With the new Mahiki Kensington opening its doors, The Resident finds out how the founders of Albert’s private members club in South Kensington are creating a more sophisticated club offering
Mahiki needs no introduction to the majority of Londoners, as over the years it has managed to become arguably one of the world’s most popular and distinct nightclub brands. But this year, there is an air of excitement continuously circling around the institution, a result of the various new expansions that the brand is undergoing.
The offering in west London has changed now in terms of clubs and bars, and it seems that things are definitely reshaping and moving west. Founders of Albert’s in South Kensington – Jake Parkinson-Smith, Carlo Carello and Fraser Carruthers – are often seen to be leading the way when it comes to iconic club offerings in London and it is no different this autumn, as they have partnered with the founder of Mahiki.
‘Carlo, myself and Fraser all worked at Bouji for many years and we realised we all worked really well together so we started our partnership there,’ explains Parkinson-Smith. ‘We did go our separate ways, but when we realised we had 50 odd years of experience between us and that we were all always working in Kensington and Chelsea, we decided to team up instead of working against each other fighting for crowds and evenings.’
A degree of respect seems to have been earned among one another in the partnership due to the fact that, once upon a time, they were working against each other. It strikes me as quite a solid foundation to go into business upon and their opening of Albert’s together perhaps proves this.
‘It’s amazing because we are three very good friends and I think that’s the main part of our ethos,’ says Carello. ‘We are very different people, but we complement each other and highlight issues in a grown up way. We each have different attributes that come in handy when expanding our venues. Working with people that you like is really quite special.’ So how did their involvement with the Kensington expansion of Mahiki come about?
‘People like to stay in the same place now, instead of going to a few places on one night and that was what we tried to pioneer at Albert’s,’ says Carello. ‘Mahiki’s founder Piers then offered us the opportunity to partner up with him at his High Street Kensington site and as a four we came up with the idea of opening Mahiki Kensington, but with a different twist to it.’ It’s been in the pipeline for nine months and there has been plenty of discussion about how to make the new venue similar to the existing Mahiki, how to differentiate it and how to market the new site – after all, it’s got an awful lot to live up to.
‘There will be a secret VIP bar and outside seating,’ says Carello. ‘It’s really exciting and it’s about moving forward, but paying homage to the original legend in Mayfair that has now been open for 20 years. There will be some quieter areas to refresh the idea of the traditional nightclub.’ They tell me that the ‘aloha spirit’ is what Mahiki is all about, a Polynesian island philosophy that is about showing peace, affection and passion.
So the ethos of Mahiki, unlike some venues previously, is that it is all welcoming and all encompassing and that everyone is welcome. ‘We are in the middle of setting up the Mahiki foundation as well, which will help local charities,’ adds Carruthers. ‘So community is the key and this whole concept of giving back is central to the new expansion.’ It seems fair to say that bringing people together and creating communities is something that Mahiki has always managed very well in the past, so I have high hopes for the new Kensington venture.
‘Obviously Mahiki has always been known for its cocktails, it has the most organic fruit in the whole of Europe for a bar venue and we love all of that,’ continues Carruthers. ‘So we decided to develop the restaurant aspect of it with the new venue. We also love the location of the new site as one of the most musical places in London with Universal, Warner and Sony so we are working very closely with the music industry to curate the music offering for the site and hopefully it will showcase the area.’
For the food, it will be Pan Asian with a Polynesian twist headed up by Sakorn Somboon and there is an emphasis on moving away from the sweaty club box offerings and introducing a more sophisticated dinner dancing venue. ‘Somboon was Head Chef for Aqua,’ says Carello. ‘It’s again all about bringing people together and celebrating with a fun element surrounding the amazing cocktails and the infamous treasure chest.’
Obviously Mahiki has always been known for it’s cocktails, it has the most organic fruit in the whole of Europe for a bar venue
For the first time ever, Mahiki Kensington will be open for lunch on Saturdays and Sundays too. Although many of those who are familiar to the ways of Mahiki Mayfair may never have slept off their hangover by this point, the new site will be open from midday at weekends, and close at 3am. ‘By opening for lunch we are allowing people to have entertainment with their brunch parties which is exciting and we will only be a stone’s throw away from Kensington Palace, the iconic High Street Kensington and Hyde Park,’ says Carruthers. ‘It’s more of a restaurant/bar concept at this Mahiki and after a while we hope to be opening at lunches throughout the week too. We want to maximise the amount of time that people can visit.’
But if this isn’t enough excitement to keep you going this month then keep your eyes peeled, because the boys tell me that they have three other west London venues in the pipeline. Not that they particularly went anywhere, but they are well and truly back in town this autumn.