Bodo’s Schloss, London
Perched by one of the gingham-clad wooden tables at the new Bodo’s Schloss, one of the not-quite-as-young-as-he-thinks-he-is vultures circling the room slid into the pine booth next to me.
“So,” he drawled, “where do you ski?”
“Banff” I replied.
“Oh,” he says with evident disdain. “We ski in Méribel”.
It was just too tempting. “Ergh. I hate skiing in Europe.”
There’s a heady whiff of irony in the air at Bodo’s Schloss. And it’s not just from the kitsch, tongue-in-cheek après-ski theme. I’m not saying that all the people here are pretentious. I’m sure plenty of unassuming revellers wouldn’t have dreamed of such behaviour. It’s more that it’s something of a surprise to find that in a club which doesn’t take itself too seriously there were a multitude of people who really did. Which is a shame, because Bodo’s Schloss is the kind of place where if you have a sense of humour, you can have a really good time.
Described as “a new restaurant, bar and old-fashioned disco reminiscent of an Austrian alpine lodge”, Bodo’s Schloss is Kensington’s answer to the apparently overwhelming demand for après-ski in the capital. Hidden under the Royal Garden Hotel, from the outside it looks more like Santa’s Grotto than the place tipped to be the next royal haunt. In case you’re wondering, it’s been given this status because:
a) It is owned by Harry’s bloody good chums Thomas van Straubenzee and Tom Inskip.
b) It’s only a hop, skip and an inappropriate hump away from Kensington Palace.
c) Themed venues are frightfully good fun, old boy.
And themed it they have. Not just with a hint of Austria either. We’re talking Sound of Music meets goat herders, underground bunker clubbing. In a timber cave. With schnitzel. Stuffed mountain goats adorn the walls, the DJ resides in a seventies ski lift gondola and staff are clad in traditional lederhosen and red gingham dirndls, which frighteningly match the table cloths. Visitors to the website are informed that “those who take part in wearing traditional mountain wear may be entitled to complimentary entry”. Such fun! However, it’s the music which is really going to divide opinion. Expect the evening to start with cheesy anthems from yesteryear – think Journey and Survivor and you’ll know what I mean – all perfectly combined to transport you to the woozy mullet-wearing, blue eye-liner joy of a dance floor somewhere in the Austrian Alps, circa 1982. Then, at that point in between dinner and dancing, the traditional Austrian brass band are wheeled out (they are wearing lederhosen too, oh yes) to play a few tunes before the DJ resumes his set with more a more current playlist. This heady cultural gruyère is not for everyone, but if you can stomach it then you’ll definitely have a very good night.
Cheese also comes on the menu. Bodo’s Schloss unsurprisingly serves “authentic Austrian cuisine”. Some people might say the perfect cooking style for a night of vivacious dancing after drinking very strong beer: dumplings, sausage and strudel. Those people have been dead for 100 years. I tried some of the sharing platters, although it was a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, the traditional meat platter was delightful, but I’m not entirely sure how miniature chicken burgers fitted into the theme? And although the food prides itself on being “not too fancy or fussy”, surely they can offer something a little more exciting than what was essentially cream cheese on bread? I mean if they could muster Strauss and Klimt, then they could stick an anchovy on top, or something. I’m sure the mains are more substantial.
And the ridiculousness continues at the bar. It would be idiotic verging on brain-dead to suggest serving drinks in a glass, right? The very thought. Yet Bodo’s Schloss, boasting as it does the largest selection of schnapps in the UK, understands its market. Champagne is served in milk urns, drinks are guzzled out of real ski boots (hopefully never worn in anger) and aptly named cocktails such as the “Snow Angel” and “Cuckoo Clock”. However, you’ll find that at almost 70% ice these concoctions are more snow-cone than cocktail and soon descend into being tasteless and watery. It would seem that you can take the theme of snow too far. Which leads you to wonder about the venue itself. With Christmas around the corner, Bodo’s Schloss is obviously the perfect place to hang out during the festive season. But then what happens in Summer? Does the cosy Alpine lodge turn into a subterranean sauna? Or does the gimmick end there? Let’s wait and see. In the meantime though, as the nights close in, Bodo’s Schloss is definitely worth a visit. Just make sure you bring your sense of humour and leave your own cheese at the door. There’s enough inside for everyone.