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This is the London version of the famous Polynesian restaurant chain created by Victor Jules Bergeron.  Way back when, The Trader ran a little bar in Oakland, California called Hinky Dink's and liked to travel to exotic locations.  Trader Vic invented the world famous drink the Mai Tai, which in Tahitian means--the best.  In fact he was entertaining some friends from the South Pacific one time and mixed up a drink to remind them of home.  After sipping it, they proclaimed it "Mai Tai" and that's how it got its name. The year was 1944. The Mai Tai is a very pleasant tasting rum drink but watch out -- they tend to sneak up on you!

Yes, there it is - the Mai Tai!

The restaurant in London is just like a typical Trader Vic's although sadly, some have not survived.  The chain just seemed to lose some of its momentum when the Trader passed away in the 80s at the age of 82.  This place--again, like most of his establishments--is located in the basement of a major hotel.  In this case it's the London Hilton Park Lane in the fashionable Mayfair district.

We've sipped exotic cocktails and dined at this place many times over the years and we've never been disappointed.  For me the routine is simple.  I always start out with a Mai Tai and an order of Crab Rangoon as a starter.  Wontons are stuffed with a little crab, cream cheese and Worcestershire sauce and then deep fried.  They are served with hot mustard and sweet dipping sauces.  After round one the choice gets a little more difficult.  Do I order fresh seafood, an Asian dish like cashew chicken or select something from the Chinese smoke oven?  I usually go for the seafood.  Whatever selection you make, it will be a good one here!

My meal always ends with another famous drink at Trader's place--hot buttered rum.  They bring a skull shaped mug to the table filled with rum and butter and then stick a red hot metal ball into it to heat it up.  Nice finish to a great meal.

When I was just a kid growing up in Indianapolis I'd hear my dad's business associates rave about Trader Vic's during their east coast swings.  I couldn't wait to eat there.  Sadly, many of them are gone (Dallas, Detroit, St. Petersburg, etc.) including the Trader's flagship restaurant and bar at 20 Cosmo Place in San Francisco. Over the years I dined at Trader's places in Dallas, San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., Detroit, St. Petersburg, Munich and many other locations.

I became friends with the crew at the Trader's in the basement of the Dallas Hilton Hotel on Mockingbird Lane in the 70s.  Restaurant manager Warren Chow told me that there was only one way to start there--as a busboy.  Then you'd move up to a waiter, etc.  Chow said part of the training was to kick the wait staff in the shins of while they were in the kitchen.  Why?  That's what I thought.  But Chow explained that it was combat training.  If they could take that abuse in the kitchen then they'd be capable of putting up with anything from customers and handling it well.  Chow also told me about a funny trick that the Trader used to pull on unsuspecting patrons.  He'd sit at the bar with an ice pick, yell something like he was really mad, and then stab the ice pick into his leg--his wooden leg!

God Bless ya, Trader.  Truly one of a kind!

The Trader Vic's in London--as mentioned--is in the basement of the Hilton on Park Lane.  Reservations are highly suggested.  And relax and make an evening out of it!

The current Trader Vic's web site along with some interesting history and products for sale is here.


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