Shock! Outrage! Protests! The Playboy Club didn’t have the easiest of openings when it launched in central London. However, if you manage to get inside this members' club, you’ll find it’s actually very tame and even - shock horror - sophisticated.
The Playboy Club has more in common with other London members' clubs than your usual casinos and strip bars. This is a place that has everything its members could ever want covered. Annual membership costs £1200, plus a £1000 joining fee, so it's priced at the top end of the market.
The club itself is divided into several distinct areas: a casino, for the high rollers and gamblers; the Players Bar, with three large-screen TVs that show the latest big game; Salvatore's, a high-end cocktail bar courtesy of the cocktail-making legend Salvatore Calabrese; The Dining Room, headed up by a chef from the Fat Duck; the Cottontail Lounge for the clubbers; and, yes, they even have a salon. Each area has its own identity but they all follow the same basic design – dark, brooding and glamorous with flashes of Playboy imagery everywhere you look, from the iconic logo to pictures showcasing the Playboy Bunnies of the past.
You’d be forgiven, perhaps, for imagining the Playboy Club as a seedy strip bar where dirty old men go for a lap dance. However, nothing could be further from the truth. For a start, the girls aren’t naked here. In fact, the iconic Playboy Bunnies are taught how to serve in a ladylike manner that avoids them bending over and stops ‘wardrobe malfunctions’ from occurring. Of course, the girls are totally gorgeous, but they are glamorous rather than tacky and they are friendly, polite and well spoken on the whole. And far from being filled with old men – although there is a skew toward gentleman, naturally – this is a club that also has its fair share of female customers, totally unperturbed by the bunny girls flitting about. After all, you’re likely to see more nudity in a Leicester Square nightclub on a typical Saturday night out.
Each area of the club has its own appeal and its own atmosphere, which is good for members - and yes you do have to be a member, a prospective member or a friend of a member to get in here – as it offers a different experience each time you visit. This is a place where you can drink a £2000 vintage cocktail, watch the football, enjoy Michelin-style food and even hit the dancefloor.
The Playboy Club’s food is served in their restaurant - The Dining Room. Far from being just an afterthought they have really pushed the boat out, hiring celebrity chef Judy Joo, who appeared on Iron Chef UK and is known for working in Michelin starred kitchens including Heston’s Fat Duck. The menu has a British/American skew with simple dishes that focus on flavour, such as Wagyu burgers, oysters, and fish and chips. And the prices aren’t cheap. The Hef burger is a whopping £42, and that doesn’t even include sides (although it is made from top quality Wagyu beef). If you haven’t got that kind of cash to splash then their standard burger is ‘only’ £12. And yes, it is delicious.
Drink is available across the Playboy Club with several bars offering premium spirits and cocktails – especially good if you want to channel Don Draper. However, if you REALLY want to sample what this place has to offer drinks wise then head straight for Salvatore's bar. This is a place all about vintage spirits and dusty whisky bottles, although they have the price tags to match. Some of their cocktails cost as much as £2000 a glass (ouch!) but they do offer some options for as ‘little’ as £16 a drink, including a cocktail made from garlic. Yup, best not to get too close to the Bunnies after one of those! If you’re really into your spirits then they offer old – and we mean old – premium shots for as much as £550 for a 1913 McBrayer Kentucky bourbon. If that doesn’t appeal then bottled beer and simple spirits and mixers are available across the venue as well.
The Last Word
If you see any 'Eff Off Heff!' protestors outside the Playboy Club then direct them to the nearest lapdancing club instead. This polished members' club is far too tame to merit such moral outrage.