As a veteran of China, I am no stranger to shitty bars with overpriced drinks, hidden costs and appalling service. Most of these bars don’t have much in the way of gimmicks, however, unless you count the deafening live music belting out the same five saccharine love ballads over and over again.
Despite believing that I was steeled against shit service, I clearly was not prepared for Eastern Europe. At least when being ripped off in China, you’re generally treated to a disingenuous smile or two. In Kiev, you don’t even get that dubious honour.
Which brings us to Palata No. 6, also known colloquially as the ‘Hospital Bar’.
Palata No. 6 earned its nom de guerre because of its unique schtick: the bar sports a gurney in which you can be strapped down and have vodka ‘injected’ into your mouth via an oversized syringe, as well as waitresses dressed in somewhat impractical nurses’ uniforms. NHS nurses would catch their death wearing such ill-fitting dresses, whether from cold November rain or the wandering hands of lascivious drunkards.
Palata’s more iconic gimmick, however, is somewhat out of keeping with their medical theme. For around 100 Hryvnia (~3 euro), you can don a helmet and flame-retardant cape, have your head set on fire, and drink three shots whilst being beaten around the head with a spanner and beer keg. Why anyone would opt to do this is beyond my ken. Naturally, we opted to do this. I made the mistake of pointing out that our bartender was going somewhat easier on the girl in our group; this earnt me a spanner/keg beating that would have KO’d Jake LaMotta.
Whilst both of Palata’s gimmicks make for great photo ops and something to tell the grandkids one day, the waiting times are somewhat punitive and inconsistent. Don’t be surprised if you’re told that you’re up in five minutes, only to have another group sneak ahead of you.
Palata, in its defence, has reasonably priced food and drinks. A beer will set you back 100 Hryvnia (~3 euro, in case you didn’t read the above section) and they have a decent selection of meals for 300-800 Hryvnia. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but it fills a hole.
Now this is where things take a nosedive. The service in Palata is, at the risk of understating the situation, worse than stage four cancer. I’ve met child molesters I liked better than the bar staff of Palata.
If you have booked a table (harder and harder to do, given the staff’s general loathing of custom and work), then things are somewhat easier. You’ll get table service and beer/food will arrive in a somewhat timely fashion. If you do not, and have to opt for bar service, then God help you.
We went to Palata twice, the first time being a decent experience with affordable drinks. We profoundly regretted going the second time. Bereft of a reserved table, I had my group find somewhere to sit whilst I went up to order drinks. This resulted in around half an hour of trying to attract the attention of a bartender, who avoided eye contact more readily than a Scouser on a burglary charge.
Once eye contact is established and drinks are actually ordered, don’t go anywhere – you can expect a further waiting period of 15-20 minutes before your drinks are served. Even then, your woes are not over; the bartenders will cheerfully attempt to withhold any change you might be due, presumably assuming that you’re too drunk to notice. Joke’s on them; you have to get drinks to get drunk.
Once I’d secured the five beers I’d ordered, I went to the table my group of six had found and handed out frosty beverages. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the maths on this doesn’t quite work. With a sigh, I returned to the bar.
After another half-hour of trying to get the last beer, I lost my temper and shouted at one of the barmen. On the one hand, he now noticed me. On the other hand, I was never ever getting another beer in that place again.
If the past 300 words have not made it abundantly clear: Palata No. 6 is shit. Total dogshit. Yes, it has a couple of cool gimmicks, but this in no way excuses the awful service or flagrant attempts to actually steal from customers. Do yourself a favour and give it a miss; if you absolutely have to go, do the fire shots and then leave and find yourself a bar where they’re actually happy to serve you drinks.
Disclaimer: some of the author’s best friends are Scousers, which means it’s totally cool for him to make regionalist jokes at the expense of the robbing bastards. For places with slightly less shitty service, check out our article on Belarus. If you’re hell-bent on having vodka injected into your mouth by stroppy, impractically dressed nurses, have a look at YPT’s Ultimate Ukrainian Adventure.