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Café Carlyle: A Throwback to Old-World New York

Discover the history of Cafe Carlyle and take a peek behind its exclusive doors.

By Gayatri Bhaumik
December 22, 2021

A legend of New York’s nightlife scene, Café Carlyle opened at The Carlyle hotel in 1955. Over the years, the supper club became a go-to destination on the Upper East Side where celebrities and socialites hobnobbed over martinis and danced to soul-stirring performances by legends like Bobby Short, Eartha Kitt, and Elaine Stritch. Today, guests are more likely to enjoy performances by the likes of Woody Allen, Jeff Goldblum, and Alan Cummings while rubbing shoulders with George Clooney, Bill Murray, and Sofia Coppola, but that indescribable magic remains.

Photo: Café Carlyle

In September Hong Kong got its very own iteration of this legendary club—equally impressive, albeit without the Hollywood star power—when Café Carlyle threw open its doors at Carlyle & Co., the private members club located above the Rosewood Hong Kong. A carefully considered homage to the New York original, this iteration of Café Carlyle perfectly captures a bygone era.

Don your evening best—there’s definitely a dress code here—and slip past the red velvet curtain to be enveloped in an intimate space with banquette seating for groups of two—more, if you can grab the four coveted corner tables—friendly staff, and premium food and drink. Before the show starts, members gather to socialise over decadent dishes and a robust selection of timeless, well-crafted drinks. You could go with Champagne and caviar, but it’s worth exploring the rest of the innovative menus. Studioilse’s Ilse Crawford designed this otherworldly space and while appreciating the rich ambience, you’ll want to keep an eye out on the bespoke murals by Jean Philippe Delhomme on either side of the room.

Photo: Café Carlyle

Like the New York original, music takes centre stage at Café Carlyle. All seats face the raised platform which dominates the room and is just big enough for a grand piano, drum kit, and four musicians. It provides a stunningly intimate, immersive experience that takes guests on a journey through jazz and soul to blues and cabaret. The Café will fly talented international artists into Hong Kong for residencies to delight members for months at a time.

Photo; Afra Kane

From September through November, Texan alt-jazz singer Hailey Tuck delighted guests with her smoky, soulful vocals and story-driven original songs, gaining firm fans at the Café. Now, Italian-Nigerian singer-songwriter Afra Kane is taking over through January 2022. With a powerful, soulful voice that easily moves through jazz, classical, and Motown, and an inimitable lyricism and depth, this Montreux Jazz Talent Award winner will captivate Café Carlyle audiences.

Photo: Café Carlyle

For Kane, her residency at Café Carlyle is an opportunity to curate musical evenings that build connections with her audience. “ For me, moments of sharing and creating connection is very important,” says Kane. “My aim is always to entertain…for people to have a good time and forget anything that’s bothering them, but it’s also about being able to communicate emotions and convey a connection…I’ve had people tell me I give them goosebumps and make them cry. I feel like in our everyday lives, we don’t always have the chance to be that connected with our emotions, so that speaks to me a lot.”

Head to Café Carlyle and be transported to another world—if you can find a member to open the door for you. Otherwise, wait until next year when the Café will host exclusive ticketed events that the public will be able to join.