Quote of the Day: ‘Hello! Is it me you’re looking for?’
The Arts Club
40 Dover Street
London W1S 4NP
Food: 4.25 stars
Design: 4.5 stars
Ambience: 4 stars
Service: 4 stars
Value for Money: 3.5/4 stars
Overall: 4.25 stars
(Ground floor restaurant. Photo courtesy of the internet)
Lately, I have been going to the Arts Club on a weekly or biweekly basis, after not going for almost a year. But then all of a sudden, everyone seems to want to go; guests from out of town, girls dinners or those wanting to try Kyubi, the – relatively – new delicious Japanese on the roof, which is now one of my firm favourites. Perhaps it’s a backlash to the Chiltern Firehouse craze and just wanting the simplicity of an easy reservation made on Friday morning for Friday night, and a predictably good meal (which is not always the case at Chiltern). The great thing about the Arts Club is that you never know what kind of night you’re going to have or who you’re going to sit next to, which creates a never-ending curiosity. Last week, I had Lionel Ritchie sitting next to me. I had to stop myself from singing ‘Hello! Is it me you’re looking for?’ and telling him all the great memories I’ve had with his songs as a young, hot-blooded teenager. With celebrities, you always feel a familiarity and intimacy that they of course sense as ‘obsessive crazy fan.’ Luckily, I stopped myself just in time. In any case, at the Arts Club, you never know if you’ll have a night of octogenarian, zimmer-frame grannies & grandpas, arms dealers from somewhere far East or South, Russian billionaires, Mark Francis Vandelli of Made In Chelsea (actually, he is there nightly, usually at the ground floor bar), Naomi Campbell or some kind of HRH Beatrice/Eugenie/Philip/Harry.
The Arts Club is housed in a beautiful building on Dover Street (home to Mahiki, Mayfair Club and the new Victoria Beckham store). It was co-founded by Charles Dickens in 1863 and has had a myriad of artists and patrons guests and members over the years such as Turgenev, Rodin and Degas. It is currently over 4 different floors: the basement Club Nouveau Nightclub has heard impromptu guests like Gwenyth Paltrow and Ronnie Woods performing and is now advertising private concerts with performers like Will.i.am and Lauryn Hill. The ground floor restaurant, the Brasserie, is a glamorous, art deco room with a clientele mix of everything from Joan Collins, Roman Abramovic to Pamela Anderson look-alikes. There is a lot of trout here, no, not on the menu, just in the form of trout pouts. The outdoor seating area is a garden of delight, for balmy summer evenings.
(Outdoor garden. Photo courtesy of the internet)
The bar on the first floor is a rounded bar leading to another dining area, with a similar but shorter menu from the ground floor restaurant. It tends to have a slightly younger crowd, full of girls dinners, hedge fund managers, and women wearing more porn-than-prude clothing. My inner granny self wants to cover them with a pashmina and tell them to go home to a nice cup of tea. Finally, the rooftop is home to Kyubi, a Japanese with offerings similar to Nobu/Zuma. The best part of this restaurant is the roof-terrace area, which takes you to a rooftop Riad in Morocco. Except with sashimi instead of tagine.
(Roof terrace at Kyubi. Photo courtesy of the Internet)
The menu at the Arts Club, created by one of the chefs from ‘La Petite Maison,’ offers some great staple dishes with great flavours. If you like La Petite Maison, you will most likely like the food here. The menu is extensive with about 12 starters, an entire section for shellfish (oysters and lobster), two types of tartares, and another 16 main dishes. This is a place you can come to over and over again without ever getting too bored too quickly of the menu, which is a plus for a member’s clubs. The food beats the Electric and 5 Hertford Street hands down purely on food. Some of my favourites are the escargots, yellowtail ceviche, and green bean starters, the steak tartare, the Club salad, and the herb crusted veal chop (delicious, the only place I actually allow myself to indulge in a poor-little-veal-meal). There are better-than-other dishes, so it’s just a matter of finding the ones that you fancy. It is piggy-bank-breaking expensive, so save those pennies.
(Toro. Photo courtesy of the Internet)
The food at Kyubi is also delicious, featuring mini taco-type starter bites which are divine, the tuna avocado one is definitely one to order. The new stream sashimi, with different kinds of salmon and tuna sashimi with yuzu and citrus flavours are all mouth-watering (really, my mouth is salivating as I write this). The lobster tempura is worth it just for the visual sculpture of fried-noodle coral. You just have to see it. The plain sashimi is not their best asset, so i wouldn’t boast too much about it. The vegetable skewers of asparagus and mushrooms are similar to the ones at Zuma, I could eat them as a vegetarian meal with a little rice on the side.
Ah, the ambience. Like I previously mentioned, it is a revolving door of multi-cultural nationalities and personalities. Arabs mingle with Jews, Russians compete with Americans for how loud they can be, the Chinese and Nepalese (or wherever they were from) are either dressed in jeans and T-shirts or Chanel, the Nigerians like the gospel Sunday brunch. Every Super Rich nationality in London is represented here. It is what you could call a global, moneyed club, that only requires connections and a plush bank account for entry. Let’s say it how it is. This club is mostly for Art Patron members these days rather than for artists. The club was renovated in 2011 when its membership and bank account was dwindling to attract a glitzier, glamorous, wealthy crowd to inject ‘modern money’ into the club. With Gwenyth and her friends promoting the club in 2011, it was guaranteed to attract attention. Still, the club offers lectures in how to collect art, private views to the Royal Academy or the Frieze, and talks about fine wine and fashion (I recently missed a talk by Diane Von Furstenburg). There are even events for children, like Easter Parties, circus and painting events.
(Club Nouveau. Photo courtesy of the Internet)
Apart from some wonderful events – that I always mean to go to but never go to – the people-watching is just conversation-stopping. Victoria Beckham just recently celebrated one of her 40th birthday dinners there with Gordon Ramsay et. al. Beyonce and Jay Z came as well last time they were in London. And then there are moments when you see the clientele and wonder ‘just where in the world are they from?’ There are women who are wearing not much more than Miley Cyrus on a good day. There are men who look like they are making some dodgy business dealings involving governments, commodities, arms and pipelines. It is a spectacle of cosmopolitan London, for those wanting to keep their dealings behind closed doors.
The Arts Club is an artfully decorated member’s club oozing glamour and coolness, in each of its restaurants, bars, and nightclub. The United Nations clientele provides endless entertainment, intriguing, beguiling and sometimes plain bizarre (Lady Gaga has been a guest). But the food is grown up and sophisticated modern European and modern Japanese at Kyubi. The best nights are during the week, in my opinion, with less B&T crowds. Soon, a 16 room boutique hotel will be opening to cater to the international overseas clientele who have memberships but don’t actually live in London. For a swanky and glitzy night out, the Arts Club rarely fails to deliver, so bring your out-of-town friends or parents for a night of people-watching and gawping, all for the cost of a small island in the Pacific.
(Lady Gaga outside the Arts Club. Photo courtesy of the Internet)