Happy Tiki Halloween!

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It’s been hard to get in the Halloween spirit when it’s 80 degrees in LA every day, so I made a little trip out to Halloweentown in Burbank. It’s a year-round source for all things kooky, spooky and…tiki! They even opened a second location down the street just for costumes, so the original store wasn’t as crazy. And that’s where I found this tiki with glowing eyes among the creepy clowns and gravestones.

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Meanwhile, the display case up by the cash registers had some awesome Poster Pop stickers by BigToe. The ghoulish girls and tikis in his designs fit right in with the theme here.

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I’ve mentioned before that they have some Shag art books in stock (plus the necessary guide Tiki Road Trip) but this was the first time that I spotted Shag wrapping paper. I couldn’t decide between the two designs so I got both. There’s always something new to see (and buy) there!

For more tiki Halloween fun, check out my previous posts on the Halloween Art Show at the Tonga Hut and Enchanted Tiki Room pumpkins at Disneyland. Happy Halloween!

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Trader Vic’s – London Hilton on Park Lane

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After checking out the Moai and other antiquities at the British Museum, we had planned to meet up with a friend at Trader Vic’s. This was the first overseas location of the chain, opening in 1963 in the London Hilton on Park Lane. (Trader Vic’s once had a franchise partnership with Hilton hotels, but most of those restaurants have closed.)

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The entrance itself is kind of magical, with a giant chandelier and beautiful tapa cloth wrapping around the staircase that takes you down to the restaurant. Also at the top is a display case with some of the standard Trader Vic’s souvenirs, but at prices that will make you cringe if your currency is on the weaker side (£20 for the coconut mug!).

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There was a close call this summer when the hotel suffered a fire in the basement kitchens, but luckily Trader Vic’s needed only minor repairs. They were only serving a limited menu while we were there, and had closed off the lounge area on the right. (The restaurant is scheduled to fully re-open on November 1.)

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We were seated up on the left in the dining room. The decor is topnotch, with carved tiki poles, suspended outriggers, fish floats, large shells and bamboo, but I particularly liked the nautical touches of the lanterns, model ships and small yacht club flags along the wall.

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Between these spaces is the bar, where an amplified acoustic guitar player was performing. Alas, the music was too loud and the wrong style (Latin) and detracted from the ambience. Earlier in the night it was filled with businessmen sipping scorpion bowls. (But sadly no werewolves drinking Pina Coladas…)

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In recent years Trader Vic’s has censored their original menus by making the ladies much more modest, so it was amusing to find this saucy sign.

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I always like to order the signature drink of that particular Trader Vic’s, and here it’s the London Sour (£9), which Trader Vic himself made for the restaurant’s debut. It’s composed of Scotch whisky with orgeat, orange and lemon juice. (At other Trader Vic’s, it’s made with Bourbon and dubbed the Eastern Sour.) I don’t drink much Scotch so I was a bit hesitant about this one, but I loved it. The balance between sweet and sour was just perfect.

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Now if only I had quite while I was ahead. Instead I was intrigued by the section of the cocktail menu that went beyond the Trader Vic’s classics and ordered the Wanilla (£13.50), made with St. Aubin vanilla rum, pineapple, “a touch of Mandarin” and Prosecco. I had hoped for something fruity and bubbly, but there was an artificial taste to this that was a total turnoff.

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Minor missteps aside, it was such a thrill to visit one of the original Trader Vic’s. It was also great chatting with one of the friendly hosts about Trader Vic’s—he seemed impressed by my enthusiasm. :)

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Trader Vic’s is located in the Mayfair district just east of Hyde Park and is quite convenient to slake a thirst after sightseeing. Plus, Mahiki is less than a kilometer away so you could turn the night into a tiki bar mini-crawl. (Definitely hit up the Mahiki first, though, for reasons that will be explained later.)

Trader Vic’s
London Hilton on Park Lane
22 Park Lane
London, W1K 1PN, United Kingdom
020-7208-4113

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Rapa Nui Moai at the British Museum – London

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There were so many tiki bars in London, and alas not enough time for us to visit them all. We did have to fit in some legitimate sightseeing here and there! Coincidentally, the British Museum happens to have some South Pacific artifacts along with the very impressive Egyptian collection, Parthenon frieze and Rosetta Stone.

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Their Rapa Nui Moai (Easter Island statue) is quite a sight. This handsome fellow is named Hoa Hakananai’a (roughly translated as “Stolen or hidden friend”) and is dated around 1400. About a thousand moai were made on Rapa Nui, but apparently this is only one of 16 that was carved from basalt.

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What’s really compelling about this one though are the unexpected carvings on the back, which are Birdman symbols that were added after the moai was moved to ‘Orongo. It was brought to England in 1869 by the HMS Topaze, and Queen Victoria gifted it to the museum (presumably because it clashed with the Buckingham Palace curtains).

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It’s part of the “Living and Dying” permanent exhibition that’s been in the Wellcome Trust Gallery since 2003. There are also objects from Africa, North and South America, the Solomon Islands and New Zealand, like this carved wooden post from the 1830s-1850s. If you look closely you can see the rauponga pattern—the notched “V”s are supposed to resemble the namesake fern frond.

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I was also intrigued by this housepost (circa 1900-1950 from the Sepik River region in Papua New Guinea) with its long face and mysterious animal. (Crocodile? Platypus?)

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The British Museum also has a Hawaiian Ku (see info on Critiki) in their Oceania collection but from what I can tell it doesn’t seem to be on display at the moment. (Last summer it was sent to the Bishop Museum in Hawaii for a special reunion exhibition.)