Bright lights, Christmas dos, and something called ‘Revolution Flavour’: The unfathomable vibes of London’s revamped Vodka Revs

  • london
  • December 27, 2022
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Bright lights, Christmas dos, and something called ‘Revolution Flavour’: The unfathomable vibes of London’s revamped Vodka Revs thumbnail

It feels like everyone has a Vodka Revs story, or at least a very specific idea of the chaotic kind of night you’re having if you end up in one.

It had been years since I wandered the hallowed halls of a Revolution bar, and when I was offered an evening out in the newly-renovated Leadenhall branch, I was curious. What is a shiny new Revs bar like in this day and age?

The answer? I’m actually still not sure. Even at 7:15pm on a Tuesday, Vodka Revs tries to do so very much that the brain almost can’t take it.

That’s not to say I didn’t have a great time – I did. Part of what I loved about it is its utterly chaotic vibelessness. I hope it never changes.

Revolution Bars have long been one of the staples of the Great British night out, where anything can – and often does – happen.

It’s always occupied a strange space in the ‘out-out’ universe, somewhere between Slug and Lettuce and Spoons. Its closest relative is probably Be At One, but even that comparison doesn’t really sum it up.

When asked to describe what she thinks of the chain, one friend tells me: ‘It makes me think of uni – kind of cheap and sticky nights out.

‘Often fun with the right group of people though.’

Another friend from a different social circle says it also makes him think of nights being drunk and ‘a bit silly’ while he was at university.

He says Revolution Bars are like the fast food of the bar world, adding: ‘It fits the bill, and lots of different people can go there and have a nice time. It’s good, it’s fine, it does the job.

‘I probably wouldn’t go there now unless I was really pissed or had nowhere else to go.’

This refreshed Leadenhall Revs, which has the capacity to serve 1,000 people, is quite a grand building – with its high ceilings, wood panelling and impressive bar. There were plenty of tables already politely set with little candles, wine glasses and cutlery when we arrived, which would lead one to think this is the kind of place for a sit-down meal and a sensible glass or two.

Except the food was nothing to write home about and the drinks were very very sweet. So, with Happy Hour pricing making two cocktails cost £12, that would lead one to believe this is the kind of place new drinkers go for ‘prinks’.

Looks-wise, it may have even been a little fancy if it weren’t for the disco balls and light machines splashing every surface – including your eyeballs if you’re sat at the wrong angle – with bright dots and neon symbols. There was also a DJ, who stood in an absolutely massive pulpit, lit mainly by a Christmas tree and a heavenly Revs logo light fixture on the wall behind him.

He barely moved a muscle the whole time we were there, playing loud tracks like Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), Nothing Breaks Like a Heart, and, for reasons best known to himself, a Blinding Lights/Take On Me mash-up. This would lead one to think it’s the kind of place to dance and get stupid.

And the longer we stayed, the more oddities there were to discover. Like the row of armchairs and tables lined up in the narrow hallway immediately outside the loos, and the fact that some of the cocktail ingredients included a mysterious ingredient called ‘Revolution Flavour’, which remains very funny to me.

And we didn’t seem to be the only people there who were a bit confused.

Within the first hour, we saw two different groups of people sit down, look around, take a quick peek at the menu and leave. Those who did stay were a couple on a date, a group of girls dancing in their seats, and what looked like two different work Christmas dos in separate parts of the venue – the latter of these only adding to the uncanny nature of it all.

It was dazzling, it was confusing, and it was very, very silly.

Rather than tipsy, I was sky-high on sugar and, much like The Weeknd, blinded by the lights.

When asked about the type of vibe the company wants its venues to give off, a rep for the chain said: ‘Revolution has remained the bar we know and love, and it seems that so many people across generations have great memories of their times in Revolution. Over the years we have also expanded our offering to create diverse experiences to suit a variety of guests and revellers.

‘Our business model means that events aren’t dictated to the individual venues by the central team, but they’re given the power to come up with something bespoke to their customer base.

‘When anyone walks into a Revolution, we will always want them to champion who they are and this value has always been and will always be the heart of the business.’

I took’s own Jess Austin to the bar as my date that fateful Tuesday, and she was just as mystified as I was by the whole thing.

At one point she looked at me, eyes full of wonder, and said: ‘We’ve only been here for an hour.’

In the end, we stayed for two, promising to go with each other again.

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