After Dark: Red Swank
Expert mixology meets a low key DJ and ‘über-hip’ décor
Who’s for the Red Room? In all probability, if you’re a well-heeled expat with a cushy number at the UN and a penchant for skinny ladies wrapped in tight denim, you most certainly are.
It’s hard to believe that the bar, with its suave clientèle and razor-sharp design, is only a stone’s throw from the fin-de-siècle grandeur of Cafe Prückel or just opposite the creaking Kursalon; but walk down the unobtrusive grey steps tucked away at the back of Comida and you could be in LA, New York, Paris, any of the great metropolises of the modern world, in fact.
"Nice cap, dude," says the huge barman with a film star smile in a perfect East Coast drawl. "What’s it to be?"
Self-consciously re-arranging my headwear, I turn to my date, who’s staring in dropped-jaw admiration at the bronzed adonis in his stiff white shirt. "You choose", she says distractedly, pre-empting my question, and she doesn’t even bother to look at me as she fiddles with her hair.
The man mixes our drinks with flawless competence and we make our way through the glam boys and girls on the prowl to the seating booths. I casually flick over the reserved sign on one of the low acrylic tables and we lounge back on the sofa, sipping our eye-poppingly strong rum "sunshine" cocktails – first rate incidentally.
"Über-hip, huh?! What’s been keeping me?" my friend exclaims, looking around at the interior in delight.
I examine the eye-catching colour scheme. The tables, DJ booth, and bar are a radiant pure white; everything else, the sofas, the walls, the ceiling, the pillars, a deep (velvet) red. It’s a stunningly effective contrast: old-style Viennese majesty cut with 21st century understatement. In addition to that, a touch of zany disco is provided by the natty floor, the white panelling illuminated alternately, so the perspex surface glows lazy patterns of ice blue, which continually morph, fragment, splinter and then re-join, in some kind of slow motion parody of the music.
"I can see you’re going to come here a lot", says my date, frowning, following my gaze, which has now migrated to the willowy girls bopping to the chilled hip-hop. The view is undeniably great, but it’s a sign of how spectacular I find the place that my thoughts quickly return to the swish décor. I notice how unlike most areas, which are divided into columns of vertical space by the objects within the environment, here the room is split up into horizontal layers thanks to the matching height of the planes of the furniture and fittings. It gives the impression of plenty of square metres in what is really a fairly cramped location.
"Excuse me, sir. I think this table is reserved." A thick-set but impeccable waiter stands in front of me, heading a mixed group of trendy 30-somethings fiddling with their iphones. It was never going to last. One can only be in somewhere that looks remarkably like a posh London club for so long before being kicked off a table.
My 20-year-old date never takes kindly to such slights. "Let’s go, the oldies are coming", she sniffs, tactlessly inconsiderate of her company. We jostle through the throngs and the curling smoke beginning to obscure the room’s slick design. Stroking my retreating hairline, I reflect that, sad as I am to leave such a pod of cool, at least we’re bailing before my date catches sight of that barman again.
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