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Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Salvatore's at The Playboy Club, Mayfair

As with Hai Karate, cream shag pile rugs and gold Ford Capris - that's a car not cropped lamé trousers by designer Tom, the sort of chap whom I suspect may own a pair for pool-side lounging - the idea of attending The Playboy Club appeals to me in a post-modern kind of way. I'm to be admitted, exceptionally, as a guest: I have more pressing need of the £1,200 annual membership and £1,000 joining fee that is otherwise required to enter its portals. Best 1977 vintage Halston tux dry-cleaned and pressed, I'm joined by the fashion stylist. She is similarly eager to investigate, having not even been born when the old London Playboy Club folded. It's been thirty years since the bunnies disappeared from Mayfair but now they're back, much to the annoyance of those camped outside when we rock up. We're harangued by a raggedy assortment of dreich Germaine Greer-y Greenham Common wimmen opposed to this venture. What's the grumpy old cows real beef ? Underneath the shouty sloganeering, I'm sensing low self-esteem issues. How else to explain going out dressed as Olive from On The Buses? Short on sisterly solidarity, the date claims the saggy haggy bra-burners could use a little help from Playtex. Negotiating their ring of ire, dodging flour bombs and sweaty fake Birkenstocks hurled in our direction, we make it into Hef's new London HQ. The bunnies I talk to see their new employment as a smart career move. Exploited bimbos? Empowered, savvy young women, more like. As for the 'degrading' costumes: flatteringly-cut boned satin looks positively coy compared to what is worn by today's average Saturday night city centre slapper. We get the grand tour. There's a sterile white casino, hilariously 1970’s-style night-club,  a grooming zone (as in moisturiser not Gary Glitteresque impropriety) and a charmless makeshift-looking dining area that offers, inter alia, wagyu burger at £42. As if! I'm way more interested in the bar, obviously. That'll be Salvatore’s, as in overseen by Signor Calabrese. Late of the late 50 St James, he's a sharp shaker for any aspiring Don Draper de nos jours to know. Yes, it's a cliché but this lounge really could be straight out of Mad Men. For rich Arab scions, ostentatious oligarchs, dictators-in-exile and people who can afford to wipe their privileged posteriors on $100 bills, it boasts a wall of extremely rare spirits. A glass of Macallan Lalique 57-years-old will lighten your bank balance by £2,000 while vintage cocktails such as White Lady, built on Gordon’s gin and Cointreau bottled in the 1930s, are slightly more affordable at £350. Rein in your inner off-duty Formula 1 driver and settle for Garlic Affair (Courvoisier, apricot brandy, lemon juice, garlic and ginger beer), modestly priced (by Playboy standards) at £16. Not so modest, Salvatore claims to make ‘the best martini in the world - ours, served by an Immodesty Blaize clone who has perfected the famous bunny dip. As we leave, the cranky crones are still ranting outside. 'Go do something picketing a brothel where trafficked 14-year-old Albanians are handcuffed to bedsteads' yells the stylist as another barrage of flour bombs rains down on us.

14 Old Park Lane , W1K 1 ND 7491 8586