Idris Elba's Parrot bar adds shot of celebrity to London’s cocktail mix

Actor’s Aldwych venture has ‘A-list surprises’, chauffeur-driven Aston Martins and DJ Driis on the decks

Idris Elba is the latest celebrity planning to open a luxury bar for his actor pals to hang out in alongside wealthy drinkers.

When Elba’s bar, the Parrot, opens at the Waldorf Hilton hotel on Aldwych next month it will be the first London bar to offer its clientele a ride to and from the venue in a chauffeur-driven Aston Martin. It is also promising “a whole host of A-list surprises” alongside the martinis and mojitos.

Elba, 46, who played Nelson Mandela in Long Walk to Freedom and the drug kingpin Russell “Stringer” Bell in The Wire, will sometimes be mixing drinks himself from the bar’s “hidden cocktail menu”, as well as occasionally taking to the decks.

Elba has DJed since he was 14, performing under the name DJ Driis, but has said he has struggled to be appreciated for his mixing skills because of his fame as an actor. “It was difficult to sort of be taken seriously in this arena because of my acting, for sure,” he said in an interview with the dance music magazine Dancing Astronaut.

London has been establishing itself on the global cocktail map, with its venues collecting seven out 14 awards at the Spirited awards in New Orleans this summer. The American Bar at the Savoy hotel was crowned the world’s best bar, Happiness Forgets in Hoxton Square won the best international cocktail bar category and the low-key Coupette, in Bethnal Green, was best newcomer.

A David Bowie-themed bar, Ziggy’s, opened in the Hotel Cafe Royal by Piccadilly Circus this week. In 1973 Bowie threw a party at the hotel to say farewell to his alter ego, inviting artists such as Lou Reed, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand to celebrate. The new bar is decorated with photos of that party taken by Bowie’s official photographer, Mick Rock.

Actor and DJ Idris Elba performs live on the Sonic stage during the second day of the Glastonbury Festival in 2015.
Idris Elba has DJed since he was 14, performing under the name DJ Driis, and will occasionally take to the decks at his bar. Photograph: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

Elba’s Parrot intends to cash in on his connections, promising an “array of completely unannounced secret shows from the stars of stage and screen”. However, other celebrity-owned bars across the UK have been forced to close their doors after failing to attract enough punters.

Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs’s Manchester bar Mahiki closed in the summer, less than a year after it opened. It averaged a two-out-of-five-star rating on TripAdvisor, with some guests describing it as “disappointing” and tasteless. The bar charged £10 entry and cocktails cost from £12 to £140 for a “treasure chest sharer”.

The model and television presenter Kelly Brook closed her bar, Steam & Rye, in central London last summer after it failed to make enough money.

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Celebrity bars are having a bit more success in the US. Jay-Z’s 40/40 sport club has expanded from its original venue in Chelsea, New York, to Brooklyn and Atlanta airport. However, his venues in Las Vegas and Atlantic City both closed down.

Susan Sarandon owns a chain of table tennis-themed bars called SPiN, which has expanded to eight cities across the US and Canada. Channing Tatum owns Saints & Sinners, a cocktail bar in New Orleans. The Scrubs actor Zach Braff is the part-owner of Mermaid Oyster Bar, which has expanded to three venues in New York.

Elba’s bar will be run in partnership with twins Lee and Nicky Caulfield. Lee, a former agent in Hollywood, describes himself as the “go-to guy” for celebrities, “arranging restaurants, nightlife, entertainment and holidays for some of the most globally recognised individuals”. Nicky describes himself as a self-taught drummer. The brothers also run an alcoholic ice cream company.


Rupert Neate

The GuardianTramp

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