Games of “I will show you mine if you show me yours” usually end in one of three ways these days: divorce / an injunction / resigning from The One Show.
But that was the conversation a friend and I had recently that ended slightly differently, with the most amazing lunch. You see I discovered that he is a member of “The Club at the Ivy”. I had heard of the Ivy, but not of the Club next door. Anybody can eat in the Ivy, if they can wait three months for a table and many do, for the chance to spot a celeb. This is a private members Club, with the same management and owners of The Ivy, but you have to be invited to join. Or you have to blag an invite from a friend. And if you discover a friend is a member, do whatever it takes for them to invite you.
I mentioned that I am a member of Le Beaujolais and therefore we agreed to treat each other to lunch at our respective “clubs”.
Let me just say at this point that our “club” is a French restaurant, under a wine bar, membership is £75 a year and if you ask nicely and smile to Jean-Yves the owner, you are likely to be admitted.
The Club at the Ivy is far from that.
Try Googling it. There is nothing. Well there is a review from Michael Winner but as I am not a fan of his I dismissed that. Even the Club’s own website is a discrete one page affair that simply displays a log in for members. I found that really frustrating. There is a review of everything these days, why isnt there anything for this? Because that is the magic. If you aren’t a member, or friends with a member, why do you need to read a review? It just isn’t that sort of place. It is where people come to relax, to sign deals, to meet friends, to hang out, I guess. Just to be themselves without fear of being splashed across a tabloid the following day. That must be very appealing these days.
So there won’t be a review on Tripadvisor from me!
I did notice on a link from the Ivy’s own website that it said “the entrance is inside a flower shop”. I thought “huh, how does that work?” Well it is beautiful, minimalist flower shop (I didn’t see a till, mind you) and the most amazing glass lift in the middle of the shop, surrounded by lit glass stairs. I was scared of the lift on the way in to meet my host so I opted for the stairs and therefore didnt notice that the door to the lift opens outwards, automatically and that there are no buttons. I only discovered this on the way out.
I later learnt that the premises have to be commercial on the ground floor so when the Club was opened in 2008 this was how they achieved that. Genius if you ask me.
Upstairs and inside is a little piece of heaven. A quiet oasis over three floors, right in the middle of the bustling West End. It soon became obvious why the members are keeping this place to themselves.
The menu was “honest”. Is that a way to describe it? That in some way doesnt do it justice but it wasn’t trying to be pretentious or scream “look at me, look at me”.
The Ivy next door is famous for its shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. The Club at the Ivy is the same, there is always a “pie of the day” and a roasted joint that is brought to the table for you to admire. I started with the most incredible scallops and then had the famous fish and chips.
What can I say? I can’t say anything. I am not a food critic and words fail me. They were both fantastic.
And so it was that I had the most amazing couple of hours over lunch. Me: a suburban overweight housewife having lunch in one of the most amazing venues. My host, a member who enjoys this place whenever he is London. And if I was him I would be moving from the country and buying a pied a terre just so I could go there for breakfast every day.
It’s my turn to host next time and I don’t think my friend will have quite the same experience that I did on Thursday. But hopefully we can keep playing this game of “you show me yours and I will show you mine” for a very long time because I would just love to be invited back.