However, take note: there’s very little that’s cool about Trader Vic’s. The brand may have started back in 1934, as a cosy San Francisco salon built by traveller Victor Bergeron, but by 1940 the man otherwise known as ‘The Trader’ began franchising the brand out, and by the turn of the ’60s there were 25 branches across the world. And oddly, while the chain’s heyday at home was decades ago – there are now only five venues left in the US – it seems to be catching on in the Middle East: this new opening is venue number nine in the region.
Surely with every new launch the twee charm diminishes somewhat, but to charge Trader Vic’s with a lack of authenticity is to somewhat miss the point. It’s the fast-food chain experience of bars, and as such
should not be judged for innovation and originality: merely ease and convenience in replicating an established approximation of the branded norm. For example; did our standard-recipe burger arrive quickly, with a smile, bearing at least some resemblance to the picture? If yes, this branch is a success.
On such terms, the new Trader Vic’s shines like a star. As a place to recreate that pastime of sitting among tat sipping industrial-strength mixed drinks through a straw, the new venue scores a full house. Aesthetically, it’s top notch: old Victor’s tiki furnishings and knick-knacks have never looked better. Comfort-wise, it boasts a huge, open feel, featuring a high-ceiled bar area with a stage, a more intimate dining area and a decent terrace. The menu appears to be identical. And we’ll definitely credit it with having the best Trader Vic’s band in town.
So on the identikit test it scores highly – it’s pretty much what you’d expect. The only real distinguishing factor is the location. The Festival City venue was already pretty busy on opening week; with more and more concerts and conventions taking place in the area, it seems a smart move by Mr Vic. Who knows where he’ll target next? Let’s just watch his empire grow.