New bars and eateries pop up in central London whenever you blink, often looking very similar. Nobody could accuse Abigail’s Party, opening next week in Brewer Street, Soho, of being remotely like any other bar or club they’ve ever visited. Its individuality takes your breath away.
For designers Andrew Norrey and Martin Brudnizki, who say they can’t stand the idea of working on anything formulaic or average, it was the dream commission. Known for its extravagance – previous clients include Versace, Tiffany and restaurateur Mogens Tholstrup – their consultancy Norrey Brudnizki is heavily into colour, imagination and fun.
“Black is out of the window,” exclaims the more extrovert Norrey. “We’re colour junkies.” As you enter Abigail’s Party, it soon becomes apparent that their penchant for colour and flights of fancy takes precedence over what you might call “good taste”.
The conceptual premise of the club is that it’s the home of fun-loving, party-throwing, 20-something Abigail, so each space represents a different room of her house – drawing room, dining room, bedroom – including a postage stamp dancefloor – and, er, the bar, which was obviously hard to disguise, even dominated as it is by a mosaic mirror covering one wall and three colossal Moroccan lamps looking like petrified pineapples.
The drawing room, or lounge, features a stunning Tiffany window, bookshelves littered with bric-a-brac, and an unexpectedly tasteful black granite fireplace. The sofas looked uncomfortable to me, but you have to remember they’re not designed for snuggling down in front of the telly.
Downstairs, Abigail’s boudoir is a monument to kitsch, a riot of red and gold, dominated by a big double bed with bolster cushions and a red crystal light sculpture, like something porn publisher Paul Raymond might have dreamt up in the Sixties.
“We’d like to think people will come in and go ‘Wow!'” says Norrey. “Though I’d be quite happy if they said ‘Ouch!’ just so long as it gets a reaction. People need to escape from their mundane lives. That’s what our design is all about,” he adds.
Norrey Brudnizki has been fortunate in having a client, Dominic Taplin, managing director of Perthshire Leisure, who was happy to go along with their wilder notions. “Working on a club is a dream ticket because you’ve got a budget where your imagination can take you as far as you want to go. There don’t have to be any half measures.”
They found it especially gratifying to be working with speciality craftsmen and women whose work reflected their own passion for the project. “When you’re employing artists and craftsmen on a job like this you require real commitment and an understanding of the creative thoughts and ideas you hand them. You want to be able to say a couple of words and they’ll get it. That’s rare.”
If Abigail’s Party takes off – Ronan Keating and Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton are seeking membership – Taplin has every intention of opening similar establishments. Indeed, two others are already in the pipeline for London, a New York-style apartment off Oxford Street, and a Blackpool leisure-fest in the Sloane Square area.
Meanwhile, Messrs Norrey and Brudnizki are working on a re-vamp of Legends, the famous Mayfair nightspot, also owned by Perthshire Leisure. Can we expect something ultra-sophisticated, a touch of Nineties chic? Stuff that, say the dynamic duo, it’ll be a head-on collision of Far Eastern escapism and Los Angeles kitsch. Fu Manchu meets Zsa Zsa Gabor. “We call it lounge jing,” says Andrew Norrey. Lounge jing? Oh, lounging, I get it. But do I want it?
Abigail’s Party opens on 9 September in Brewer Street, London W1