Playboy has one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The brand, which is closely associated with beautiful (and often naked) women, has come to also represent sophistication, status and and enjoyment of the finer things in life.. The original Playboy Club was opened in Chicago in the 1960’s and grew into a worldwide network of elite casinos and clubs. These clubs gradually closed over the years, making the legendary Playboy Club merely a memory. With a renewed brand and an increased interest in the lavish nightlife in the 1960’s (including a fall NBC TV series called The Playboy Club), Playboy is bringing back The Playboy Club and casinos.
The recently launched Playboy Club in London, as with the previous Playboy Clubs, is a members-only organization. Prospective members have to fill out an application which is evaluated by a membership committee. If you’re approved for membership, dues are a whopping £1000 per year plus a £1000 application fee. Lifetime membership is £15,000.
The crown jewel of the London Playboy Club is Salvatore’s, a bar run by the legendary London barman Salvatore Calabrese.
The entrance to Salvatore’s is a giant case filled with old spirit bottles, original cocktail books (like a first and second signed edition of the Savoy Cocktail Book), and one-of-a-kind barware including shakers, glasses and more. It would be easy to simply breeze by this display and miss some of the amazing things featured behind glass. Salvatore has amassed a collection of historically significant spirits which rivals almost anywhere else in the world.
The case features Cognac from 1788, the oldest bottle of Rye Whiskey known to exist, original bottles of Genever, Bacardi Rum from Cuba, and one of the rarest bottles of Scotch in the world. There are bottles signed by famous distillers, bottles with portraits of Salvatore, and spirits so old and rare you’ll be amazed that they are actually on display.
What’s mind blowing is that Salvatore actually uses these spiritis in a seres of “Vintage Cocktails”, costing as much as £2000 a drink.
In addition to these vintage cocktails, Salvatore’s has an extensive cocktail list including many of the cocktails that Salvatore Calabrese has made famous over the years, as well as classic cocktails and modern creations inspired by friends and family. In addition to the cocktails, Salvatore has curated his own red and white wines and will personally roll a martini cart to your table to make the Salvatore Martini, which includes his own bitters and frozen gin which is pulled direct from sub zero chamber in his cart.
Salvatore’s is a very intimate bar. It’s dimly lit and gets a lot of its lighting from the Playboy logo patterned wall and a few chandeliers scattered throughout the bar. It feels like what you would expect from a Playboy Club. While there are several Playboy Bunnies who circulate through the bar to serve cocktails, they aren’t the main attraction. The star of Salvatore’s is Salvatore himself.
Circulating around the bar like he was welcoming people into his own home, Salvatore Calabrese is an amazing character and one of London’s most famous bartenders. Salvatore is quick to point out how everything in the bar was done at the highest level. He’s the key to making this bar feel like you are on the inside, behind the velvet rope, somewhere special.
There’s an immense attention to detail at Salvatore’s and it’s a perfect union of a very classy bar and the iconic brand of the Playboy Club. Bring that together with the chance to taste legendary antique spirits and expertly crafted cocktails and you’ve got one of London’s most sought after bars.
Beyond Salvatore’s is the Playboy nightclub called “The Cottontail Lounge”. This large retro-y modern space connects to Salvatore’s with two big glass double doors. This enables it to be its own space but also connect to Salvatore.
The Cottontail Lounge is a mix of dance floor area, booths and a bar. It’s a great space that merges the feel of a modern nightclub with the classic look of the 1960’s.
The Cottontail Lounge has its own bar with some hard to find spirits including Beefeater Crown Jewel and Wild Turkey Signature Sherry.
The walls and ceiling of this bar featured a hand painted mural which harkens back to the classic images from Playboy.
Upstairs from Salvatore’s and the Cottontail Lounge is another whole level of club. As you come up the stairs you enter into the Playboy sports bar, called “The Players Bar” with flatscreen TVs, booths and chairs that can be moved around to watch a game.
Past the sports bar is the Casino at the Playboy Club. The casino is staffed almost exclusively by Playboy Bunnies who serve as dealers and cocktail servers. It’s a big, open space with a combination of traditional table games and a few more modern computerized table games.
Beyond the casino is a barber shop called “Gentleman Tonic Salon” where they do everything from a basic haircut, a head shave and “Beard and Hair Design”.
Between the casino, sports bar and salon is “The Dining Room”. The designers of the Playboy Club have done an excellent job of using fabric screens to make this section of the club feel like its own universe. It’s right next to all the action, but doesn’t feel like it. The Dining Room features food from Executive Chef Judy Joo, who has worked at such notable places as The Fat Duck and French Laundry, and has appeared on Chef UK and Market Kitchen.
The Playboy Club London is a solid reboot of the legendary club. With the addition of Salvatore’s, it’s a clear upgrade from the Playboy Club Las Vegas at the Palms Casino. The vibe in the club is a nice mix of classic sixties-style club and modern. In addition to great drinks and the opportunity to feel like a personal guest of Salvatore, the opportunity to drink cocktails made from some of the oldest and rarest spirits in the world is something you won’t find anywhere else. And, of course, there are the Playboy Bunnies, perhaps not as salacious as when the club first launched, but still the finishing touch that makes this The Playboy Club.
The Playboy Club London is located at 14 Old Park Lane, London W1K 1ND.