Private Members Club 5 Hertford Street
2-5 Hertford Street Mayfair, London W1J
Food: 2 stars
Atmosphere: 4 stars
Design: 4.5 stars
Price/Value Ratio: 1 star
Service: 3.5 stars
‘In London if you have £10,000,000 you’re poor’
Only in London and a place like 5HS or Loulou’s, as the cognoscenti like to call it, can you overhear someone saying that with £10,000,000 you are poor. This city never ceases to amaze me. I finally managed to fit in a dinner there after one year of hibernation post baby number 2 with Mr. C, my husband, and some Eurotrash friends. I had high hopes for this establishment, being lauded as a melting pot for celebrities, royals, billionaires and opened by Robin Birley in 2012, whose father was behind Annabel’s fame and mother was Lady Annabel Goldsmith.
Upon entering Loulou’s, first appearances satisfied the senses. The decor of thick fabrics, curtained doors, an eccentric oversized stuffed giraffe head, and bartenders in proper uniforms took me to a place where French boudoir meets Great Gabsy hedonism. The lights were so low that one could easily hide their flaws for the night. The scene was a smattering of older English aristocrats mixed in with American Hedge Funders, girls-night-out tables and twentysomething Eurocrats (Eurotrash aristocrats). Like Julie’s in Holland Park, there were small alcoves everywhere, perfect for hiding your mistresses or lovers. It was a good start to the evening. The Whiskey Bar was sexy and cool with lots of gold trimmings, although the cocktail I asked the bartender to make was nothing more than fruit juice mixed with vodka.
We found our table downstairs in Loulou’s, through a maze of stairs, curtains, alcoves and tables to a back room, which buzzed with conversations of term sheets and how much money you needed to feel rich these days. Completely obnoxious yet entertaining. Now for the food. The menu consisted of standard but unimaginative starters priced at £20-£30 and mains from £30-£40. For those prices I am expecting great food. Great food reminds you of places you have been through the memory of your tastebuds triggered by remembered tastes. The Arts Club menu charges similar prices but the food generally delivers. I was curious to see how this compared.
I ordered a starter of tuna tartare and the special of the day, lobster linguine. You can tell a lot by a tuna tartare, from the freshness of the ingredients to the chef’s mastery of flavours. A good tuna tartare in London is hard to find, California being the birthplace of tuna tartare, this one was married to an avocado layer. This version had bland, defrosted, chopped up tuna mixed with souring, stinging avocado. The chef must have forgotten the spices and left the avocado on the counter for too long. I was clearly more at a conveyor belt sushi chain than sitting in the Californian sun.
I chose a safer dish (or so I thought) as a main with my lobster linguine. We are closer to Italy and lobsters are easier to find in the Mediterranean than ahi Tuna so I hoped this would be an easier trip to make. To my disappointment, the pasta seemed to have been boiled from a bag of dry semolina pasta and the lobster was equally from a frozen bag, devoid of the sweet firmness of fresh lobster. The tomatoes were neither good nor bad, indicating a lack of awareness from the chef leaving the dish quite unremarkable and worthy of not much more than Carluccio’s. This was a far cry from the River Cafe’s delicate and freshly made pasta dishes made with carefully sourced ingredients, which managed to both ask yourself where you could find these tomatoes in London and simultaneously take you to a sunny terrace in Italy’s piazzas.
The desserts chosen by our host were sweet treats, sweet but lacking much character but by this time my attention and enthusiasm had considered wavered and I knew what to expect. Considering the cost of my meal, £22 for the starter, probably £40 for the main (the waiter omitted the price of the specials) and around £13 for a dessert, this is a place where if you start looking at the prices, you really shouldn’t be here because it will really leave you feeling sick. Therefore I opted not to look at the bill from fear of having to taste the tuna tartare again.
We then wandered to the main bar area of Loulou’s, another beautiful golden bar with white staffed bartenders, crammed with twenty year old rich kids with childish enthusiasm acting like they were in a music festival mosh pit only with Armani suits and Louis Vuitton handbags. This was my cue to leave. Our friends told us the party started later in the nightclub area and I could see the potential of a great night out of sweating, dancing, drinking shots, and dancing on tables being in a beautiful place full of beautiful people (helped by Botox, expensive clothes and dim red lights) but I was ready for an affair with my bed instead.
This place is perfect for those a) who don’t care what they eat or how much they spend on cafeteria food b) need a debaucherous night out away from their job/kids/husbands/wives or for their extramarital tryst c) aspirational twenty and thirty year olds dreaming of becoming the founder of the next big Hedge Fund or Net-a-porter. Next time, I will order a Gin and Tonic, which frankly would be hard to ruin, skip dinner, and hide in an alcove to listen and watch the outrageous crowd before heading to the dance floor.
Later, I sighed and turned to Mr. C in the comfort of our Uber Mercedes on our way home and asked ‘Am I too old for this?’ ‘Yes’ he replied, ‘you would have loved it at 20.’