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The Playboy Club, Mayfair – Afternoon Tea in Salvatore’s Bar:
Did you know it’s Afternoon Tea week next week from 11th to 17th August. In preparation I’ve been trying a few rather different afternoon teas and, much to my delight I was invited to the iconic Playboy Club where Salvatore’s Bar has just started serving afternoon tea with a twist.
My generation grew up with a strange affection for the Playboy Club. The entire enterprise is just a little older than me; the first Playboy Club opened in Chicago in February 1960 and the original London Playboy Club opened a few years later in 1965. But, I grew up in an era of bra burning feminism, very much at odds with the concept of the Playboy Club. Yet, somehow as I remember the bunny girls of the Playboy Club escaped too much of a backlash. Perhaps it was because those who worked there genuinely did seem to believe themselves privileged and elite. Perhaps because the ‘uniform’ of basque, opaque stockings, bunny collar, cuffs and cottontail just managed to escape overt sexuality. Or perhaps because there was and still is a genuine air of fun about the place. Or maybe it was simply that my own Father’s enthusiasm for the bunnies just overwhelmed any negativity for me.
Tea, needless to say, doesn’t involve a normal cuppa (although you can order a pot of tea or coffee if you want). The Teapot Cocktails, described as Te’Freddo in the menu are made with chilled teas and complementing spirits and mixers. I tried the Floral (jasmine tea, Hendricks gin, lavender, maraschino, orange blossom and fresh lemon juice). It worked very well, though I found my companion’s ‘Fruity’, a Lychee jasmine tea with lychee and peach liqueurs just a touch too sweet for me.
The savoury dishes include a beautiful but rather hard to eat Caprese
and a perfect open sandwich of London smoked salmon
Sweets include a few playful twists – the bunny carrot cake complete with a tiny marzipan carrot
and bunny ear cupcake – chocolate and guiness cake topped with chocolate butter cream and milk chocolate bunny ears.
At £30 including the tea cocktail (a generous teapotful), this is a good value Park Lane afternoon tea.
Most importantly though, it’s fun. There’s a piano player tickling the ivories, smiling bar staff and of course the attentive and totally charming bunnies. It would be a great place to start a hen weekend or to take your partner after you’ve dragged them round the shops. It would make a good pre-theatre too, served from 5pm to 7pm, it’s just about the right amount of food to set you up for the evening without making you feel that you’ve over indulged.
Salvatore Calabrase, the Bar Manager at the Playboy Club is known as the Maestro. Inventor of the world’s most expensive cocktail, he clearly loves what he does and sitting in the bar is, in itself rather a treat because the walls are lined with unique vintage bottles. It’s hard to fault a place where everyone you meet has so much enthusiasm and where such care has been put into creating the brand. I loved my tea and my only regret is that my Dad isn’t around to treat. I can so easily visualise how delighted he would have been with the whole experience.
The Playboy Club
14 Old Park Lane London,