A few blocks away from the Hollywood strip, amidst the liquor stores and apartments, a new lounge has found its home. Madame Royale--formerly the club Play, which was formerly the Red Buddha Lounge--as of last night, has grandly opened its hand-carved wooden doors.
Owned by Ryan Cabrera--musician (remember his song "True" in 2005?) and ex-boyfriend of a pre-nose job Ashlee Simpson-- along with nightlife gurus Gianni Capaldi, Ian Shepp and Brad Hoss, the new private lounge promises to offer a haven for Hollywood's elite.
From the outside, Madame Royale is unassuming. There are no bright lights or neon signs, just the subtly lit words "Madame Royale" hang over the doorway. The bouncers are strict--even with those on the list--and are likely to make you wait outside for a bit.
Once inside, it's a blast from Montmartre's past. Bartenders sport 1920s attire, black vests and slacks with white button-ups. A large mural of the Madame hangs on the wall between liquor bottles and a scattering of various vintage glass decanters. Waitresses decked out in Moulin Rouge-esque basques, complete with fishnets and feather-adorned hair, prance around to check up on guests.
The ceiling is tiled with a deep red antique pattern, and glossy wood floors run throughout the entire lounge. However, the design's intricate detail can be easily missed as the place is dark. Really dark. Crystal chandeliers with cadelabras hanging in various parts of the room, plus miniature candles laid on tables and against the walls don't provide much illumination; it's a wonder how the bartenders know what they are pouring at all.
Lining the walls are long stretches of dark brown leather couches paired with small marble tables where bottle service is available--$225 for tequila, $2500 for Cristal. In the midst of the seating area stands a 19th Century French marble dresser where the DJ spins a mix of Amy Winehouse, old school hip-hop and Top 40.
Like most French things, the entire lounge is petite. The doorways are low so anyone taller than six feet should watch their head. Even the bathrooms are smaller than usual. Modeled after a burlesque dressing room, the two stalls have swinging shudder doors and walls lined with black and white caricatures of burleque dancers. Caution, the bathrooms aren't labeled with gender signs so pay attention to who's coming in and out.
No lounge is complete without an outdoor patio. The back patio has enclosed brick walls with a cascading open-tiered ceiling. The same dark couches inside are present outside and you don't need to have bottle service to be able to sit down and enjoy the fireplace. The patio also contains a more modest bar with a female bartender single handedly (wo)manning the drink mixing.
Celebrity spottings are a definite possibility. Shane West and Jesse Metcalfe made appearances totally low-pro in jeans, vintage tees and matching scruff. Even Super Bad's super nerd Mclovin' came out to party.
The dress code is like most places, claiming LA casual. Men in white long-sleeved shirts, skinny ties and fitted blazers or designer jeans with plaid shirts and rolled-sleeves (à la Justin Timberlake circa Cameron Diaz). Women don skinny jeans paired with loose blouses and metallic heels.
All in all, the intricate details, friendly staff and mellow So Cal vibe are enough to make Nicole Kidman want to sing about it.