The Cuckoo Club – Members Club Review

Published on Design My Night on 30th December 2011:

Swallow Street, London W1B 4EZ

The Cuckoo Club has been recently redesigned by the 60s fashion designer and BIBA founder Barbara Hulanicki. But what goes on in its purple boudoir?

Décor and Ambience

The purple theme of The Cuckoo Club spells out debauchery and decadence everywhere but that’s precisely how they wanted it designed – with rock n’ roll in mind.

In the restaurant-come-club upstairs, the mirrored bar back with its towering shelf of liquors imparts a sense of something naughty. While the mixologist expertly concocts your cocktail, you can enjoy dinner on its plush banquettes or, with a reservation, in its VIP area. After the dining hour, that same room is transformed into a club with neon, strobes and cracking DJs.

Stairs, lit with a giant glittering disco ball, will lead you down to the basement club where you can also enjoy cocktails on their booths while you wait for that transformation. Or equally stay because it’s ready with music, drinks, a dance floor and comfy seating.

Atmosphere and Clientèle

The first thing you’ll be told when asking about The Cuckoo Club is that it never gets busy before 11pm.

Well, the club part that is. Members and non-members alike can book tables in The Cuckoo Club’s restaurant and it does get quite busy there. The perk for non-members is that they’ll also gain access to the club after dinner.

Because it’s a members’ club, The Cuckoo Club’s guests are rather well dressed, though that is not to say that they are in any way snobby. Indeed after a drink or two, everyone’s more than happy to mingle on the dance floor while the staff takes care of all your refreshment needs. It’s probably one of the few places in London where well-heeled students and successful young professionals blend in equal measures.

Food and Drink

The food at The Cuckoo Club doesn’t conform to cuisine. Instead you will find quite a selection of luxurious fish and meat dishes such as grilled langoustine and wagyu beef burgers.

Economical/drinkonomical is not a word considered here. With starters upwards of £10 and mains upwards of £15, you may have to curb your enthusiasm over their small selection of £8 desserts. Still, you will be rewarded well if you order the Valrhona ganache with sea salt crumble.

Drinks wise, cocktails are the thing to go for. Blends of champagne and absinthe will definitely get the party started but you can equally go for a tame G&T. Either way, the bar men know their way around an ice cube.

Music

Given its aspirations, The Cuckoo Club probably inclines more towards the rock n’ roll side but really you’re just as likely to hear dance and RnB classics. With different nights running throughout the week and on each of their dance floors, there’s certainly room for choice.

In Summary

The Cuckoo Club is not a night out for the faint-hearted or small budgeted but prepare for the large bill and you are guaranteed fun in copious supply.

Budget: Splash The Cash

Pre-designs: Fun-Time Party Night, Impress a date, A-List hang-out

Service: 4/5

Réunion Bar at The Grosvenor Hotel – Review

Published on Design My Night on 28th December 2011:

101 Buckingham Palace Road, Victoria, SW1W 0SJ

Réunion bar at The Grosvenor Hotel, not the French island in the Indian Ocean as you might think but a champagne and cocktail bar in The Grosvenor Hotel. So just where does it get its French name from?

Décor and Ambience

Enclosed in The Grosvenor Hotel, the site of Réunion was at one time a VIP Lounge for First Class passengers travelling from Victoria station. As it happens, Victoria was also the connection to Continental Europe via the luxurious Orient Express. So it seems that a Réunion was born to celebrate the amalgamated history of the two.

Very much staying true to its history, Réunion is decorated with the splendours of steam trains of years gone by but with a modern twist. Paintings of Brighton Belle, the other famous luxury train which departed from Victoria, hangs on either end of the bar. Pockets of seating are artfully cordoned off by curtains, creating intimate social spaces for meeting friends. A mirror reflects over the granite bar, centrally placed and illuminated by glass-ware lighting from above.

When you make your entrance, you will certainly feel like you’ve arrived.

Atmosphere and Clientèle

Despite not being overtly sign posted from the station, the bar is almost packed by 6.30pm. There’s plenty of space to stand but if you want to grab a seat, get there early. Luckily, the bar is well staffed so you won’t have to wait long to quench your thirst.

While Réunion is not a space for a quiet drink, it’s definitely not a rowdy venue either. The well-heeled guests appear to be mostly professionals enjoying a couple of drinks after work. In the corner booths you’re likely to find groups of suited men, clearly still engaged in an overrun business meeting. Sitting at the bar are the occasional lone traveller, soaking in the exotic martinis.

Food and Drink

Though Réunion offers up bar snacks in the shape of charcuterie, sushi and miniature bites, it’s really the drinks that matter. After all, it is a champagne and cocktail bar.

Most people in the bar seem to indulge in the cocktails. But with few champagnes by the glass and vintages costing up to some £650, you can sort of understand why the golden liquid isn’t flowing during the week. The cocktails on the other hand, start from just £7.50 and there are some carefully crafted ones like the Victorian martini. Of course you could always blend the two and go for a champagne cocktail. The toffee champagne is particularly good.

Réunion also creates limited edition themed cocktails alongside its usual offering, with a collectible menu. What a novel idea.

In Summary

If you find yourself with time to kill at Victoria station, consider popping into Réunion. Considering the jostle of the station, Réunion makes a much more relaxed waiting environment. And even if you don’t bump into an old friend, you’ll still be treated to some very good cocktails.

Budget: Happily Affordable

Pre-designs: After-work drinks, Impress a date, Waiting for a train, Catch up with mates

Service: 4/5

Russian Standard Bar at SamarQand Review

Published on Design My Night on 17th November 2011:

18 Thayer Street, London W1U 3JY

The Russian Standard bar at SamarQand, Marylebone, opened recently on the 1st anniversary of the restaurant to a flurry of crystal Louboutins, oligarchs and some 90 litres of vodka. But what’s it like the rest of the time?

Décor and Ambience

Situated at the back of the Central Asian restaurant SamarQand, the Russian Standard Bar blends in remarkably well. The owners, from Tajikistan, have decked out the venue with all things Central Asian so while it’s Russian Standard, it’s also got an Eastern European mix.

The giant horse which divides the restaurant from the bar and the riding art work on its walls all links back to Tajikistan as a riding country. The careful silver patterns illuminated by bright, but somehow not garish, backlights are created in the traditional Central Asian style. Even the private rooms of the bar, with their hand painted wall paper, are all named after capitals of the countries in the former USSR.

The air conditioned bar area, a slightly segregated room with banquettes and a series of private rooms, makes cocktails and conversation easy. One can imagine though, after a few shots of Russian Standard, it would also make quite a room for dancing.

Atmosphere and Clientèle

During the week there’s more diners than bar hoppers. Those that do lounge in the comfy bar area all seem to take their place two by two – it must provide something interesting to talk about on first dates. At the weekend the venue gets a lot more lively with young professionals and very well-heeled students taking their place at the bar. Given its Russian theme and Marylebone location, a few oligarchs here and there wouldn’t go amiss either. And while the evenings can only get livelier with vodka at the top of the drinks list, the burly bouncer who politely opens your door will make sure that nothing gets too wild.

Food and Drinks

The name of the bar gives away its top drink – Russian Standard vodka, by the shot glass or by the bottle. But it’s not exclusively Russian Standard as there are other vodkas on the menu too. The next best thing seem to be the cocktails at £9 for the standard Russian/Central Asian inspired numbers or £15 for the “Oligarchs”. Every cocktail on the menu is inspired by something Russian or Central Asian, even if you have to be in the know to guess the link. You may be surprised too, to find a large selection of wines, including Georgian wines – a rare find in the UK but very popular in Russia before the ban. If you need to quench your thirst with something non-alcoholic then Voss water comes highly recommended.

Don’t worry about drinking on an empty stomach either – the bar and the restaurant share the same menu so you can definitely eat to your heart’s content. The food has been adapted for the European palate but with custom made ovens, imported spices and recipes passed down through generations, there’s definitely authenticity in their selection of manty, shashlik and plov. The smaller dishes are around £8 and bigger ones are around £15, all designed to be portions for sharing. It’s not cheap but you wouldn’t expect anything less in Marylebone.

Music

The Russian Standard Bar stays true to its roots and most of the music is Russian or Central Asian during the week. Whether foreign or familiar to the ears, though, the music is mellow enough to be non-intrusive. At the weekend, like the crowd, the music picks up pace and becomes a heady mix of Eastern European and mainstream dance tunes. The aural experience is certainly a unique one.

In Summary

Those with Russian or Central Asian heritage will definitely find something homely about this eclectic mix of cultures. Those that aren’t can certainly seek out something new and interesting, if they’re not afraid to dive right in and get involved. Be careful though, with vodka on the table and Russian melody in the background, you might find yourself partying like you’re in Eastern Europe. Wild.

Budget: Splash The Cash

Pre-designs: After work drinks, Chill with your mates, Pre-Drinks

Service: 4/5