FOOD & DRINK

New Hard Rock hotel and flagship restaurant on the way

Fantastic growth in the past 48 years

This year promises to be a busy one in London for the Hard Rock organisation. Among its plans are the launch of its first UK hotel later this month and a new flagship restaurant later in the year.

First, the hotel. It’s in Mable Arch and is the transformed Cumberland Hotel. Unconfirmed reports suggest it will open on April 30.

The hotel will be one of the capital’s largest in terms of rooms and suites – close to 900.

The Cumberland was a favourite with Jimi Hendricks and the Hard Rock Hotel will include tributes to him and other former guests such as Bob Dylan, Madonna, Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross.

The hotel will have two bars, a 370-seat Hard Rock Café and a Rock Shop selling the company’s merchandise.

The flagship restaurant will open in Piccadilly. The multi-level café is being built on the former site of the Cool Britannia souvenir shop and will cover 1,800 sqm.

There will be a stage for live performances in the main dining area.

Memorabilia from several classic artists will be included – among them, Freddie Mercury, George Michael and David Bowie. Contemporary artists such as Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding will also be featured.

And the hits will keep on coming. In two years’ time Hard Rock will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. Expect some special celebrations.

The first Hard Rock Café. Picture: London Inspire

A short while back I revisited the first Hard Rock Café at the Park Lane end of Piccadilly which opened in 1971. It seems as popular as ever.

I can clearly recall my first visit. Work colleagues took me there for my 21st birthday in August 1973 (you do the maths).

Two things stick clearly in my mind.

One, I had never visited a restaurant before that played the sort of music I liked. Restaurants had mood music or nothing at the time. And here was this café/restaurant blasting out tracks from artists like Neil Young who had released the album, Harvest, the previous year. Young is still rocking and is due to appear alongside Bob Dylan at Hyde Park in July by the way.

Two, I encountered the first milkshake I could stand a straw up in. We are talking 45 years back. Until then a milkshake was milk and syrup, shaken! I’m not big on milkshakes but this was something special. Ice cream and little shards of ice in the coffee-flavoured beverage. Heaven!

Inside the first Hard Rock Café. Picture: London Inspire

From the start I liked Hard Rock and still do today.

It was launched by Americans Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton. Surely, they could not have fully appreciated what they had started. Hard Rock International now has venues in 74 countries, including 185 cafés, 27 hotels and 12 casinos.

HRI is now owned by the Florida-based Seminole tribe of native Americans who made a tidy chunk of their money from casinos based on tribal land. At one time US casino gambling was concentrated in Nevada (Las Vegas and Reno) and New Jersey (Atlantic City) and was only legal in very few places.

American Indians can pretty much do their own thing on their land which perhaps explains their prominent place in American gambling.

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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