The London Evening Standard is, as its name suggests, a London-based newspaper that sets the Standard for Evening readings. On 12 January 1999, it published the following article in its Lifestyle section, which we reproduce here as an electronically stored, transient copy for the purpose of viewing it online only.
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In the lap of Luxembourg
by Simon Heptinstall
The country's top people cheered as the restaurant owner ordered his team of waiters to spray him all over with cologne: "I've been on TV, on radio ... I'm notorious," crowed Rol Sunnen, Luxembourg's self-styled answer to Peter Stringfellow, as he pirouetted ostentatiously round his bar.
Europe's tiniest capital city is a great venue for a nutty night out. It's so small you can see the whole range of nightlife in one go, from hobnobbing with the rich and famous to cruising the coolest clubs. It seemed like a party in toytown for us, a couple of shy foreigners, as we got to meet most of the people that matter in Luxembourg ... in just one night.
Standing at the bar in Rol's place, Um Plateau, we chatted to three club-owners, a couple of politicians and a young Burberry-clad trio. "Extremely wealthy daddies - I can't tell you who," winked Rol.
Our restaurant seats were sandwiched between a boisterous back-slapping men's party hosted by the head of the national parliament, and the table where Luxembourg's favourite dyed-blonde TV presenter sipped cocktails.
The food is average but the atmosphere excellent as Rol appears suddenly from behind six-foot-tall paper flowers to pour out champagne ad infinitum. Turn up on the right night and you'll catch Seventies jet-set regulars like Joan Collins, Sean Connery or Roger Moore. Our plan was to nip over after work on Friday using a new one-hour flight from London City airport. Could such a TINY dot on the map supply a really BIG night out? Friends scoffed. Luxembourg is smaller than Bristol and its only claim to fame is a radio station - that and being a major banking headquarters. Even the Rough Guide says there's not much to see.
It is actually a picturesque town with plenty of castles, museums, shops, cafes and bars for interesting daytime strolls - but nightlife?
Well, it's also a modern cosmopolitan crossroads at the centre of Europe. Perhaps the world's bankers are out trying to make some friends.
We started by dumping bags and changing at the top bedroom in town, Hotel Le Royal. A swanky modern marble-and-mirrors business hotel near the centre, it looks just like the banks that surround it, but champagne on ice and trays of handmade chocolates were waiting next to our bed. An old friend from Luxembourg's tourist board had told me to contact restaurateur Rol Sunnen: "Rol's old but knows everyone," he said.
Um Plateau was a couple of minutes away by cab. Rol turned out to be a flamboyant grey-haired charmer and the whole place bustled with Luxembourg high society amid drapes, tassels and huge china ornaments. Constantly clutching a bottle of champagne, Rol explained that Luxembourg's clubs and bars mostly follow a 3am weekend curfew. To find late ones you have to talk to someone in the know. Like him.
At first we ignored his scribbled list of clubs and taxied to the out-of-town Casino 2000. Rol warned that it would be "full of peasants". I'd had a sort of James Bond fantasy of striding into a baroque room full of millionaires and models hunched over roulette wheels. Unfortunately, Luxembourg's only casino looks like a municipal sports centre. Inside, it's monumentally tacky. Between the slot machines and cabaret bars stood a full-size gingerbread Wendy house. Disappointed but with wallets intact, we took the Casino's complimentary bus back into town.
I'd found a copy of Luxembourg's listings magazine at the hotel. It described Bugatti's as "a classic disco". I imagined a cheesy retro palace. Instead the mirrored dance floor was surrounded by men in brown jackets and slip-on shoes. The music was bad, thumping Euro-dance with Pinky and Perky vocals. Modern house-dance club XS was nearby but we'd seen a poster for that night's "Kinky" saying: "Dress hot and spicy." My checked shirt didn't really cut it ...
Instead, we taxied to Didjeridoo, five minutes away. The brightly painted warehouse was seething with a mix of trendy clubbers and Euroweirdos in Chanel or Gucci. A camp waiter at "Um Plateau" had mysteriously predicted that it would be "full of big trousers". The biggest-trouser of them all, Rol, was there too. He'd wheedled himself behind the bar and welcomed us by pouring out more champagne.
I started talking to a Tehran gold dealer I'd noticed at Um Plateau. Joanna was simultaneously propositioned by two slimy bankers. The Iranian chap introduced the Didjeridoo's owner, who shrugged and said he ignores the 3am curfew but, "if the police come we will have to shut down and go home".
Joanna and I danced to everything from Cher to exotic African-sounding tracks while younger ravers wobbled on raised platforms. Around 5am we walked back to the hotel. It felt safe, there were women walking home alone. No police, no aggro. Back at the Royal, a champagne breakfast was included in the room rate. But breakfast didn't start for an hour and we were all champed out. The little town had been more than big enough...
© Associated Newspapers Ltd., 12 January 1999