gaggles of tactically undressed girls were scoping out who was in the lifts. Was it anyone worth flicking their hair for i.e. a footballer? There was a slightly mercenary quality about these wannabe wags. It can’t have done much for the self-esteem of the majority of male customers.

It wasn’t just the girls who exhibited questionable ‘animal kingdom’ manners. During a marathon wait at the bar,one of our group was surreptitiously felt up by the obligatory Saturday night ‘bar perv’, although this happens everywhere doesn’t it and just one is quite low for a bar in terms of bar-perv statistics.

So all in all it was a good night, but not great. We went up for the view but could have more drinks in better surroundings for a fraction of the cost. Yet I haven’t given up hope that this place will iron out some of the kinks and develop into a must-go venue in a year or two.

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