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T&L Downtown: The Bathrooms of London's Mash

Some invaluable advice to heed prior to your arrival at Mash: adjust your evening makeup. I waited for the bright lights to subside into my preconceived notion of nightlife lighting: warm, sexy and dark. It never happened.

The interior of Mash, with pale green walls and partial fluorescent lighting, makes everyone appear as they would in a junior high cafeteria; think survival of the fittest. Most people are dressed in hip downtown gear, but a few women wear backless gowns and short dresses.

Mash opened on March 7, 1998 and is owned by the hip young restaurateur Oliver Peyton and his associates, who brought London the Atlantic Bar & Grill and Coast. The interior of Mash is designed by the Australian architect Andy Martin, who also worked on Mash's one-year old sister restaurant, Mash & Air in Manchester. Mash has a cafeteria-style environment, filled with oddly deceiving green and orange chairs that seem to be constructed from hard-backed plastic but are instead supple and foam based. It is a retro take on the future, tongue-in-cheek and oddly successful.

Of course, Mash is much more inviting than a cafeteria, touting itself as a restaurant, bar, deli and microbrewery with four types of beer: mash (lager-inspired), wheat, peach and abbey. Linger and chat or grab a drink anytime; Mash serves breakfast, lunch and dinner from 8am to 2am.

Of note is a commissioned work in the lounge area done by John Currin , enlargements of a painting entitled, "The Jackass." Based on advertisements from 1970's Playboy to encourage ad sales in the magazine, the men supposedly depict typical readers from that time period, but the faces of the others in the photo are distorted, reinforcing the idea of the slightly sleazy lounge lizard.

The women's bathroom has video screens above each wash basin depicting live scenes from the men's room. It's not that titillating: individual faces (and other vital parts) are obscured, all I see are gentlemen striding in and washing their hands, but the monitors are intriguing nevertheless. Other gimmicks include the Love Machine posted at the front door; I walk past and the contraption fails to emit a single blip. I can't provoke the machine, but if you exude hipness or angst, maybe you will be more successful.

Love Machine Poems

Love is hot but you can't
toast muffins on it

Sometimes love comes in
wearing corduroy

In the dark it was
easier to believe her

As I grow older I like
my lovecoffee stronger

Mash, 19-21 Great Portland St., London W1M 5DB, 0171 637 5555

By Theresa Loong, with information from T&L Reports and Philip Watson.

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