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Thursday, 14 December, 2000, 19:53 GMT
Clinton leaves the bill
portobello gold
The US President popped into the Portobello Gold
Bill Clinton nipped into a pub for a swift half during his UK visit on Thursday - but left without paying.

Tired of trawling the antique shops along west London's trendy Portobello Road with wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea, the US President and his usual entourage of aides, advisers, secret service men and press popped into the Portobello Gold.

The most powerful man in the world spent 45 minutes happily propping up the bar but did not appear hungry.

He had just come from tea and a chat with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

They bloody well did not pay

Landlord, Mike Bell

Offered lunch, he said: "A little bit, not much.

"I have to stay awake to give a speech today.

"I stayed up late last night, watching Vice President Gore and Governor Bush give their speeches on television."

President Clinton shared a 6.95 serving of gambo prawns, a 5.25 portion smoked trout and pecan nut pate and a 5.95 club sandwich with about 10 black-suited secret service men.

He also downed a 1.30 half-pint of organic Pitfields lager, made in Britain from New Zealand ingredients, and a Diet Coke, while his secret service men drank Coke.

After serving the leader of the free world, landlord Mike Bell asked: "Who picks up the tab for this?"

But the total bill has yet to be tallied because a power cut struck the area just before the visit and the electronic till was not working.

bill clinton at portobello gold
Clinton: 'I can relax'
"They bloody well did not pay," said Mr Bell.

"I do not know what the total bill is because the computer went down and the electricity was off.

"But I have got an address of someone in America I can send the bill to.

"We could not offer him a hot meal.

"We gave him anything we could cook without electricity. It was total chaos.

'Swarmed' upon

The 59-year-old said he found out about the surprise visit 20 minutes early when "men in black" arrived to see if the pub was safe.

While the American president was in the bar, oyster delivery man Jonathan Dunhill was "swarmed" upon by secret service men.

They wanted to inspect his delivery of shellfish from Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland to see if it contained a bomb, Mr Bell said.

President Clinton then chatted about Northern Ireland and the long-running US presidential election battle to the other lunchtime drinkers.

'Last stretch'

He appeared "unusually relaxed", said Mr Bell.

"He gave me the impression that this sort of thing was not the kind of thing that he would have done a few years ago.

"He told me, 'I'm in the last stretch of my presidency so I can relax a little'.

"There were a lot of Americans here when he arrived and they were saying, 'How are you?' to Mr Clinton and how strange it was that he was on their doorstep even though they were not at home."

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See also:

13 Dec 00 | Europe
Clinton visit to Ireland and UK
14 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Blair: Welcome Bush, farewell Clinton
14 Dec 00 | Northern Ireland
Clinton meets Queen on UK visit
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