Nightclub impresarios Med Abrous and Marc Rose officially opened The Spare Room last night on the Mezzanine level of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. The classy gaming parlor features two bowling lanes, custom board games, and cocktails created by Aidan Demarest. The Spare Room’s bar program features fresh juices, seasonal ingredients, infused spirits and housemade bitters, all of which are de rigueur for the modern craft cocktail bar.
Joining me for the opening of Hollywood’s newest cocktail destination was Esther from e*star LA. We met up at the Roosevelt’s Library Bar, where Matt Biancaniello got us warmed up with a couple of his signature creations. Our drinking partner-in-crime Caroline on Crack was sick and sadly unable to join us, but we soldiered on without her and headed upstairs.
Once inside The Spare Room’s double door entrance, guests will immediately notice the vintage bar to the right, accented with brass and leather. Chalkboards display the handwritten drink menu, which currently has five cocktails ($14). The long main room is essentially divided in half, with booths and seating to one side, and the showcase bowling lanes on the other. At the far end of the room is a second bar. Grauman’s Chinese Theatre can be glimpsed through the large windows on the bowling side, adding a touch of Hollywood glitter to the otherwise low key, handsome room.
With last night’s opening, Demarest adds to his collection of business email addresses, but unlike recent consulting projects such as First & Hope and 1886, he’s in for the long haul as Manager of The Spare Room. He noted that when he and consulting partner Marcos Tello finish their projects, there’s always a bittersweet mix of pride and loss, like sending a kid off to college. (I stopped by 1886 a couple of times over the holidays; both times it was packed. The kid is all grows up!)
The Spare Room was designed by Studio Collective, one of three projects the boutique design agency has at the Roosevelt, including the upcoming Public Kitchen & Bar in the former Dakota space. The Spare Room is gorgeous, a mix of antiques and custom design that conveys a timeless elegance. Tables with studded leather tops evoke vintage steamer trunks, while guests can sink into chairs and sofas next to a low bookcase that runs the length of the bowling lanes. Details such as Art Deco light fixtures and pullout drink holders add to the sophistication.
I mentioned The Spare Room’s beautiful interior to Demarest. He said that, from a design standpoint, he’s been “very lucky” with his bars. Whether it’s luck or modesty (Demarest said he has nothing to do with the bars’ designs), The Spare Room continues his string of memorable spaces, which include lookers such as the aforementioned 1886, First & Hope, and the stunning Edison.
Demarest said The Spare Room is going to “bring the fun back to cocktails,” starting with the dual bowling lanes at the far side of the room. Bowling is $100 an hour (including shoes) for up to six people. The sticker shock will disappear once you lace up a pair of Esquivel Shoes. There’s nothing like bowling in a pair of $700 bespoke shoes to remind you that your own shoes are…well, much less than that. Esther went first and promptly threw a strike, surely a good omen for the first public ball thrown at The Spare Room. Cries of “ringer” went up (mostly by me), though Esther cooled off slightly after her red hot opening frame. (Being a gentleman, I of course “let” her win the game.)
To fuel our bowling, Esther and I both ordered the Spare Room Snap: rye whiskey, SNAP, lemon juice and nutmeg. The cocktail certainly delivers on its name, with a nice ginger bite and tart lemon, powered by the spicy rye. I didn’t see or taste any of the nutmeg, though it was presumably grated fresh as a final ingredient.
After we finished bowling, our Game Concierge Alice Fox (not her official title, but it fits) unlocked a glass display case to offer a choice of games, including artisan versions of backgammon and dominoes. We went with Connect Four, which looked splendid in handcrafted walnut. (Being a gentleman, I of course “let” Esther win the game. Twice.)
For Round Two, I ordered Evelyn Waugh’s Noonday Reviver: Guinness, gin and ginger beer. Demarest saw my drink and said, “Isn’t it great? It’s my hangover cure. Meaning I have it every day.” Esther got the Chilean Sunset: Encanto Pisco, pineapple juice, lime juice, red wine and egg white. Esther’s winning streak continued; the Pisco Sour variation was excellent, with just enough red wine coming through on the finish. I liked the Evelyn Waugh, but it was mostly indistinguishable from a regular pint of Guinness.
During our Connect Four session, Demarest invited us to take pictures in the photo booth, which is hidden behind the wall where the bowling shoes are stored. Once the door closes, the 3-2-1 countdown begins and four photos are snapped for $5. The shadow hand puppets decorating the photo booth are a nice touch. Of course, we didn’t wait for our photos to print, so if anyone at The Spare Room has seen them…
Speaking of timeless elegance, Naomi Schimek is one of The Spare Room’s bartenders, and I could think of no one better to make me a Chilean Sunset to nurse my Connect Four wounds. I tasted more of the wine this round, which didn’t affect the overall enjoyment at all. Since Encanto is a Peruvian pisco, I asked Demarest why the cocktail is called the Chilean Sunset. After giving me a split-second “only you would ask that” look, he replied that he swapped out the Chilean pisco that was initially stocked for the superb Encanto. No word on whether the cocktail name will change as well, but no matter what it’s called, it was the drink of the night.
By the time we left, The Spare Room had begun to fill and the energy had picked up noticeably. The DJ was dropping soul and rare groove, bowling pins were getting knocked down, and the bar was getting livelier by the round. The first new bar of 2011 is now open, and if The Spare Room is any indication, it’s going to be a fantastic year for cocktail enthusiasts.
The Spare Room is currently closed on Sundays and Tuesdays, but plans call for it to be open every day. Tableside punch bowl service and a food menu are also in the works.
The Spare Room
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (Mezzanine Level)
7000 Hollywood Blvd. (at Orange)
The Spare Room is open from 6pm to 2am on Monday, Wednesday-Saturday. Reservations are suggested.
More coverage of The Spare Room opening: