Charles Dickens, August Rodine, John Evert Millais – The Arts Club in London’s Mayfair has seen the patronage of many illustrious creatives since its founding in 1863. Fast-forward 150 years and the Club still attracts international creatives, entrepreneurs and influencers – from the arts to banking.
The Arts Club’s owners, venture capitalist Arjun Waney and property developer Gary Landesberg are a dream team. Waney co-owns the renowned Zuma, Roka and La Petite Maison restaurants so his eye his firmly on cuisine. And he’s a friend of celebrities – Gwyneth Paltrow was brought in at the beginning and is still an advisory member.
A relaunch in 2011 unveiled a 16-room hotel on the floors above the club at this refined Mayfair townhouse where ‘discretion, privacy and comfort’ are key. And on my arrival – a crisp winter sun afternoon – I immediately experience all three. A genuinely warm welcome from Head Concierge Massimiliano and colleague Marta at the front desk ‘Can we get you a glass of Champagne?’ heralded the standards of service to come.
The Arts Club is, as its name suggests, a creative hub and promotes new and emerging artists in regularly changing displays. The sweeping staircase is decorated and looking up I see Tomás Saraceno’s intriguingly entitled Galactic Brain Strings: translucent acrylic geometric shapes suspended above the lobby. A bronze sculpture of a woman – think Hottentot – stands sentinel on the landing. An intriguing interpretation of the female form by Rebecca Warren with a playful touch that matches Stephan Prina’s orange canvas with ‘black blob drip’ on the adjacent wall. Visual stimulation abounds here – and continues in the Club’s rooms and suites.
Massimiliano deftly guides us to our accommodation: Room 16 is a luxuriously designed 5th-floor suite overlooking Dover Street. Only you can’t see the street – just rows of magical Mary Poppins rooftops. We could be back amongst the Victorians, were it not for the BT Tower glinting in the distance. Hearing the doorbell, I almost expect Dick Van Dyke to appear – sweep in hand. Fortunately, it was our charming butler Edward with our Champagne. A butler is assigned to every room or suite and is on call to indulge your every need. Push the bronze butler button – discreetly placed in the bedroom and lounge, and as if by magic he will appear. The 24-hour service at The Arts Club is out-of-this-world.
The hotel and Club interiors are beautiful; the sublime vision of David d’Almada of Sagrada Design. His attention to detail is impeccable, from the custom-made floor lamp by Brit designers Collier Webb to the exquisite rosewood and mohair armchairs. A feast for all the senses, the furniture is aesthetically beautiful and so comfortable.
Materials are sensual and sophisticated: linens from Bertoli, a divine Hypnos mattress, bespoke Calacatta Oro marble and antique bronze doors. Cashmere throws on the oversized beds and eye-catching marquetry on flooring, hand-tufted rugs and walnut side tables. The centrepiece of the inspired Art Deco-style bathroom is a polished Catchpole & Rye cast iron bath. The deepest imaginable. Later, in my Floris-soaked luxuriance, I dream of owning such a heavenly vessel.
Aesthetically low-backed chairs, tables and tri-cornered light shades yielded space and flow. Rounded sofa backs curved elegantly and the beautiful marquetry on the side table and on the flooring in the corridors is beautiful. Again, art features in our suite – a Polaroid montage by Jeremy Kost, and in the corridor Guy Bourdin and Mariah Robertson photographs.
The Bakelite phone – which does ring – sourced from Portobello, gave the suite a cool yet home-from-home ambience. Such a great use of space – the lounge/kitchen area (with hob, grill and fridge) leads into a generous-sized bedroom replete with masses of wardrobe space and a minibar. Sipsmith G&T anyone? The only item missing was a kettle – I love Nespresso, but tea lovers might not be so keen.
The thoughtful Royal Parks jogging map – in the desk drawer – only received a cursory glance from us as we were here to relax. But if you’re into fitness it’s worth a look and you’ll find a useful yoga mat in the wardrobe. And if you need motivation, trainer-to-the-stars Matt Roberts has a studio next door. Aching limbs can be stretched post-workout with a room service massage.
Cocooned in luxury and comfort, we didn’t hear a sound from fellow guests or busy Dover Street below. This quiet, calm eyrie was hard to leave but I had a tour of the hotel – and later dinner – to fit in before retreating back to this 5th-floor sanctuary.
The Arts Club boasts three restaurants, two bars and a nightclub, as well as an extensive events programme. Upcoming must-attends include an evening with Sir Michael Parkinson, Alexandra Shulman (British Vogue Editor in Chief) in conversation with Alexa Chung and a Studio 54 party with superstar DJ Nick Saino.
My tour included a visit to the Penthouse suite – a feast for the senses with its generous lounge area and the pièce de résistance – a delightful roof terrace with views across Mayfair rooftops. The perfect party or launch venue and a sexy venue for a romantic weekend à deux.
The ground floor hosts the two dining areas for the main restaurant and the bar – as well as the kitchen. The main dining room overlooks the beautiful outdoor terrace, open for dining until 10 pm. Cuban fans can indulge their rolled-leaf ecstasy here too, tucked inside a covered smoking room. The Arts Club has a well-stocked humidor and its very own Cigar Sommelier, 24-year-old Manu Harit. The world’s youngest Master of Havana cigars, Manu’s passion is obvious: “The world of cigars is a true gustative journey as well as historical one,” he tells me. “Cuban cigars have been through wars and revolutions, therefore each brand has its own special heritage.”
And the most expensive cigar at The Arts Club? “The Cohiba Behike from 2006. It was made to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Cohiba and only 100 boxes were ever made. The price of this outstanding cigar is £5,500 per stick.”
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