First opened in 1900, the Hippodrome was originally intended for circus and variety performances. Not only did the likes of Charlie Chaplin grace the stage, but spectators would have also witnessed equestrian shows, exotic animals and even aquatic spectacles, which took place in its 100,000 gallon water tank.
Later that decade the venue was transformed into a theatre, which hosted many memorable performances – including the English premiere of Swan Lake – until it was closed in the 1950s. In 1957 it was reopened as “The Talk of the Town”, a nightclub at which international stars such as Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey made appearances. It continued to be a nightclub in various incarnations until 2004, after which time it was variously a burlesque venue, corporate events space and theatre once more.
On 13th July this year this venerable building was reopened as The Hippodrome Casino, which features a restaurant, bars and event spaces as well as a plethora of gaming opportunities. Indeed, the live entertainment should be as much of a draw as the gambling, as their Matcham Room boasts appearances from Miss Polly Rae, Ruthie Henshall, Cerys Matthews and many more.
The overall feel of the Hippodrome is discreetly stylish, and it’s worth visiting just to inspect the building and get a feel of its rich past. Although the main room’s large, flower-like lights are the sort of thing a teenage girl might choose for her bedroom, they don’t detract from the pleasant experience of simply walking around the building’s many floors – at any time of day or night – and mingling with the well-heeled crowd.
Gaming opportunities are everywhere, including the swanky Top Deck poker area, but there’s no sense of being pressured into playing. If you don’t gamble, the two-tier smoking terrace and reasonably priced bars (their unexpectedly large selection of beer starts from £4.10 per pint and bottles of wine from £19.50) are an attractive proposition, especially as they serve until 5am.
Although I visited after the Heliot restaurant had closed for the evening, its menu boasts some interesting dishes that will undoubtedly lure people away from the inedible sort of chips – Millionaire’s Mac “n” Cheese, anyone?
The Hippodrome Casino is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week except for Christmas Day. Heliot opens at 5pm daily. Let us know what you think of the new Hippodrome in the comments section below.