First Night: Planet Hollywood: Tinseltown glamour of the burger experience

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The Independent Online
THIS was a restaurant where it was unwise to ask for the bill. It was about pounds 250,000 for the launch party; it was dollars 1.5bn for the lawsuit. Never has pounds 6.75 for hamburger and chips seemed so reasonable.

Planet Hollywood opened last night in Piccadilly Circus, London, billed as 'the world's only dining experience inspired by the world of film'.

Only Planet Hollywood has a handprint room. Stationed in there waiting for Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Melanie Griffith et al to place their palms in a tray of cement, it was time to make a mental note not to eat a single brownie that they had touched.

The movie memorabilia restaurant on three floors of the Trocadero has set new standards in hype. As the Hollywood stars, most of whom seemed to be co-owners, arrived last night, it was difficult to determine whether their eulogising of this burger bar was more outrageous for its over-statement or under- statement. Bruce Willis managed to combine the two, saying: 'Planet Hollywood's like no other place in the whole world. The food's great and I get a table straight away.'

It is difficult to believe that these two attributes make a restaurant globally unique. But as the lavish party for 250 guests continued into the small hours, no one was disposed to pick an argument.

Except, that is, the owners of the Hard Rock Cafe in America who are suing Planet Hollywood's principal owner, the restaurateur Robert Earl, alleging conceptual similarities between the movie memorabilia meal and the music memorabilia meal. Ironically, Mr Earl was one of the key figures behind the expansion of the Hard Rock empire.

Last night party guests mingled around memorabilia that seemed to have been collected by a sado-masochism fetishist - Charlie Chaplin's cane, the whip from Basic Instinct, the handcuffs from 91 2 Weeks, the axe wielded by Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and a whole section of the restaurant shaped as the barrel of a giant version of James Bond's Walther PPK handgun.

Thankfully, among all the Hollywoodese, some of the waitresses remained resolutely British, looking miserable enough to have come from a Mike Leigh film, an unintended piece of movie memorabilia.

After Melanie Griffith, Demi Moore, Michael J Fox and Co disappeared into their limos and open-top yellow Buick convertibles, there lingered the suspicion that this 400- seat, 25,000 sq ft restaurant was, for all its glorious technicolour, just a burger bar.

But that, as they say in the movies, is to destroy the illusion.