LONDON - The paparazzi are poised for snaps of princes and popstars at the front door, but you don't need fame or fortune to have fun at London's hot celebrity hang out, Mahiki.
The Polynesian-themed grill, cocktail lounge and nightclub on Dover Street in Mayfair has been a staple of the celebrity circuit in London for years, partly because of its appealing recipe for success as a one-stop shop for a fun night out.
Mahiki, which is on two subterranean floors, offers dining in a spacious upper lounge with background music that's danceable and fun even for the over-40s, but still allows convivial conversation.
The club downstairs, however, pulses to a louder beat for the throbbing mob on a dancefloor filled with dandies, debutantes, the great, the good, the naughty and the downright bad of the British capital's party crowd.
Diners in the lounge can choose from a range of grilled or steamed foods including Wasabi dumplings, crab and pork, king prawns, scallops, chicken and steak on a menu where starters don't exceed five pounds ($8) and mains stay below 15 pounds.
Mahiki describes its decor as an elaborate Tiki-style setting. It features hand-made "Princess" chairs, colorful Hawaiian cushions, hand-carved figures and intimate green rush-effect banquettes with the jetsam and flotsam of the tropics hanging from the rattan matted ceilings and walls.
The big chairs are arranged in an intimate manner among the tables, with a VIP area that is not too intrusive on the fun, a long bar and service that is attentive without being obsequious.
Two things which Mahiki can pride itself on are atmosphere and cocktails.
The light and fun atmosphere possibly takes its cue from the beach holiday decor, for who can stay crabby on a south sea vacation with the dulcet tones of the Beach Boys in the background. The door policy in the early evening is first come first served, with a massive queue of hopefuls trying their luck at getting in later in the night.
The cocktail list is extensive and tropical-themed.
There are mai tais, mojitos, daiquiris, fizzes, punches, pina coladas and something called Mahiki Grog, which consists of a blend of rums from around the world.
If you've come with a big party then allow yourselves to be tempted by the shared drinks, but keep a weather eye on your personal consumption.
The Krakatoa (serves 4), Zombie Horde (serves 4), Bikini blast (serves 3) and the monumental Armada Treasure Chest (serves 8) alongside the other shared offerings on the menu all pack a wallop.
One reveler on a recent night at Mahiki -- who would only offer her name as Faye -- defended the exclusive late-night door policy.
"If it was easy to get into," she said, "everyone would be here."