With loud music and flaming cocktails galore, this tiki bar, situated in between Fulham Broadway Tube and Chelsea football ground, is not for the faint-hearted.
A stone’s throw from Stamford Bridge stadium, Kona Kai sticks out like a sore thumb on Fulham Road, near Fulham Broadway station, with a flamboyant colour scheme and banks of palm trees lining the entrance. The interior is no less extravagant, with a thatched ceiling and walls lined with bamboo. Several booths line the main room, which also includes a grandiose bar, and the back room can hold more customers as well as a dancefloor, should the need arise. An array of wicker chairs allow ample seating around glass tables, and bar stools abound throughout.
The attention to detail in the Polynesian-themed decoration is quite something, with ornate, shell-encrusted lamps sharing wall space with tribal shields, sculptures, totems, glass orbs and even a canoe suspended from the central beam. Such unswerving commitment to a singular aesthetic is impressive, if a little kitsch and incongruous compared to the surrounding area – Mahiki in Mayfair and the Sugarcane, Kona Kai's sister bar in Battersea, pull off a similarly exotic approach with a touch more success.
Still finding its feet, Kona Kai isn't as vibrant is it perhaps could be, but on the right evening it cannot be matched in terms of sheer reckless hedonism. Bartenders juggle spirits, make pyramids out of tumblers and breathe fire if the mood takes them, guest DJs offer dancefloor-ready sets, and rum-fueled conversation comes thick and fast as the night wears on. The customer base is largely fairly well-to-do but expanding rapidly, while the staff are extremely friendly and more than willing to fill you in on the venues idiosyncrasies, with personable and efficient service no matter how hectic things get. It’s also a location of choice for birthday parties and office gatherings.
The food menu is only tenuously linked to the tiki theme, but is fairly impressive nonetheless. Starters range from £4.50 for grilled mixed vegetables to £8 for a delicious tasting plate of grilled chorizo and hummus, while the main courses are both well-presented and mouth-wateringly tasty, not least the Thai chicken and the New Zealand green shell mussels (£8.50 each). Burgers and sharing platters are also available for the more conservative diner, and the recurring motif is one of satisfaction and value for money.
Kona Kai pulls no punches when it comes to drinks, serving up a mind-boggling selection from the fevered imaginations of the resident mixologists and cocktail gurus behind the bar. Highlights include the Tiki Death Punch (£6.80), the flaming Pele's (£7) and the Zombie (£13.50), a truly lethal mélange of rums and absinthe served in a skull-shaped glass, appropriately enough. Instead of pitchers, the group-size drinks (around £30, for servings of 4-8 people) come in porcelain boats and conch shells, often set on fire beforehand, with several long straws – a nice touch and useful conversation piece. Red and white wines are also on offer at reasonable prices, as are champagne and prosecco, and bottled beer, such as Tiger and Brahma (£4.50), is available too.
The Last Word
If outlandish rum-based cocktails and tiki-style decor are your thing, then Kona Kai is definitely worth a visit.