The Arts Club. Do you have to be a member to join?

In another life i.e. my fantasy one,  I wouldn’t be doing any of this.  I’d probably be running an animal rescue sanctuary whilst getting enormously fat,  but because I haven’t quite organised myself to do that yet,  I’m still a lawyer.  So I  end up doing things which go with the job. Like being a member of a club like this, joined primarily for the purpose of entertaining clients.

I’d been a member at Home House for much the same reason, but was a bit fed up with never being able to get a seat in the evening and the food was no great shakes either. Beautiful building,  I grant you, but I wasn’t using it enough to assuage the guilt of the monthly membership fee. So when a new big bright and shiny Club-thing was dangled in front of me, I joined.  Because a) I can be very suggestible and b) I could.

Even after the initial sticker shock, it seemed worth a go.

I remember coming to this place many years ago. It looked a bit different then;  a bit 70’s and not in a deliberate way – more in  a not-enough-money-to-redecorate-since-then  sort of  way. Velour, brown, and tatty. Founded in 1863 this club has a venerable history and if you’re interested you can read about here

Oh, but how things change. It’s still a club and it still has art in it but there the similarity with the 1970s period piece ends. Done out with statement art pieces and fashionably mushroom in colour (although I believe the technical F&B term is Charleston Grey) this is funky-elegant. A large stucco 18thC Mayfair townhouse pile.

And yet and yet…another confidence-sapping place, with impossibly good-looking glamorous and thin women in short spangly dresses (see my piece on Hakkasan) but here the stick -thins are the guests, not the staff and they’re generally about 30 years younger than the men they’re with. It’s that sort of place. Again, I feel a little too old, a little too fat, and a little too unpolished.   

So what is it?

– A grown-up nightclub for the new London rich. Those people keeping the housing market afloat.

– A  competent and zeitgeist-y restaurant run by the operators of La Petite Maison and Zuma

– A bar on the first floor where you can eat “bar food” or a proper meal and drink till rather late. I’m pleased to note they have padron peppers and a decent chips.

– Glitzy, glamorous and just a teensy bit vulgar

– Chock full of slebs

– Very expensive. Nothing here is subsidised for members, in the old London club tradition. This is a business and clearly a successful one

– Fun and buzzy. A good place to take clients who haven’t heard of it/don’t want to pay for it/want to stay up drinking till late/who think I’m a boring cow who never does any of those things

– Inhabited by people who seem totally unaware that there is a global financial crisis.  This place is not austerity Britain. Or anything remotely like it.

I’m not sure what to think of this.  On one level (my shallow, show off-y one) I like the place. It appeals to my inner F.I. side, the let’s enjoy ourselves and go to hell in a handcart side. On another, I think it’s just overpriced exclusivity and my austerity voice keeps telling me it’s all wrong.

It knows what its customers want. It stocks my favourite gewürztraminer but  it’s not me. That isn’t to say it isn’t you.  But I don’t feel like I belong here. For a start, my BMI is too high and I don’t have a sugar daddy.

So I will use this throughout the year, in an effort to feel slightly less guilty about the membership and then I’ll look for somewhere a little bit more me. All suggestions welcome.

The Arts Club

40 Dover Street