On 3rd July 1973, David Bowie threw a now-legendary ‘Last Supper’ to retire his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust at the elegant Hotel Cafe Royal, with a star-studded guestlist including everyone from Lou Reed to Mick Jagger to Paul McCartney.
Now, over 45 years since that infamous night, Hotel Cafe Royal have opened Ziggy’s Cocktail Bar to commemorate the party that shook its walls and went down in history, whilst honouring the hotel’s prolific guest behind it all.
Intrigued, it was on a rainy Thursday evening that Gentleman’s Journal hired a Wheely chauffeur and headed to Soho — arriving in all the style and elegance befitting of a trip to London’s ultimate party venue.
Read on for our take on whether this bar achieves a chic, nostalgic feel, without sliding into any twinges of themed-bar tackiness…
In a nutshell?
One of Soho’s most glamorous venues designs its cocktail bar to pay homage to one of its most beloved patrons — with themed cocktails, and a curated selection of portraits of Ziggy himself, captured by Mick Rock, adorning the walls.
What’s the occasion?
Hotel Cafe Royal lends itself to an evening of refined celebration. Ziggy’s Bar itself is a remarkably intimate space, with smaller tables perfectly suited to a romantic evening shared between Bowie aficionados.
The drinks menu prices come in slightly above the London cocktail bar average, but it’s certainly not as outlandish as might be expected.
Less of a wild party venue than its namesake might suggest, this is the place to head for a celebratory drink to the background of a truly iconic soundtrack — rather than a night spend dancing on the tables or smashing your guitar.
It’s also worth mentioning that Ziggy’s do not accept bookings, so larger parties might struggle to guarantee enough space.
What’s the vibe?
The interiors take their design cue from Ziggy’s own era. With muted, soft colours and 1970s style furnishings, the bar certainly avoids creating a shrine-like space, filled floor to ceiling with memorabilia. Our waiter tells us that more than one die-hard Bowie fan has travelled from overseas to Ziggy’s, expecting to find a life-size Bowie waxwork joining them in the bar. (A warning for anybody planning to make the long trip: there isn’t one).
In fact, the ‘Ziggy touches’ are all relatively understated. On average, only one in every five songs playing quietly in the background is a Bowie number, amongst an otherwise 1970s rock soundtrack. “We do not tire of it”, one smiling waiter tells us of the music that plays every day — you can almost believe him.
Elsewhere, clues can be found in the small, red and blue lightning strikes which embellish each napkin, and the cocktail names themselves which take inspiration from Ziggy’s lyrics on his 1972 album ‘‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars’.
What should I be drinking?
Exactly as you’d hope, these cocktails are where the true homage is paid to the elaborate and convention-defying genius. They also require an encyclopedic knowledge of Bowie’s lyrical repertoire. ‘Tiger On Vaseline’ (name taken from Hang On To Yourself), was a strange assault on the taste buds, combining Cachaça, Tanaka spiced rum, roasted pineapple juice, lime, coconut and (perhaps a little too much) white chocolate foam.
Far more enjoyable was the (admittedly rather tamer) ‘Electric Dream’ which mixes coconut oil-washed Bourbon, lemongrass syrup, fresh mint leaves and Angostura bitters. And, for something which packs a real lightning bolt hit, the ‘Femme Fatale’ combines vodka, Byrrh and sake, coming served in an absinthe-rinsed glass. Not for the faint-hearted.
Price for two?
Each cocktail costs £15, so expect to pay up to £50 for a couple of drinks with gratuity and bar snacks.
Looking for more extraordinary London bars? We visited the award-winning Artesian Bar at The Langham…