Words: Chris Madigan
We’ve often been told, unconvincingly, that the City has become as much a leisure neighbourhood as a business district. Maybe, just maybe, the opening of more private members’ clubs replacing a W with an E in their postcodes, indicates that the tipping point has finally been reached.
‘Restaurants made the shift first,’ says Nigel Stowe, general manager of Ten Trinity Square. ‘Now clubs are opening too. You don’t have to travel across to Mayfair or St James’s any more – it’s all here.’ This new breed of City clubs also includes The Devonshire Club – opened last year by Brian Clivaz, known for Home House and The Arts Club – and The Ned, which opened this month – a partnership between Soho House Group and New York-based The Sydell Group.
With a Corinthian-columned entrance and walnut-panelled rooms with high, ornately moulded plaster ceilings, Ten Trinity Square is arguably only part of the new breed because of location. However, Stowe, formerly of The Arts Club, says the service is a deft balance. The hotel is the result of a collaboration between the forward-thinking property developers Reignwood, Four Seasons Hotels and Groupe Artémis. Anne-Sophie Pic, the only French female chef with three Michelin- stars, is set to open her first UK eatery, La Dame de Pic, at the club.
While the club offers facilities for meetings with an emphasis on discretion, Stowe also talks about meetings in a more general sense – tactfully making introductions and encouraging business and cultural exchange. Historically, he says, the best clubs have had a reason to exist. ‘We aim to be a club with a purpose, bringing together diverse thought in a relaxing environment.’
Bringing members together is also one of Clivaz’s aims at The Devonshire, which they do with the weekly Members’ Table – a networking dinner hosted by prominent ‘ambassador members’. Spread over five floors and housed in an 18th century former East India Company warehouse and a large Georgian townhouse, the club has a 120-seat brasserie at its heart as well as a library, drawing room and four private meeting rooms on the first floor. Communications manager Dheraen Quick says, ‘During the day I sometimes tiptoe through the first floor because you can almost hear people thinking. Then a few hours later, it’s transformed with live music, cocktails and laughter’.
One of the first- floor bars has a strong focus on whisky and the lounge showcases colourful mobiles by artist Alexander Calder. There’s also a champagne bar, with investor Lord Ashcroft’s Gusbourne English fizz a prominent offering, which leads through to a garden room and outdoor space that is only slightly smaller than the courtyard at The Arts Club.
As with all these clubs, it is topped with a boutique hotel with 68 bedrooms and suites: full-time members receive preferential rates and non-members staying as guests are given member status for the duration of their stay.
The latest addition to this emerging clubland, The Ned, is an eye-opener – not least for one of its founders, Nick Jones. The entrepreneur has long had a reputation for disliking the wearing of suits, so it is surprising he is opening a club opposite the Bank of England, in the former Midland Bank headquarters between Princes Street and Poultry.
With over 252 rooms and nine restaurants, separated by former banking counters in the open-plan public ground floor, the scale of The Ned is greater than any Soho House Group property. When Jones walked into the grandiose space, its 90 towering African verdite columns and Edward ‘Ned’ Lutyens’ architecture (the club’s namesake) set his imagination whirring: ‘I just fell in love with the building,’ he says.
The member facilities at The Ned are pretty impressive. Behind a 22-tonne vault door lies a bar lined with safety deposit boxes. Next door to the vault is a 20m lap pool, part of an extensive spa, which also includes a hammam and 620sqm gym. The rooftop, with grand views across the City, houses another pool and three bars.
Of the first 1,500 members of The Ned, only 30 per cent are from the nancial industry, with the rest a mix of professionals from the tech, healthcare, entertainment and media industries. The club has a convenient selection of meeting rooms but without a specific plan to make it a work-focused venue as with Shoreditch House.
Although the work/leisure distinction is increasingly blurred, the aim is for evenings at The Ned to be spent away from the laptop. ‘Nick has never objected to “City types”,’ says the club’s managing director Gareth Banner. ‘He’s just not a fan of corporate memberships and wants a relaxed atmosphere in his clubs. But the City has changed in recent years – it’s a more diverse place.’
With the Devonshire Club and Ten Trinity Square in the neighbourhood, and The Ned due to open imminently, perhaps pitching up in the City is less a change of heart for Jones, and more an indication that London’s heart is shifting eastward.