I have to ask this question: what do you think the Playboy Club London is like?
Do you picture ladies in skimpy outfits being touchy-feely with men who leer over their boobs? Do you imagine mirrored ceilings, private booths and hidden ‘extras’ only the regulars know about? Do you think of silicone boobs, bums and lips? Members only? Business meetings and shady dealings?
Well, you’d be wrong. There are so, so many misconceptions about this place, and I had most of them.
Playboy’s changed tack recently. Long gone are the notions that a woman is there for one (old) man’s enjoyment. With the magazine recognising that feminism is now part of being a gentleman – though they won’t actually use the f-word – features such as Jennifer Lawrence Is Not A Thing To Be Passed Around, based on her leaked nude images, and an infographic explaining when it’s appropriate to cat-call a woman (if that female is literally a cat) have appeased female audiences. Playboy’s come a long way.
So when I heard the Playboy Club was a. open to non-members, b. hosting a special pink afternoon tea to commemorate breast cancer awareness, and c. was in partnership with Salvatore Calabrese, maker of the world’s most expensive cocktail, I was intrigued.
Life is full of new experiences and I wasn’t about to let my uneducated notions stop me. So, along with Mr W, we booked in to give tea a go. With totally open minds of course.
“DW, I’m taking you to the Playboy Club,” I said once the table was confirmed. Of course his eyes lit up. Tweets about being the best wife in the world were sent, and I earned some serious brownie points. Sure, he thought it was going to be all tits and arse, but I knew different.
Playboy Club London review
The Club’s located in a small street off Piccadilly. It’s lit up but fluorescent pink lights at the moment, and at the entrance stand two security guards and two bunnies, ready to welcome patrons in.
Now, the bunnies. They’re dressed in the typical attire; opaque tights, corset-like tops with fluffy tails, and a bow tie collar with matching cuffs (and bunny cufflinks). As far as what they’re wearing, it’s way tamer than the bodycon and boob tubes that grace Brentwood’s Sugar Hut every week. Far, far tamer. It’s a classic outfit, a bit of history, and one that serves the bar well.
Once we gave our names we checked our coats in – minus a £2 charge – and walked through to Salvatore’s, a 70’s inspired bar with hints back to the original. Bottles of rare and expensive whiskies, cognacs and brandies line the walls, as does a rubber duck (seriously, ask about the rubber duck). We were seated on a plush sofa opposite a group of three girls, a table of eight and a family of six. Seating in the other booths was a couple of businessmen and a few couples. It was a real mix of people.
The Playboy afternoon tea
After getting settled, Martina, our bunny, handed us a menu and asked us to choose a tea, from fruity to floral. Except this wasn’t just tea. These were tea-infused cocktails. Served in teapots, sure, but they were definite cocktails. At £30 a head (with £1 being donated to breast cancer research) we thought this was really competitive with the scores of other places service afternoon tea in the area, less alcoholic beverage.
Served on slate, the tea this month features a selection of pink treats – savoury include beetroot bruschetta, pastrami rolls, smoked trout and prawn mayo sandwiches. The bunnies were more than happy to take any dietary requirements or substitutions which was a good touch.
For the sweets, we were presented with carrot cake, pink ‘bunny’ cupcakes, blackberry and clotted cream shots and raspberry macarons.
The teas complimented the sweets so well, and there wasn’t anything we thought could be improved.I was full after the meal, but Mr W could have done with a bit more. It was such a surreal experience, but all in good fun. Martina was a fantastic host. Over from my mum’s homeland of Sicily, she’s worked within Salvatore’s as a bunny, just because she loves people. We talked about Sicilian words, the recipe for the perfect ragu, even carte Siciliana, for the longest of times. It really made the night, and I’ve promised to keep in touch, even if it is just to perfect my pasta sauce skills.
The Playboy Club members – inside their secret world
Salvatore’s is open to non-members but head upstairs, as we did on our tour held by Bunny Hannah, and you see where the 1% come to play. A casino floor filled with bunnies as croupiers, a private restaurant, a sports lounge and closed-booth dining area available. But membership, which starts at a cool £1,000 per year, includes everything a playboy needs including dinner for four, a champagne tower, invites to the hottest events and access for up to three friends. Become a lifetime member for £15,000 and you even get to have lunch at the Playboy Mansion and enjoy the Playboy’s private booth at Ascot. You’ll even get a private chauffeur to take you to and from the club.
It’s amazing to see how the other half live. The club was full of members enjoying their Saturday night, stacking their chips, and dining on chips.
After our tea we settled back down in Salvatore’s and spoke to Antonio, the manager. He talked through the awards and accolades the place has under its belt, and before we left he suggested he bring us some special cocktails based on our tastes.
It was a great experience, and definitely worth a visit. It’s not the cheapest place for a drink but then again it is a tourist venue, and you shouldn’t be in Mayfair if you want a cheap drink.
The entire Playboy Club is designed around one thing: you. Everything is about enjoying your time there. Sure, life may be hard. But take off your jacket and shake off the rain, and everyone will help you enjoy life for a bit. As the Hef says, life is too short to be living someone else’s dream. Even if it’s just for one day.