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Trader Vic’s Mai Tai heaven

The Mai Tai — a classic but somewhat underappreciated cocktail that is always on our radar, although not necessarily our first choice.

A trip to the home of the rum cocktail — Trader Vic’s on Park lane — will change your opinion of the humble Mai Tai forever. In a special night celebrating the 75th birthday of the drink, Trader Vic’s spoiled customers with hula dancing, a live band, a delicious buffet and, of course, a mouth-watering Mai Tai on arrival.

Tucked away underneath the Hilton, it is not obvious from the outside what goes on below, but walking down the stairs to the bar and restaurant, you are spirited away to a tiki world. All that’s missing is the Hawaiian beach.

Vic ‘The Trader’ Bergeron opened his first saloon in Oakland, California, but before long he had expanded to London and the Middle East. There are now 17 restaurants around the world offering over 200 signature cocktails, all thanks to Vic’s passion for rum.

Decked out with bamboo and puffer fish hanging from the ceiling, the restaurant is incredibly welcoming, and a far cry from the marbled Mayfair streets up above. The atmosphere is enhanced by the delicious food and cocktails. And if rum is your thing, the extensively stocked bar features Vic’s finds from all over the globe.

The sharing cocktails reflect the ancient Polynesian luau drinks, which were served in communal bowls, according to the bar staff. The Kava Bowl of light rums, fruit juices, grenadine and almond syrups is a great place to start. Or try the Lanyu Punch Bowl — a combination of light and dark rums with guava and apricot and topped with sparkling wine — this was our favourite. There are also 10 Mai Tais to choose from, so you really are spoiled for choice. Try the Suffering Bastard or the Honi Honi for a sweet and spicy hit.

And if the extensive cocktail menu isn’t impressive enough, the food is also out of this world. The Beef Malayan, with tender fillet tips simmered in curry cream sauce with green asparagus and pake noodles, melts in the mouth. And there are plenty of veggie options, too – the Sweet and Sour Tofu is more of a traditional dish, but done beautifully, with a perfect balance of flavours. The Jalapeno Cheese Balls are an absolute must and the immaculately presented Hanging Lamb Skewers are insta-worthy and incredibly moreish.

Trader Vics is a tropical haven in the middle of the city that will draw you in and keep you coming back. With a warm welcome and a cold cocktail waiting for you, what’s not to love?