Victorian London - Food and Drink - Night Houses and Supper Rooms- Barnes's

    [-479-] "Now," said my conductor, "let's go down in the Haymarket to Barnes's, and look at that for a few minutes, and then we will go to the Casino, in the Holborn, for a finish, if you please, sir."
    Down through Coventry street, past the cafés again, which are preparing to close, and now we are in tine Haymarket, one of the worst quarters of London. This street is wide, beginning at Coventry street and running down for a distance of about 1,400 feet to the "bottom," ending at the line where Pall Mall begins. They always say the "bottom" or "top" of a street in London, never "east" or "west." It there be a place in London that is deserving of notice, it is the Haymarket. Hundreds of years ago, the washerwomen of the village of Charing, just below us, and now one of the great business centres of London, used to bring their dirty linen here [-480-] to cleanse it, and then dry it on the green fields in the Haymarket.
    [-481-] . . . 
    We are now at Barnes's, a famous night house, or, rather, an infamous night house, in the Haymarket. When the dancing places and music-hells of the metropolis close, this door remains open to catch all stray night birds who can find no other resting place. The place is an ordinary drinking saloon, with a confectionery and pastry counter, and the attendants are five or six over-dressed young ladies, all of whom have their hair dyed of a light color, and are very free and chatty in their manner. These girls are well supplied with jewelry and lockets. Their salary is not large enough to furnish them with the trinkets, as they only get one pound five shillings a week; yet they manage to dress expensively, and Champagne is so common to their palates that they have become indifferent to it and it absolutely palls upon them. Yet there is a percent-[-482-] age on every bottle that is consumed here, and consequently they do their best to sell Moet & Chandon at ten shillings a bottle to the customers - and will even drink with them.
    This is a great place for rump-steaks and native oysters - late at night, and a good business is done here in those articles of food. The oysters are small, black, and have a bitter, copperish taste. A New Yorker, used to Sounds and East Rivers, would leave them in disgust; but Englishmen, whose throats are parched with the liquors they get at the Argyle and in the Haymarket, prefer them to the most luscious Saddle Rocks. There is a large screen in the center of the room, the bar glitters with costly mirrors, and behind the screen are a number of small boxes partitioned off, and haying red plush seats. In these are several noisy women, inflamed with liquor, eating and drinking and halhooing at their male companions. One girl, in a black silk dress, with her hair hanging down in disorder, is crying drunk at one of the tables, and has just spilled a bottle of wine over her handsome dress. She is cursing the waiter, who is also drunk, with much earnestness of purpose, and as soon as she sees the detective she halloos at him in a harsh voice:
    [-483-] "I say, Bobby, you don't want me, do you? I ' avent done nothink, although I wos wonst in Newgate for taking a swell's watch, which he guv to me for my wedding present, as was just four year ago, come Micklemas Goose. I wish I could throw meself in the Thames, but I ' aven't got the art-

    "'Hoh, my ' art is in the 'Ighlands
    A follerin the vild roe.
    My art is in the Ighlands, 
    Wheresomdever I-go-I go."

    "Ah ! that's a rum customer," said the policeman ; " she's fly to heverytlnink. Now, if that gal ain't watched this night, she is jest as likely to go to London Bridge and throw her blessed body hoff into the dirty water as not. They always goes to Lunnun Bridge when they want to make way with themselves - it's so lively like."

Daniel Joseph Kirwan, Palace and Hovel : Phases of London Life, 1878