On the ground floor is the Cottontail Lounge, a sumptuous nightclub that is open only Fridays and Saturdays, featuring its own bar, luxurious banquette seating, spectacular LED lighting effects and a rich palette of golds and reds. Upstairs is the Players bar, a stylish area with its own bar, deep armchairs and three large plasma screens showing sport. Next to this is the main gaming room and a small restaurant, serving up classic dishes and modern comfort food devised by executive chef Judy Joo. Beyond this is Gentlemen’s Tonic, a contemporary barbershop and grooming salon, and a smart outside terrace.But the main attraction for cocktail lovers is Salvatore at Playboy, the ground-floor bar designed by the Maestro with Jestico & Whiles. Salvatore Calabrese has built up a worldwide reputation running the bar at Duke’s Hotel in St James’s, the Library Bar at the Lanesborough and, most recently, Salvatore at Fifty.
At his new bar, he has continued his exploration of what he calls “liquid history”, having collected together rare spirits and liqueurs, such as cognacs and whiskies. “I have sought out vintage products as close to the originals that I could find, to give a thorough taste of cocktail history,” he tells me. “It’s not just about bringing a bottle to the table that costs £2,000 but giving them a piece of history they will not have again for the rest of their life.” His collection is displayed on honeycomb-shaped shelves in the bar and, alongside his fantastic list of classics and his own creations, the menu has two pages of drinks using these vintage products. They include a Sazerac – costing £2,000 – made with cognac Sazerac de Forge et fils from 1805, when the cocktail was made with brandy rather than rye whiskey.The bar’s interior has patterns and furniture that recall 1960s styles but with contemporary touches. “It’s about bringing back the Playboy Club but with 2011 style,” Salvatore explains. At Playboy, you can see some of the new tools he has created to help make better cocktails, such as a shaker, a barspoon, and a “Mojito Spoon” with a ball on the end for gently muddling leaves rather than crushing them – all available from Urban Bar. He also has his own exclusive red and white wines from Rocca della Macie in Tuscany.
Working with Cantilever Bars, Salvatore has enhanced the Calabrese Sink which they launched four years ago, adding new features such as an ice station with changeable dividers and refrigerated garnish drawers. The bar’s stations stick to Salvatore’s rule that, with only one step in each direction, a bartender can reach everything. “The bartender should not have to search for anything he needs,” Salvatore says. “I wish that other bars were the same as many other bartenders would be much happier. I believe if your bartenders are happy, your customers will be happy.”
Salvatore at Playboy, 14 Old Park Lane, London, W1K 1ND Tel: 020 7491 8586 www.playboyclublondon.com