The Lope: London Trader Vic's

Friday, December 08, 2006

London Trader Vic's

Trader Vic's is part of the old guard in tiki establishments and their London location was opened back in the tiki heyday of 1963. I've had quite a few hits on my recent Northwest (US) tiki post, so I thought I'd get on to this one, as it's the only tiki place I visited in London during my trip in October (aside from seeing some Polynesian artifacts at the British Museum).

Like the only other Trader Vic's I'd seen - Beverly Hills - this one is housed in the lower level of a Hilton hotel. This particular Hilton was built in 1963 and renovated in the 1990s. It made the news in 1975 when an IRA bomb killed two people in the lobby, injured quite a few more and did extensive damage. I do not know if the damage extended to Trader Vic's or if this Vic's has ever been renovated.

The carvings n the foyer of the street entrance reminded me of what little I was able to photograph of the Los Angeles location last year.

The London location was a bit more photo-friendly than was LA. I asked politely, anticipated objections by promising to stay away from patrons, tried to keep a low profile and minimized flash.

I'm no expert, but I think this large tiki statue is Maori-inspired.

Although it may seem cluttered by normal restaurant standards, this Trader Vic's, like others in the chain, is pretty subdued when compared to many an American tiki place. Compare the choices in color and materials to the more gaudy look of parts of Sam's Seafood. Both are great approaches but imply entirely different atmospheres and price scales.

Like any good tiki establishment, Trader Vic's employs theme lighting like this glass fishing float.

This and the following few tikis inhabit "the Tiki Room", a separate enclosable area used for banquets and such.

Another Maori-inspired piece.

This one reminds me of the Trader Vic's salt and pepper shakers that I've seen a few times in flea markets. You can see a set of those in a picture with Robert and Theressa Volz at their soon-to-be tiki bar, Thatch, in Portland.

I'd like to know more about the cultural inspiration for this mosquito-like figure.

If anyone knows the meaning of the numbers on the tapa-covered walls, please comment.

When I was there, the only light in the room was provided by bulbs behind these huge clam shells. The effect would be great for making a relatively large group seem intimate, but it was lousy for photographing tikis by ambient light, so I used flash, but kept it weak enough to show ambient light and not distract diners.

This one appears to be relieving itself on the wall. I was somehow surprised at this. Let me get this straight - tiki shirts are frowned upon at Trader Vic's because it's a classy place, but they can portray a statue as taking a leak?

This is the edge of a dining area.

I didn't shoot all of the tikis in the place - far from it.

I pretty much stayed away from carvings in booths with customers.

Some of the drinks come in specific mugs, as my friend in the American USAF discovered. I love the echo of history in this shot; it was partially the surge of men returning from the Pacific theater after WWII that spurred the popularity of the tiki craze in the mid-20th century.

I just couldn't resist using a snippet of Warren Zevon's "Werewolves Of London" that mentioned this location in a recent, post-Halloween full moon post: "I saw a werewolf drinkin' a pina colada at Trader Vic's
And his hair was perfect

A werewolf would not be the true horror at Trader Vic's; that'd be the mug prices.

Mugs and other glassware are for sale out of a glass case near the front of the restaurant.

Here is a ceramic helmet shell for 35 pounds, a tiki bowl for 30 pounds, an ashtray with Tahitian figures for 10 pounds and a set of salt and pepper shakers for 10 pounds. I really considered buying the three-legged, moai-inspired tiki bowl but with the prevailing exchange rate, it would have been nearly $60. Plus, it did not look as deeply detailed as specimens I have seen online. (Update: the following year, in March of 2007, I bought one in the Scottsdale, AZ Trader Vic's for $30, so it's good I waited.)

On the right are a scorpion bowl for 35 pounds and a rum barrel for 30 pounds.

I've found older (and crisper-detailed) versions of this head hunter cup in flea markets for a fraction of the 30 pounds Trader Vic's wanted for it, new. The Tahitian mug on the right is wonderfully politically incorrect with men chasing topless women. It was 30 pounds.

The coconut cup and the green marine tumbler were each 20 pounds.

The green ceramic big shot mug was 20 pounds.

The fog cutter mug (center) was 30 pounds.

The mug prices made me curious about the Hilton's room rates. The cheapest room for one person listed on their reservation site was 229 pounds; at current exchange rates that's about $420.

Trader Vic's/London Hilton is located near the Green Park tube stop and if you're traveling with anyone interested in the Hard Rock Cafe, it's not too far away. If you're into tiki mugs, you might want to check out For info on all things tiki, see For data on tiki bars everywhere see

American Jackalope in London posts (so far):

An American Jackalope In London:
More Easter Stuff - Easter Island moai (stone statue) in The British Museum
Good Friday - Crucifix tombstone in Highgate Cemetery and a crucifix at a church in London.
St Patrick's Day Megapost - Celtic crosses in London's Highgate Cemetery.
Red, Gold and Almost Gone - Includes photos of London's Chinatown.
He Belongs to the Ages (but you can still buy a souvenir) - We run into an Abraham Lincoln statue in, of course, London
Why Jackalopes Don't Play Soccer - Battered Buckyballs litter London.
Christmas Leftovers - An October shopping trip through Harrods, Selfridges and Hamley's, with lots of Christmas decor pictures.
Spamalot - We go to the Monty Python-based play and meet Tim Curry
London Trader Vic's - A visit to London's oldest tiki bar
Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 13) - The game is afoot!
Werelopes of London - Lycanthopic jackalopes stalk places mentioned in the Warren Zevon song, plus a few pictures of the London Underground.
Dracula's London - A Halloween tribute to Bram Stoker using London locales implied in "Dracula"
Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 9) - Mind the Gap


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