Located in an 18th century townhouse in the heart of Mayfair, 5 Hertford Street (5H) is one of Britain’s most exclusive private member clubs. Private clubs are serious things in this country. An English friend of mine once explained to me that, unlike the health club where we both belong to, there are clubs that you don’t have to pay any money and there are no rules or committees.
Apparently, there are secret clubs that belong to schools, sports or regiments – real, old fashioned clubs. All this is what the Brits call the “establishment.” A sort of club of clubs. In Britain, they call the House of Lords the best club and the House of Commons the second-best. I learned that there’s a so-called ‘White’s Gentlemen Club’ that the current Prime Minister David Cameron was a previous member. A few years ago he decided to quit the club (his father was a former Chairman) and declares the “men-only members’ clubs are a thing of the past.” His comments had caused some tensions with senior Tories who favours the ‘men-only’ policy. Apparently, Mr Cameron hasn’t ruled out any possibility of joining a gentleman’s club at some point in the future but for now, while a resident at Number 10 Downing Street, he maintains the view that these Gentlemen’s Clubs is a thing of the past rather than the future.
Evidently, for people of certain age and class, clubs are the foundations of their lives, of their very existence. The remarkable thing about this club is not who they let in but it’s who they keep out. 5 Hertford Street is so restrictive that even the famous One Direction, an English/Irish boy band’s membership applications are rejected. Rumour has it that the club can count billionaires (foreigners but London residents) among those who were turned away.
Generally, club memberships are pretty straightforward. A friend who is already a member puts you up and gets another friend who is also a member to second you. It then goes to a committee that decides whether or not you’re accepted. For 5 Hertford Street however, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, Prince Harry, and other young royals are often seen partying, nouveau riche are usually blackballed unless they are married to someone from an old money social class.
The club’s exterior is very simple and unpretentious (even its door is unmarked) but the interior is absolutely exquisite. It has two restaurants, a nightclub; three bars, a cigar room, a cinema room, and an outdoor smoking atrium.
The interior design is impressively done from the big to very tiny details. It’s quite formal but not stuffy, and the staff are very professional but not obsequious. All the rooms are bathe in soft light with pictures (some portraits of Lady Annabel and other painting collections of the owner) hanging on the walls. There’s also fireplaces in almost every room that makes it look like a cozy living room. The whole place feels so incredibly welcoming.
The interior has first class social facilities within an elegant ambiance, and it gives you a feeling of being in a sanctuary, somewhere far from the brashness of everyday life. Even the ladies’ powder room has glamorous wallpapers in which a teenage girl would happily spend her first date.
My friend once told me, “order anything on the menu and everything will be delicious.” She was right. One time she invited me for lunch and I ordered Salmon Sashimi. It’s not your typical sashimi served with kikkoman and wasabi. Not an authentic Japanese Salmon Sashimi as it’s more like a ceviche with a mild vinegar taste served with raw broccoli and daikon (radish) drizzled with lemon, salt, pepper and other spices. Quite delicious! Nevertheless, the fish was super fresh and it was the best ceviche I’ve had in London so far.
The waiters come around every few minutes with a basket full of freshly baked bread and rolls and offer them to the diners. I’ve tried the rye, sourdough, walnut, cranberry bread, etc., but my favourite was the walnut rolls. We also ordered crab salad (delicious and perfect light lunch); freshly cut vegetable sticks (carrots, red peppers, cucumbers & daikon) for starter and it came with a dipping sauce that tasted like a Japanese mayonnaise blended with sesame oil. It was a very refreshing and great appetiser.
One time she and I had afternoon tea/coffee at the courtyard and it feels like being in an Italian palazzo. The patchworks of ancient artefacts on the walls and hanging baskets with geraniums set the tone for its Italian-palace like atmosphere.
5H is certainly one of the chicest, coolest places in London. I’ve had the opportunity to dine at Annabel’s, The Arts Club, Morton’s and the other top private member clubs in London but in my own humble opinion 5 Hertford Street is unarguably, the most impressive and simply the best of them all. As mentioned, you have access only if you’re in the membership roll or if invited by a member of the club. Thanks to my sweet friend who, despite her very busy schedule, does take time to see me and invite me over to 5H (or sometimes we meet up at Colbert or Bluebird or at one of the cafes in Chelsea) simply to catch up, to talk about family, business, fashion and everything else in between.
(Featured Image: Hertford Street)