The 20’s were a decade of pure hedonism and debauchery when people simply partied away the gloom of the Great War. It was an era of illicit speakeasies, thrilling fashion and unlimited pursuit of pleasure. And now, those times are back again, with the much anticipated release of Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quintessential 20’s novel, The Great Gatsby. Hotels, restaurants and bars in both the US and across the pond are jumping on the bandwagon by organizing Gatsby-themed events, each trying to outdo the other in terms of opulence. This is a guide to where you should head should you want to join in the jazz era fun. Don’t forget your zoot suit, sequin headband and teacup of whiskey!
New York’s Plaza Hotel was once the favourite hangout of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, to the point where the hotel’s famed Palm Court provides one of the settings for The Great Gatsby. Now, to commemorate the hotly anticipated film adaptation of the novel, they have unveiled a spanking new suite completely dedicated to the jazz era. Named the Fitzgerald Suite, the 900 square foot space on the 18th floor is a testament to art deco architecture and design, with period furnishings, the complete collection of Fitzgerald’s works and images from the film as well as photos of Fitzgerald and his wife. Coffee table books showcasing 20’s New York glamour complete the experience. Designed by Academy Award winning production designer Catherine Martin who also worked on the film, and furnished by luxury home furnishings brand, Restoration Hardware, the suite will instantly transport you back to the days of flappers and bootlegging. You can also browse through a collection of costumes from the film, which will be on display.
The hotel is also renovating its Champagne Bar and Todd English Food Hall after the period. Beginning March 20th, 20’s-inspired gin cocktails will dominate the drinks menu and the Champagne Bar, in collaboration with Moët Hennessey, will be converted to a Moët Pop-Up Bar, offering an exclusive cocktail created by mixologist Jim Meehan, named the Moët Imperial Gatsby. A Moët & Chandon Champagne Cart will be at hand, serving glasses of Moët Imperial. You can even listen to a live jazz band while enjoying the Fitzgerald Tea for the Ages with its 20s-themed menu. You can bite into 20s classics like a decadent Sachertorte with Amarena Cherries, the hotel’s very own Jazz Age Chocolate Bon-Bon, Deviled Quail Egg Salad, Smoked Salmon with Wild Sturgeon Caviar, and Banana Financiers, among many others. Meanwhile, the Todd English Food Hall will feature a contemporary menu of Gatsby-inspired cocktails designed by renowned mixologist and Hendricks Gin brand ambassador, Charlotte Voisey. There will also be a brunch-y Gatsby Weekend Menu with classic 20’s delights enlivened with a modern twist. And pop-up shops such as William Greenberg and Luke’s Lobster at the Plaza Food Hall will serve up goodies reminiscent of popular cuisine in the 20’s. You can look forward to François Payard’s s’more macaroons, among many more. The Rose Club will be the venue for Wednesday and Thursday evenings’ Gatsby Hour complete with a live jazz band and a Prohibition era inspired Speakeasy menu which includes Henessy, Glenmorangie, Grand Marnier and Belvedere. If you so desire, you can sip your favourite signature cocktails from an engraved Plaza flask which you might want to discreetly conceal on your person should you want to be authentic to Prohibition era mores.
Reservations are being accepted for stays beginning May 10 starting April 22.
Opening its doors to the public this month, The Refinery is a boutique hotel in Manhattan which is located in a 101 year old neo-Gothic building that once housed a millinery factory. The decor is inspired by the Industrial Revolution and the things that made it great. So there are desks inspired by old sewing machines, distressed hardwood floors, and custom steel and leather headboards. Expect a lot of dark wood accents offset by marble. The rooms have been converted from the space that was used to house the factory workers, and as such have a very loft like feel – long and narrow but with wonderfully high ceilings. There is a cosy, vintage, “lived-in” atmosphere which is accentuated by the coffee tables designed to look like old factory carts and vintage trunks. According to the designers, they were inspired by the “ladies who took breaks from shopping on Fifth Avenue” and the “incredible fashions” of the time.
The hotel also features a swanky rooftop bar with a retractable glass ceiling, which means you can soak up the incredible atmosphere around a fountain or fireplace come rain or shine. Reclaimed wood from old water towers completes the ceiling and the entire place is done up in twinkly lights. The place also offers an excellent view of the Empire State Building, which looks close enough to touch. Located in the lobby is Winnie’s Tea Lounge, named after Ms. Winifred T. McDonald who ran the original tearooms in the location when it was the Colony Arcade Building. According to The Refinery’s website, “Miss McDonald, presumably a wearer of great hats, served the workers of the Garment District and the ladies that frequented the parlor, in need of respite after shopping on 5th Avenue.” The theme here is Prohibition-era, with cocktails being discreetly served in stemmed teacups instead of afternoon tea.
If you are on a budget and still want a taste of the flapper days, head to The Jane Hotel in the far West Village. Originally called the American Seaman’s Friend Society Sailors’ Home and Institute when it was built in 1908, The Jane has a rich, storied heritage. From housing the survivors of The Titanic to being used as a YMCA flophouse, it has seen grand as well as shabby times. By 2007 it was just another decrepit relic of a bygone era, doomed to demolition, when it was bought by hotelier Sean MacPherson. MacPherson had a vision of restoring the space to a “Tenenbaum-esque” atmosphere, complete with pre weathered furniture, aged wood and carpets made threadbare on purpose. Currently the decor has a bohemian-chic feel about it – with potted plants vying for space with stuffed animal heads and glitter balls. The rooms are modelled after ship cabins and can sometimes be claustrophobically tiny, but that only adds to the charm. The hotel has other blasts from the past too, in the form of the elderly longtime residents who still live there. Some are friendly, some crotchety and all add to the quirkiness of the place.
The bar is located in the former auditorium and is now called the Jane Ballroom. It has a period feel that starts off with Victoriana but takes you through the decades with eccentric later period touches. MacPherson wants it to look as if “one family has owned it for a long time”. The New York Times calls the decor “neo-accretion retro”.You can raise a toast to One of Fitzgerald’s contemporaries and close friends by ordering The Hemingway Daiquiri which is a concoction of Star African Rum, Luxardo Cherry Liquor, grapefruit, and lime juice. If you are lucky, you can even take the elevator to the roof which has been converted to a members-only bar. But in order to get in, you will have to “ know everyone in the room by at most one degree of separation”, according to owner Carlos Quirarte.
The Back Room
Also in NYC, in the East Village, is The Back Room, a Speakeasy bar which used to be an actual Speakeasy back in the day. In order to find it, look for a sign that reads “Lower East Side Toy Company”, enter through the gate, walk down a shady alleyway and go up a flight of stairs to the dimly lit main room. Drinks are discreetly served in teacups and mugs, and beer comes brownbagged, while the velvet paisley wallpaper, tin ceilings, mirrored bar and plush furniture complete the Victorian-inspired decor and lend the place a clandestine atmosphere. If you are feeling particularly bold, you can even try and find your way to the copper-ceilinged VIP Lounge littered with Victoriana, which is concealed behind a trick bookcase.
The Clover Club
The Clover Club in Brooklyn serves up authentic 20’s brambles, swizzles, sours, smashes and flips. The decor is reminiscent of a 19th century back bar and is elegant without being flashy, complete with wood-panelled red brick walls, fireplace, wrought iron staircases, and bartenders in snug vests. Enjoy live jazz on Wednesdays and Ragtime over the speakers at other times while sipping on cocktails like Daisy Skye, Spicy Pete, Pineapple Julep, and Jim Gray’s Old Fashioned Toddy at prices a couple of dollars less than comparable bars. The Clover Club also offers jazz-era inspired brunch and lunch menus featuring classics of American comfort food like pork and grits, devilled eggs and brioche bread pudding.
Resorts Casino Hotel, Atlantic City
Heading out of NYC, you can make your way to Atlantic City, to the Resorts Casino Hotel, which has been completely redone with a 20’s theme in mind. The 480 rooms in the Ocean Tower have been refurbished in an Art-Deco style. The waitresses are dressed in flapper-era costumes, complete with short black low-backed dresses, feathered headdresses, fishnets and high heels. Even the bellhops, security personnel, doormen and dealers have jazz-era costumes. The theme is also reflected in the drinks menu, which is dominated by whiskey-infused cocktails, whiskey being the preferred drink of the era. At 25 Hours, the casino bar and lounge, there is even a singing bartender, Blanche who will sing out orders and engage in witty banter with you every week, from Wednesday to Thursday (4 to 9:30pm) and from Friday to Saturday (2 to 7:30pm.) If you are looking for a 20s living room atmosphere instead, head straight to the Piano Bar with its cosy, intimate setting.
Across the Pond
Café de Paris
The de Paris in London’s Piccadilly originally opened in 1924. Back then Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward and Louise Brooks were regular faces there, with Brooks introducing the Charleston to England for the first time there. With not just one but two sweeping staircases connecting the split level dining room, velvet ceilings, gilt balconies and massive chandelier, Café de Paris is redolent of old world glamour and charm. The entertainment on offer is true to the period setting – their La Reve club nights are one of the best cabaret shows in London, featuring the best of vaudeville, burlesque and circus performances. Acro-balance star Andres Felipe and London Flappers, The Bees Knees are regular attractions there, as well as vocalists and concert pianists. The menu is classic French/ Modern European cuisine with highlights such as pan-roasted Gressingham duck, boneless rib of beef, seared tiger prawns and smooth crème brulee. You can choose from a selection of fine wines and champagnes from the cellar to go with your meal. And of course, there is dancing to go with dinner.
On Friday evenings the space is taken over by the Black Cat Cabaret, which touts itself as “London’s decadent descendant of the legendary Le Chat Noir club in Paris.” With live music, street singers, comics, illusionists, exotic performers, as well as acrobats and dancers, The Black Cat Cabaret promises an experience like none other. There is even a contemporary reinvention of belle époque Chinese shadow theatre. According to them, “The Black Cat is where London’s great and good rub shoulders with strangers from distant lands and louche reprobates, presided over by one eclectic cat-about-town, a cat of exquisite style and taste.” With such an unique claim, this show is one you can’t afford to miss.
Two course dinner and show at The Café de Paris starts at £47.50 per person.
The Black Cat Cabaret runs every Friday, doors 7.00pm / Show 8.30pm (90 mins + interval) / Aftershow Party. Prices start at £15.
Proud Cabaret City
Proud Cabaret city is modelled on a 20’s Speakeasy and is reminiscent of all the illicitness and glamour of the era. The underground restaurant is done up with velvet walls, candelabras and table lamps, which convey a thrilling sense of atmosphere. Their resident burlesque and cabaret shows, The Pin-Up Peep Show and Speakeasy feature the talents of Miss Vienna Green and Kitty Devine, among many others. Immerse yourself in a world of feather headdresses, glitter and nipple tassels while dining on filo and goat cheese mille-feuille and rack of pork with fondant potato accompanied by fine wines.
Three course dinner and entertainment is £49 per person.
3 Cromwell Road
Having opened its doors to the public recently in March this year, 3 Cromwell Road is located in a three storey Georgian townhouse adjacent to Kensington’s Natural History Museum. The three floors comprise The Back Room – a cocktail bar on the ground floor,The Drawing Room restaurant on the first floor, and The Basement – a downstairs club. 19th and 20th century decor recalling London townhouses of those eras rubs shoulders with contemporary pop culture influences such as Kalashnikovs papered onto the walls. The furniture, which is by Andrew Martin (the founder of the Interior Designer of the Year Award) has been called “a barometer of style for our era” by the Sunday Times. Quotes from The Great Gatsby adorn the walls in neon, while a grand piano is the centrepiece of The Drawing Room. Enjoy prohibition-era inspired cocktails like Julep no. 3, Gentleman Sour and the Golden Date Martini. The dinner menu includes steak frites, sliders and frozen berries with champagne sabayon.
Proud Camden’s West Egg Garden Party
Proud Camden welcomes in the summer season with the West Egg Garden party, modelled on the May Day bash in The Great Gatsby. The summer soiree begins early in the afternoon and continues till early next morning, capturing the true spirit of the decadent 20s. There will be a daytime fete with traditional early 20th century attractions such a coconut shy and a marathon sack race, as well as a bootleg liquor challenge. Indoors, the gallery will boast of art deco decor and lush grass flooring where people can enjoy an afternoon’s game of croquet. The afternoon will be filled with caviar, canapés and cocktails accompanied by a New Orleans marching band while the evening’s entertainment consists of the hotly anticipated Bootlegger’s Ball, headlined by a DJ set from Hervé, joined by Yasmin.
Another Gatsby-themed event is scheduled on the 17th of the month at the newly opened Libertine in Fitzrovia. The venue is named after Lord Rochester, one of the most famous libertines of Britain. With dimly lit velvet covered walls, the atmosphere is an indulgent and decadent one. The menu is hidden around the room and films from the 20’s (such as Chaplin) are projected on the wall behind the bar. Paintings of flapper girls adorn that walls while soft jazz piped over the speakers makes for a relaxing atmosphere. Many of the cocktails are served with tempting extras, such as strawberry and black pepper, a syringe of Jasmine tea, or a pipette of port. There is also a range of tea-themed drinks, chief amongst them being the “Top and Tails”, an extravagant concoction served under a bowler hat. The bash on the 17th will include films, a grand feast, a compulsory Gatsby dress code, performances and 20s cocktails.
Harrods Pop-Up Shop
If you are tired of nightclubs and still want a taste of the 20’s, head to Harrods from May 9th to the 20th to visit their 20s themed pop-up bar in the Tasting Room and Wine Shop which will be transformed into an art deco inspired den. On the 10th, a one-off event will be held there, where you will be able to scoff a range of canapes, take part in a cocktail making masterclass with award winning mixologists and listen to some live jazz.
To book tickets to the evening, £50, email [email protected]
Looking for something that’s a little bit off the beaten track, and yet is unmistakably a roaring 20’s staple? Why not enroll in some Charleston masterclasses at the Ballroom at Claridge’s? London flappers, The Bees Knees will teach the real thing to guests with moves such as the bunny hop, bees knees (from where they get their name), fish tail and Josephine Baker. The lessons will start off with a performance by the group after which guests can join in. Attendees are encouraged to don flapper togs, decking themselves up in feathered headbands, satin elbow length gloves and rows and rows of pearls.
The classes have been running from February and will continue till July, once a month. It costs £125 per person and takes place between 6.30-8:30pm.
For an authentic 1920’s experience, complete with appropriate hush-hush secrecy surrounding the venue, head to The Prohibition Party. The next event is on June 1 and the location will be revealed 2 weeks before the event. According to the website, the venue is completely hidden from the “prying eyes” of the police. Highlights are cocktails in tea cups, DJs on gramophones, silent cinema, a live piano room, dancing, and gambling tables. Guests are encouraged to dress in period costume.
Prohibition Party London will take place on Saturday 1st June 2013 from 9pm. Tickets cost £20.00. For more information, or to purchase tickets, please call 020 7724 1617.
Written by Ragini Nag Rao, Copywriter, Social Media Manager and of course a Superwoman at StartupsFM. She writes on innovation in Startups, Technology, Fashion, Food and small businesses. @startupsfm we also help startups and small businesses with social media marketing and PR. Email us: [email protected]