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It’s Thursday evening and a trail of people are heading up Grosvenor Square. They go two-by-two mostly, some in little gaggles, all are well-dressed in quite different ways. Some are in shirts and some in dresses, some are in hoodies and some are in trainers that cost as much as a second-hand car. Their destination, it seems, is the same as mine. A great, grey, shimmering cliff of Portland stone from which has been carved a handsome Edwardian mansion.
We pass a doorman dressed in a grey cape and go through heavy double swing doors into a room of high-watt splendour. Chandeliers are reflected to infinity by endless mirrors on the walls and ceiling; there are blue velvet banquettes trimmed in gold and the white and the black cabochon marble floor is so sparkling you could eat your lunch off it. They might even let you if you were one of the members — they won’t say exactly how many but it is said to be a few hundred — who have been invited to join London’s newest members’ club, The Twenty Two. It has only been open for a few weeks and they’ve already had Madonna, FKA Twigs, Idris Elba, Little Simz and Christian Louboutin in.
It was founded by hotelier and restaurateur Navid Mirtorabi, former owner of Blakes in South Kensington, and Jamie Reuben, the property tycoon of one of the billionaire Reuben brothers. When I later ask someone a question about how much it all cost, I am met with quiet demur. But then, everyone working here is a veteran of the clubs of London. They know their onions: discretion counts. No one more so than its managing director Darius Namdar, who has worked at the Wolseley and a brace of Birley Clubs.
Namdar defines The Twenty Two “as sort of a meeting point in London, east meets west... It’s a melting pot of people who are creative and curious”. Will it be difficult to get the designers and artists of east London to come to this most glitzy bit of town?
“First, I think it is worth saying people don’t have to be an artist to be part. I’m not what you call traditionally creative, but I am curious about the creative arts and creativity in general. Plus, we have worked hard to reduce barriers to entry in terms of cost and we have no dress code at all and a different application progress to other clubs.”
Certainly, the food in the Dining Room — which is open to non-members too and serves a very fine octopus and white bean dish — is priced surprisingly reasonably for Mayfair. You could eat well and have a drink for about £30. (“It’s five-star service, without the white gloves,” says Namdar). Members under-33 will pay £750; at Annabel’s up the road it would be £1,750.
Presumably they are able to keep prices reasonably low by pricing their 31 bedrooms — one of which is The Mews House, which is its own standalone cottage with its own street access — at normal Mayfair prices. The rooms are certainly impressive. Each one is different and their inspirations are broader than Mike Tyson. They range from Christian Dior’s red-walled Paris flat to Joséphine Bonaparte’s chateau outside Paris. It is all very fun, playful and not-too-serious.
Nick Vinson, director of Vinson&Co design consultancy, describes the bedrooms as “a pleasing update on old-school classic but with a little touch of humour such as the trompe-l’œil herringbone parquet-patterned carpeting. It is too early to say who the clientele will be but I have already shared it with a few of my favourite design and fashion people”. You could imagine having a good afterparty in them. Which might be on the cards as guests get access to the members’ areas, which include a living room, in which dogs and laptops are welcome until 5pm, and the basement club which is a cross between Maxim’s in Paris and Studio 54.
With the economic situation such as it is, it is hard to guess how any new opening will fare in the city. But certainly, as I passed through a tide of people coming the other way — none, it must be said, in the Mayfair uniform of a navy blue suit — it seems they aren’t doing badly at all.