It’s Thursday night and a trail of people is heading to Grosvenor Square. They mostly go in pairs, some in small groups, all are well dressed quite differently. Some are in shirts and some are in dresses, some are in hoodies and some are in sneakers that cost as much as a used car. Their destination, it seems, is the same as mine. A tall shimmering gray cliff of Portland stone from which a handsome Edwardian mansion has been carved.
We pass a doorman in a gray cape and through heavy double-leaf swing doors into a room of high-powered splendor. The chandeliers are reflected endlessly by endless mirrors on the walls and ceiling; there are blue velvet banquettes edged in gold and the white and black cabochon marble floor is so sparkling you could eat your lunch there. They might even let you in if you were one of the members – they won’t say exactly how many but there are said to be a few hundred – who have been invited to join London’s newest members’ club, The Twenty Two. It’s only been open for a few weeks and they’ve already hosted Madonna, FKA Twigs, Idris Elba and Christian Louboutin.
The Twenty Two was founded by hotelier and restaurateur Navid Mirtorabi, former owner of Blakes in South Kensington and Jamie Reuben, the property mogul of one of the billionaire Reuben brothers. When I later ask someone a question about the cost of it all, I am met with silent reluctance. But hey, everyone who works here is a London club veteran. They know their little onions: discretion matters. None more so than its managing director Darius Namdar, who has worked at Wolseley, Chiltern Firehouse and a pair of Birley Clubs.
Namdar defines The Twenty Two: “as a kind of meeting point in London, East meets West, a kind of club lounge, where it’s a melting pot of creative and curious people”.
How hard will it be to bring designers and artists from east London to this most glitzy part of town? “First of all, I think it’s worth saying that people don’t have to be an artist to be part of it. I’m not what you traditionally call creative, but I’m curious about creative arts and creativity in general. Additionally, we have worked hard to reduce barriers to entry in terms of cost and we have no dress code and different application progression than other clubs.
Certainly the food in the dining room – which is also open to non-members and serves a very good dish of octopus and white beans – is surprisingly reasonably priced for Mayfair. You can eat well and have a drink for around £30. (“That’s five-star service, minus the white gloves,” says Namdar). In neighboring restaurants, you would see multiples of them. Under 33s who become members will pay £750; at Annabel’s down the road it would be £1,750.
Presumably they are able to keep prices reasonably low by pricing their 31 rooms – including The Mews House, which is its own self-contained cottage with its own street access – at normal Mayfair prices.
The rooms are certainly impressive. Everyone is different and their inspirations are broader than Mike Tyson. They range from Christian Dior’s red-walled Parisian apartment to Josephine Bonaparte’s chateau outside of Paris. Everything is very fun, playful and not too serious.
Nick Vinson, director of design consultancy Vinson & Co, describes the rooms as follows: “The rooms are a pleasant update of the old-school classic, but with a little touch of humor, such as herringbone parquet Trompe l’oeil and old-fashioned carpeting, details like rotary phones It’s too early to tell who the clientele will be, but I’ve already shared it with a few of my favorite design personalities and fashion”. You could imagine having a good afterparty in them. Which could be on the cards, as customers have access to members-only areas, which include a lounge, in which dogs and laptops are welcome until 5 p.m., and the basement club which is a cross between Maxim’s in Paris and Studio 54.
With the economic situation as it is, it’s hard to guess how any new openings will fare in the city. No one has a crystal ball, regardless of their experience in the hospitality industry. But certainly, as I walked through a tide of people coming the other way – none, it must be said, in the Mayfair uniform of a navy blue suit – it looks like they’re not doing too badly at all.