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
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
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, HTMtel 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
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
Didgeridoo'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