Thursday, 3 January 2013
I dig the Playboy Club. I refer to its stereo ground floor bars, not what lurks upstairs. These days, down to my last (Turnbull and Asser) shirt, I'm not about to lose it in the company of sheiks and scheisters in the deadly dull gambling den on Level 1. No, I recommend it for its main bar where dapper, diminutive, cocktail maestro Salvatore Calabrese mixes mean martinis and Mai Tais in his 1960's-style Mad Mental lounge. More recently, Sal's son Gerry's high octane revamp of the venue's formerly forlorn Cottontail discotheque, now re-imagined as a cool cabaret lounge, has been luring me back to the bunny hutch. Rebranded Baroque, it's gussied up in pink and gold froufrou. Might 50's brassy blonde bombshell Diana Dors presently sashay through its swinging doors, trailing mink and men in her pneumatic wake? Gerry's goal is to create a vibey, rinky-dink destination to rival the Playboy's near-neighbour, once- buzzy-now-not Mayfair Cool Britannia magnet The Met Bar. To this end, Calabrese Jnr (whose Hoxton Pony is still a good bet down Shoreditch way) has set his cap at spendy Westenders, encouraging top drawer turns such as Mark Ronson and The Kills to provide any thrills not otherwise supplied by damn fine cocktails and London's most outré champagne list - 'I'll have the £27,000 (and then some) 1990 Bollinger Vieilles Vignes if you're buying, thanks.' Tonight, the joint is jumping as we pull up to Ms Jones's bumper when the magnificent ebony goddess graces its bijou stage. Teetering in Shard-esque f***-me pumps, all gyrating pelvis, India rubber legs and gravity-defying cleavage (poured into a black velvet boned corset), the bonkers bouncing-off-the-wall diva - a poster girl for pensioners everywhere - treats us to her greatest hits and Philip Treacy's greatest hats. We are in the presence of a Living Legend - although I could live without the incessant prattle of my inescapable neighbour (Baroque is by now a sardine can slam) Paloma Faith: muttering about mushy oysters over Grace's My Jamaican Guy, the pop pygmy reminds me of a Brick Lane version of Geri Halliwell. Thankfully, eye-balling Grace's fabulously freaky pick-n-mix public distracts me from the gingerminge's whinges. A rumour spreads: Cher is expected at any moment. So febrile is the atmosphere, I worry she'll melt, leaving only a pool of liquid wax, a showgirl wig, and a pile of Bob Mackie sequins as evidence of her coming. Among the couture car crash victims present, I'm impressed by the sheer chutzpah of one punter - a beefy black bird bustin' out of a seriously ill-advised, fluted gold foil, Space Age fantasy frock. She's imagining Patti Labelle circa Lady Marmalade. I'm imagining 'two pounds of Paxo orange stuffing shoved up that ginormous jacksy; roast at 230 degrees for, oh, two to three weeks, et voilà! Christmas lunch sorted.' Some of the punters look sensational; others tacky - but a night out here doesn't come as cheap as they look. Go armed with your best black Amex...or a sugar daddy. Let's just say, for the suggested minimum table spend, you could get a designer dining table and six chairs chez Selfridges. If the PR doesn't pick up my tab, looks like I'll have to risk my shirt on the roulette wheel after all.
14 Old Park Lane W1 http://tinyurl.com/c62aotg