I’ll never know how I ended up drinking £300 bottles of champagne at Loulou’s private member’s club one night at the start of the summer, but I’ll endeavour to explain how I got there.
I was meeting a friend for a coffee one afternoon somewhere in Chelsea. I’d met her for the first time recently but felt immediately fascinated by her. A beautiful artist, she’d invited me out for dinner with friends of friends that evening. I thought nothing of it and accepted.
Little did I know that we were going to The Arts Club, Mayfair. A spectacular bright building with a grand foyer and walls dripping with beautiful works of art. We signed in and were walked upstairs to wait for the rest of our guests.
It took me a while to get comfortable with what was going on as we lingered in the upstairs reception area with legs crossed and lips pursed.
When the rest of the party arrived and introduced themselves with plummy voices and thick smiles, I felt completely out of my depth, not to mention completely underdressed in my skinny jeans, battered brogues and a wrinkled stripy shirt.
However, I decided to rely on my quick wit and charm for redemption. We sat and had drinks in the reception while we waited for our table.
Champagne. The drink steadied my nerves. It always does. After my second glass I had to excuse myself to go to the toilet. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror while I scrambled down the stairs to the bathroom, where I really began to question what on earth I was doing there. I barely knew this girl, and knew the company she kept – even less. I couldn’t even afford to tip the toilet attendant, let alone pay for my own dinner.
Now, the dinner … the dinner was something else all together. Like nothing I’d ever seen.
As we sat down, the drinks really started to flow. My glass never had an opportunity to drop less than half full with the attentive waiters constantly surveying the table. I had a rich but light rocket salad to start. It was beautiful, with shavings of foie gras delicately scattered about the plate with a fruity dressing to complete it.
Next to me sat a lawyer named Ed, a perfectly nice man, with the rosy skin of someone who drinks too much and a sense of self-gratification about him. A bit of a David Cameron type. Next to him sat a posh young girl he seemed to be courting. Her name escapes me but she seemed almost as uncomfortable as I felt.
Around the table the theme continued. The girl who I’d been invited by sat opposite from me, and a dear friend of mine Isabelle sat on the other side.
I went onto enjoy a pan-fried duck breast, which I awkwardly requested: “Can you make sure it isn’t too pink?” to which the waiter met me with a sympathetic smile. I shook it off and moved onto the dry white wine that was circling the table.
I excused myself for a cigarette between courses to catch my breath and sat on a bench in the big warm courtyard. Isabelle laughed at my awkwardness at the table and we went to re-join the rest of the group.
For dessert my host, a gay, middle-aged hedge fund manager and very generous man, insisted that we must order all the deserts on the menu (at great cost) in order for us to be able to try them all.
As I continued to gulp down white wine like cold water on a hot day, I nodded at him in gratitude. I had understood that dinner was going to be courtesy of him, so at this point I was relying on that fact. The bill must have reached more than £150 per head. That’s more than I spend on rent.
As I walked and twisted through Piccadilly I didn’t know where we were heading next. We arrived at Loulou’s where we each had to sign our names again. We were given a brief tour of the astonishing club. The interior, crafted by designer Rifat Özbek, employs multi-patterned upholstery, low light and taxidermy, starting with a gigantic giraffe’s head as you enter.
We took our seat and Ed turned to me and asked, “Dominic, are you alright to stay on the champagne?” I laughed and replied with a nod and wondered how many times I’ll ever be asked that question. I’m guessing not many.
[pullquote align=”right”]The bubbles were getting to my head and my memories of the hours that followed are hazy. I danced, I drank and spoke to people as if I was meant to be there. It wasn’t until later that I learned it’s usually frequented by the likes of George Clooney and Kate Moss[/pullquote]
I couldn’t quite believe how much fun I was having, especially as I’d spent less that evening than I usually do in McDonalds. We said our goodbyes and I was unrelentingly grateful for the generosity. We shared a taxi back to Victoria. Even as I left, my host tried to insist on paying for my taxi home to Tooting.
I declined in favour of the night bus from Victoria. I woke up at the end of the line in Sutton (a healthy forty minutes beyond where I intended to alight).
Once I’d realised I could no longer make out the numbers on my phone I negotiated with the all night petrol station attendant to order me a taxi. I took down a mental note: never turn down a free taxi when you’ve drunk too much to speak or see.
Featured image courtesy of Arts Club Oyster Bar