The Playboy Club opened in London to considerable controversy. However, they have really pushed the boat out and there’s remarkably little flesh on show.
Located in the heart of the Playboy Club's action - between the Playboy Club’s casino, sports bar and salon (yup, they have a salon as well) - is the Dining Room. It’s not large by any means but they’ve cleverly managed to make it feel separate from the rest of the venue thanks to sheets of luxury fabric on which are painted the silhouettes of dancing girls. You are still able to glimpse the rest of the club, so you don't feel too far removed from the action. Otherwise, the dimly lit venue is filled with simple – and masculine – black tables with matching leather chairs. The lighting is kept fluorescent.
The Playboy Club launched amid a lot of scandal, with feminist groups protesting loudly at the sexism behind the opening. However, if you actually head inside you’ll find a place that’s surprisingly upmarket and – dare one say – sophisticated. The flesh on display is more PG than 18 and the Bunny Girls are taught how to serve without risking wardrobe malfunctions: nudity is not on the agenda. It might make some uncomfortable but those in the club aren’t just men, with plenty of ladies looking utterly unfazed. The Bunnies are gorgeous and glamorous rather than sleazy and tacky, and the service is typical of any members' club (yes you do have to be a member... or a prospective member or friend of a member to get in) in that they really, really look after you - nothing is too much trouble.
The Dining Room isn’t an afterthought – far from it. Instead, they have hired celebrity chef Judy Joo (star of Iron Chef UK), who is known for working in Michelin-starred kitchens that include Heston’s Fat Duck. However, for a well-known Korean chef, the food menu goes (perhaps) surprisingly down the British/American route, with simple dishes that focus on flavour.
To start, the rock oysters aren’t cheap at £14 but they are fresh and meaty and – as you’d expect with this price tag – thankfully free of grit. Alternatively, the American shrimp cocktail (£18) impresses with huge jumbo prawns with a delicate sweetness served with a rich, creamy American cocktail sauce or a tangy soy vinaigrette.
For main courses the prices aren’t any cheaper and the Wagyu steak is a whopping £100. Alternatively, the Hef Burger – also made with Wagyu beef – is £42. That’s one expensive burger. However, it’s not all overly pricey. The Playboy Burger is also very good, even if it is made with just plain old normal beef, and comes in at a comparatively reasonable £12. The beef patty is large and cooked to specification, and you can add a range of toppings for £1 each, including a runny fried egg and tangy goat’s cheese. However, when you factor in this additional cost and the fact that the burger comes with no accompaniments, then the price soon racks up. Chips are £5 and onion rings £4.50, and although they are perfectly cooked, the price tags are on the high side.
The fish and chips (£16) represents better value, with a delicious piece of flaking cod covered in a non-greasy batter that's been perfectly seasoned. And yes, the chips are included this time and they are wonderfully crunchy with a soft, fluffy middle. Delightful.
There’s a solid wine list at The Dining Room and, as you might expect, there are some obscenely expensive fine wines and champagnes to choose from. However, at the lower end of the list (still not cheap at £30) is a good choice of old and new world wines covering an impressive selection of grapes and regions. They also offer plenty of well-made cocktails, and premium whiskies if you have a few hundred pounds going spare.
The Last Word
The Dining Room ain’t cheap, in more ways that one. If you can afford the membership fee then chances are you can afford the food too.