Have you ever wondered what it’s like in the exclusive and rarified world of private members clubs? Yesterday, the lemurs dined as guests at a luxurious private club in London and let’s just say we’re not holding our breaths for an invitation to join.
Lemur friend Bob* was in town and we spent a lovely sunny day eating dim sum, shopping at the food market on the Southbank (where they have excellent churros with chocolate), and catching an art show at the Barbican. It was all so civilised that when Bob’s chum Frank* texted to say we’d be welcome to have dinner at his club, it seemed like the ideal end to the day. I’d never been to a private club before and we all thought it might be interesting to blog about a restaurant that we’d never usually be able to access. Sadly, the club does not allow photography of any kind (must protect the important people from paparazzi you know) so I couldn’t document the food. Luckily, Bob is an artist and he has made sketches for me in the manner of a court reporter. We arrived at the club – let’s call it Something House – and the nice reception staff had all of our names on a guest list and directed us to the rooftop bar. So far, so pleasant. Given the beautiful weather, the roof terrace was spectacular: 360 views around London, a swimming pool surrounded by cushioned seating, and a generous bar area. We waved hello to Frank (who was busy with some other people), settled down on oversized chairs, and perused the cocktail list until a waiter came over to take our order….and that’s where our fantasies of living the good life came to a crashing halt…
“Are you a member?”, she asked. No, Bob explained, we’re guests of Frank. The waitress looked unhappy. “What is the member’s name?” We spelled it out. She wrote it down, skeptically. “I’ll be right back.” She took off and quickly returned with an even bigger scowl. “Where is this member?”, she asked, now with an openly disbelieving tone. Bob explained that Frank was right over by the pool and he’d be happy to go and fetch him. Scowly accompanied him off in that direction. Mr Lemur and I had barely exchanged glances when three more waiters descended, one in a different uniform that clearly signalled manager. “Are you members?” We went over the same explanation again. No, we’re not members, we’re invited guests, our names are on the list at reception, our friend has gone to fetch Frank. “And where is Frank?” Oh geez, by the fracking pool, like we told you. Luckily, before the interrogation spiralled out of control Bob returned with Frank, who had a bit of a chat with the four (four!) staff who were guarding the intruders. Everything seemed cleared up, drinks were ordered, and we thought perhaps now that everything had been sorted out, Scowly would be a bit nice to us to make up for her unfounded suspicions.
Nope, not so much. While we drank our expensive (and you know, nice enough) cocktails, waitstaff steered past us every few minutes looking like disapproving capybaras. Nobody said anything, but we felt ever so slightly surveilled. We hailed one eventually and asked for the food menu. You may be wondering why we didn’t bail at this point and go eat cheap Vietnamese food instead, and in retrospect so am I, but Frank had invited us and it seemed like it would have been rude to leave so quickly. So, the menus arrived, offering nice enough but entirely conventional choices. A waiter came to take our order very quickly. “Are you a member?” Sigh. No, we’re Frank’s guests. Blah blah rinse and repeat. Eventually, she took our order and the food arrived in about two minutes flat. Keen to get rid of us much? The food itself was fine. I had quite a nice pappardelle dish with ragu and peas, Mr Lemur had lasagna, and Bob had steak and chips. I’d describe it as above average for pub food, and the pasta was very pleasant.
We have papardelle with a gin and mint cocktail:
Lasagna with a drink served in a julep cup:
And, of course, steak and chips with beer:
As soon as we’d finished, Scowly returned to ask if we’d like to see a dessert menu, but she wasn’t very convincing. We asked for the bill, which of course arrived in a matter of seconds. Considering how inept the service had been (they’d brought the wrong water and mixed up our cocktails) they certainly picked up efficiency when it came to facilitating our exit. On the way out, we walked around the over-filled pool with the eyes of Scowly and her cohort on us, past the all-male media suit tables, the designer-clad neo-hipsters, and the well-heeled families teaching their children to enjoy privilege. We didn’t fit in and they could all spot it a mile off. Back outside, there was a man pissing against the wall. We were back in the land of non-members and like the drunk guy, very relieved to be there.
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.