If you spend any time in London at all, odds are that at some point you'll be expected to meet someone at Tottenham Court Road tube station or thereabouts. But where? Lurking around the turnstiles loses its appeal surprisingly soon, and waiting by the grim crossroads above is not as uplifting an experience as you might expect at the heart of the big city.
Which is why Bradleys Spanish Bar on Hanway Street, just a few yards from that very crossroads and station entrance, is a sheer delight. This is a fabulous little place in its own right, but being next to such a key rendezvous point makes it even more precious. It's hard to say where the key to its appeal lies. It's very small, you tend to have to move around a lot to accommodate extra punters and their stuff, the furniture's ancient and battered and the upholstery's torn, the beer choice is strictly lagers and the toilets feel like they might collapse around your ears. But there's a superb jukebox constantly playing loud tunes from a range of yesteryears on trusty vinyl, a variety of quirky regulars and a lively, good-natured, addictive atmosphere that can keep you there all night although you only meant to meet for a swifty. Scruffy, noisy and unpretentious, this is the real thing.