You’ve got to love a lurid neon sign held high above a strange new establishment. Like Christmas lights that continue to twinkle during a hurricane.
I never took up smoking. At 15 I had the chance to become a “smoker”, but I never managed to muster enough enthusiasm to move beyond fake puffing on my friends stolen cigarettes to actual nicotine addiction. The whole point of smoking was lost on me. You spend a butt load of money for seemingly little benefit. I much preferred saving my almost non-existent cash to spend on cheap fizzy wine which got me buzzed and filled with sugar for the required number of hours before I fell into a deep, happy sleep, usually on a friends floor.
That, I suppose, is why I have never visited a shisha bar. My masterfully philosophical friend Josh is a regular “piper”, so when I required a pipey story to represent the Eleven Pipers Piping for my second toilet of Christmas, I asked for ingress into the world of hookah.
You may say that these colourful water bongs are not the correct kind of pipes spoken of in days of yore, but who are you to know? The late eighteenth century composer of the original chant may have been partial to a bit of shisha action over the loud dirge of bagpipe music, we can never know for sure.
What I do know is that Amnesia Shisha and Coffee Bar was definitely more shisha than coffee bar. There wasn’t a whole lot of coffee bar about it.
When I asked Josh why he chose to spend so much of his vital philosophising time in a less than luxurious environment, he quoted Han Solo at me while trying to alight from a Northern line train car, “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts kid.”
And on that premise he isn’t wrong. The customer service afforded to us was exceptional. As a regular customer, he is treated him like the modern day Raja his moustache makes him appear to be.
Sadly, not everything is perfect in the land of double apple smoke. The toilet was slightly more lugubrious than the cheerful, friendly service or sweet mint tea we were served.
Josh told me that, until recently there had been a fault with the plumbing, meaning that any paper used during your visit could not be flushed. So rather than wiping and pushing a chrome button to carry away your shame and stink, a bucket was supplied in which to dispose of any used paper.
In some ways it would have been more entertaining to write about the mountain of shitty tissue rotting together in a plastic bin beside the toilet I was using. But in another far more honest way, I am very glad I didn’t have to see or encounter that bin of misery during my visit.
Other than the lack of fecal matter on open display, I very much enjoyed the quality grouting work on the tile splash-back. Very artistic.
Cleanliness : 5/10 Not too bad, mainly because there wasn’t a bucket filled with strangers shitty wipings for me to stare in horror at while I used the facilities.
Interior : 4/10 Hey, it’s not the flashest but they did provide two air fresheners so it can’t all be bad! If the smell is that bad you had the option to double-fist it into submission.
Exterior : 4/10 The owner/operator dudes were lovely to us and even refused to let me pay for my tea, but honestly if I hadn’t been with Josh I would never have been brave enough to walk into a place like this. It feels like a private club that only people who already know about shisha and smoking type stuff could be a part of. However, in saying that, if I was panicking and I asked to use their loo, I feel very sure that the kind dudes who front Amnesia would take pity on the hyperventilating, bespectacled mess they found before them.
Safety : 4/10 I did fear for bacterial infection but also how often do people knock over those pipes? That must be a fire hazard waiting to happen.
Snugglitude : 2/10 With no other shisha bars to act as frame of reference I can’t really make a very informed appraisal but thought it was nice to finally see my good friend’s favourite haunt, I don’t imagine I will be taking to the pipe myself any time soon. Also the idea of a bucket of shit cover tissue will not leave me in a hurry.
Total : 19/50 For stronger stomachs than mine.