Do you sometimes feel a night out in Roppongi is like a scene from the hip film “Swingers”? You spend the time it takes to quaff a drink and scan the crowd in one bar before you are off to yet another in search of something elusive, somewhere indefinable.
Well, the guys behind the big R’s latest watering hole are hoping to attract a clientele worth sticking around for.
Gmartini’s — as its name suggests — is a cocktail bar. But don’t expect wannabe shaker-slinging Tom Cruises and Hard Rock Cafe freebie glasses. The idea is sophisticated cool.
Barmen in black-and-silver Mao-collared shirts and waitresses in slinky red-and-gold cheongsams are on hand to tend to your every alcoholic whim. The drinks menu, offering vodka- and gin-based martinis, is varied enough to ensure there is something for everyone. Head barman Sean Maclaren suggests sampling the Gibson — a traditional Martini with a twist.
Alfred the Austrian, one of five owners, mixes up a delicious Clamato juice spiked with vodka as a change from the traditional Bloody Mary, and the Crantini (vodka, cranberry juice and triple sec) was a hit on opening night.
The bar is the brain child of Grant Buchwald who says he has been drinking martinis since he stayed at Bing Crosby’s house in Miami for a friend’s wedding.
He said: “You can’t help stumbling on cool, classy bars — think Dean Martin and the Brat Pack — in the U.S. and Canada, but there is nothing like this in Tokyo. So we decided to offer something new.”
Leopard-print cushions, zebra-skin sofas and ambient house and jungle sounds (at low volume) combine to lend a urbane but relaxed mood. Just off the main bar is a chill-out room. The walls are swathed in a shag-pile fabric similar to what my grandmother used to cover her toilet-seat, but it works: especially when the staff refer to it as “The Shag Room.”
I can’t promise that you’ll bump into Swinger’s Trent (Vince Vaughn), but as the Mori family try to do their own updating of Roppongi with the construction of a vast art museum and upmarket shopping complex, this could be the first in a trend of new ventures to drag the dreaded ‘Pong out of its pit of sleaze to something more stylish.
Eighties icon Simon Le Bon dropped by on opening night and promised to mention the bar to friends who pass through Tokyo on the celeb circuit. So perhaps Gmartini’s is also just the place to provide a viable alternative to the terribly tired Lexington Queen.
But enough analysis. As Trent would say, “Cocktails first, questions later.”