With its red-and-white checked table cloths, cowhide upholstery and timber-clad walls, Bodo’s Schloss could be in the Austrian Alps rather than Kensington High Street. Down to the smallest detail, including the bartenders’ lederhosen, the new bar, club and restaurant conjures up an after-piste party atmosphere that has been attracting celebrities and royals since opening last year.
It has been created by young entrepreneurs Antoin Commane and Diego Bivero-Volpe along with two leading operators on London’s nightlife scene, Piers Adam and Nick House of Brompton Brands. The idea for a venue based on an Austrian ski lodge originated from Piers’ brother Dick who is a professional ski instructor. “It then took off from there and our collective love of skiing, ski culture, the Alps and, of course, the perennial après-ski,” Antoin explains. “The Alps and skiing often strike fond memories in a lot of people – warm memories of family, friends and good times. This is what we aimed to evoke.”
The name, which means Bodo’s Palace, is a nod to the legendary Bodo’s Café Tent, the first beer tent created at Munich’s Oktoberfest. From this, they humanised the concept by creating a character, Bodo, a loveable Austrian, loosely inspired by the world’s leading yodeller, Franzl Lang from the Bavarian Alps.
To make the concept a reality, they brought in the team from interiors specialist Cheeky Tiki which has worked with Piers and Nick on other projects such as Kanaloa and Mahiki.
Part of the Kensington Palace Hotel and formerly a casino, the space was stripped back and filled with objects collected from visits to Austria. “We wanted to create something that was like an authentic Austrian-style chalet-cum-farmhouse,” says Cheeky Tiki director Jamie Wilson. “Nearly all the materials were sourced from Austria and the surrounding area.”
The experience begins in the entrance lobby, where you are greeted by skiing videos and women dressed in traditional Alpine dirndl costume. Through the doors is the front half of the venue, a restaurant with a bar, furnished with reclaimed timber and faux stone fireplaces. Diners sit on stools at high tables or on upholstered wooden banquettes and small chairs sourced from the Austrian resort of Kitzbühel – with the town’s deer logo carved on the back. The room is decorated with antique skis, a cuckoo clock, milk pails and mounted stuffed animal heads while, above the bar, hang giant cowbells converted into lights.
At the opposite end is a wooden partition which slides away to reveal the “discothèque” space, with seats upholstered in cow-hide fabric and tables with large silver bowls for bottle serves. With a wooden-slatted ceiling above, the focus of the room is a DJ booth built into a red 1970s ski-lift. The restaurant opens from 5pm but, around 10pm, the door and shutters of the partition are opened up as the whole venue shifts into party mode, with a licence to 3am.
The theme continues through to the drinks vessels, created by Bespoke Barware, a spin-off of Cheeky Tiki, and include a ski boot, cuckoo clock, St Bernard dog, cow bell and bob sleigh. The Ice Castle, made with Ciroc vodka, passion fruit, crème de pêche and lemon topped with Dom Pérignon, is a sharing drink served in an ice sculpture shaped like a castle.
Mostly priced at £8.50, the cocktails have been created by leading consultancy Soulshakers, which has also worked with Brompton Brands in the past. House cocktails include the Saint Bernard, made with Martell cognac shaken with hazelnut schnapps, Mozart chocolate liqueur and cream, and the Snap Frost, mixing Belvedere pink grapefruit vodka, rhubarb liqueur, fresh grapefruit and San Pellegrino Limonata lemonade.
The wine list champions Austrian producers such as Grüner Veltliner but also offers a range of champagnes from Moët Imperial NV and Pommery to Cristal and Krug. Austrian beers Stiegl Goldbräu and Schremser Bio Roggen are on draught while bottled beers include Erdinger Dunkel and Veltins from Germany.
Traditional Austrian recipes have been given a modern twist by Austrian duo Marco Reiner and Franz Schinagl, who have been taking Austrian food out to London’s streets in their Speck Mobile. With senior food consultant Tom Parker Bowles, they have created dishes made from ingredients sourced from the best artisan producers in Austria through supplier Reiner’s Austrian Fine Foods.
While there is a secret back entrance for VVIPs, Antoin says Bodo’s Schloss is mainly a place for locals to eat, drink and party. “Restaurants, bars and nightclubs are all about escapism,” he adds. “We want to transport people to the Austrian Alps and have them forget about their troubles and have a great night.”
Bodo’s Schloss, 2 Kensington High Street, London W8 4PT Tel: 020 7937 5506 www.bodosschloss.com
First published in the February 2013 issue of Bar magazine.