Last week, the PartyPoker blog was lucky enough to visit the brand-new Playboy Club London.
It’s a casino, bar, restaurant, nightclub, and hangout all rolled into one Playboy branded experience. Walk through the front door off a quiet Mayfair street, and you ride a glowing red elevator up to the club.
The first thing to say is that Playboy Club London is not a lapdancing club. The bunnies serve drinks and deal games, but they don’t strip. (Also, rumour has it the bunnies are banned from having relationships with members, so guys leave your ‘Game’ routines at home.)
Up in the bar you can drink beer and eat Playmate themed sandwiches. (“The Bunny Monique – smoked salmon, wasabi cream cheese on rye bead – £8”.) In the casino you can play the usual table games, with games dealt by friendly bunny dealers.
The downstairs bar – Salvatore’s – is run by mixology maestro Salvatore Calabrese. Drinks range from £16 cocktails to a £2,000 cognac. (Don’t ask for it with Coke!)
The décor is upscale and understated. Raffles (that’s the name of Playboy’s rabbit mascot) is everywhere, but the joint is subtly and luxuriously branded – it’s not like a garish schoolgirl’s pencil case. Lenticular photographs of the iconic Sixties club appear to move as you pass them.
Playboy Club London’s strict members-only policy makes it unique in the UK. Most casinos claim to be ‘members only’, when in reality anyone can join for free. Not at Playboy Club though.
A private oak-panelled poker room
Here, management maintain that when they say ‘members only’, they mean it. During the day when it’s quiet, they’ll sometimes show you around and let you stay for a while. But if you want to make the place your base, you’ll need to spring for membership.
The fees: £1,200 a year (plus £1,000 joining fee) or £15,000 for life.
When you’re a member (sorry, ‘keyholder’) you get access to the club 24 hours a day. You can bring friends too, which is probably one of the key attractions because Playboy club is a killer place to bring people to. (Who’d turn down an invitation to meet at the Playboy Club?)
The management are still debating whether to offer poker. The Playboy Club London has a single poker table in a private oak-panelled poker room, hidden away from the casino. Running regular games is out of the question, but bosses will consider spreading private games on request. But if you can put together enough players at stakes high enough to make it worth their while.
Playboy London is marketing itself as a sort of home-from-home for upscale men. Smokers can kick-back on a covered roof garden, with confortable loungers and flat-panel TVs. With exotic cigars on hand, you’ll be tempted to get into bad habits.
Playboy Club London is an anomaly – a casino that erects a paywall to keep customers out. But it’s banking on the fact that the exclusivity will be more than enough to guarantee high rollers.