Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Clubhouse Shoreditch @ The East Room

As of March 2010 The East Room is closed for the foreseeable future due to a devastating fire. Fortunately no-one was hurt but my thoughts go out to the wonderful team there. I hope that their talents find a good home, and quickly - any hospitality venue would be lucky to have an 'East Roomer' on their staff.

As a general rule I don't think it's productive to review the food offerings at members' clubs; existing club members and anyone interested in joining aren't going to be (much) interested in one reviewer's opinion on what the grub's like, and anyone else is not likely to care enough to read about food of which they are unlikely to be able to partake. I have to make an exception however for the outstanding 'pop-up' space at Shoreditch's The East Room, because it's aimed squarely at, and is perfect for, an up-market Christmas party crowd and you, dear reader, might just have the task of organising such a do.

For those unfamiliar with it - and many will be, given its deliberately much lower profile than its flashy, brash competitor Shoreditch House - The East Room is a very elegant, unstuffy, innnovative members' club on Tabernacle Street, on the doorstep of, but not within, the media, creative and fashion hub of Shoreditch. It's part of a small but growing group of members' bars and clubs including Milk & Honey in London and New York, Soho's ace cocktail lounge The Player, and boutique hotel, restaurant and members' bar The Clubhouse in Chamonix. It's upon this latter that The Clubhouse Shoreditch is based, and it's a pretty amazing sight. What is usually a pleasant, well-shaded roof terrace (pictured) - quite the place to not be seen, unlike a certain other, better-known roof terrace up the road - has been magically transformed into a faithful recreation of an Alpine lodge, with wood-burning stoves, an open fire, comfy sofas, a (fairground) helicopter and tongue-and-groove walls. On entry, you're encouraged, though by no means obliged, to shed your shoes and swap them for cosy ski socks, and to take your pick from a selection of apres-ski clothing including scarves and gilets. While the heat of the fires makes the room rather too warm for the winter woolies to be kept on for long, it's a charming and fun touch.

The food on offer has been mainly devised to appeal to groups, as it's envisaged that the space will predominantly be used for parties during the three months of its scheduled existence. In typical East Room style however there's not a satay stick or mini-burger in sight, nor are you going to find traditional turkey 'n' trimmings. Instead, in perfect keeping with the chalet theme, groups can order vast vats of tartiflette (the ambrosial if coronary-inducing marriage of potatoes, cream, cheese, bacon and onions), cheese fondue (for 2-12 people), coq au vin for twenty, daube of beef for 12...the menu reads mouthwateringly and prices, if not valley low are certainly not Alpine high, coming in at about £15 a head for food only. Extras available include salads, starters and sharers, and for occasions when the space is being used as an overflow for the floors below or just by smaller groups, there are dishes suited to 1 or 2 people. From these, we sampled the fabulous three cheese fondue (£30), brought to the bubble in a capacious cauldron at your table and served with copious amounts of bread chunks, radishes, endives and Chantenay carrots; and the charcuterie board (£18), a generous assemblage of ham hock terrine, chicken rillettes, chicken liver parfait, saucisson, Parma ham (particularly good), pickles and bread.

Imagination has clearly gone into the drinks offering too. Grey Goose and Eristoff vodkas are the building blocks for a clever, seasonal cocktail list and also feature in exhibitionist party pleasers including a rehoboam of Grey Goose set in a block of ice at £600 and a vodka luge (price on application!) 88- and 54-pint beer kegs with self-service hand pumps are also available and sure to make any party (and many a party-goer, no doubt) swing. We thoroughly enjoyed, and I can recommend, the vin chaud, otherwise known as mulled wine but hey, this is Chamonix! Served, of course, in half pint tin mugs, the aroma alone bellows 'Christmas'.

The overall experience is, at risk of sounding wanky, really quite magical and a very great deal of thought has obviously gone into designing it. The dressing up, the smells, the decor, the food and the hospitality (provided by The East Room's terrific staff who have mastered the art of being as cool as, but not cooler than, thou, a rare thing indeed in this part of town) all combine to truly transport you to another place; stepping out onto the City Road afterwards gave me new empathy with the Pevensie children. If you're organising a party over the next couple of months - The Clubhouse will disappear, as quickly as it popped up, in February - and want to take your cohort somewhere genuinely fresh, fun and unique, then The Clubhouse Shoreditch surely has to top your list. If not, but you fancy giving it a try, then do try to bag an invitation from a member (thank you, sister, for mine!), or failing that, consider joining yourself; for (final unfavourable comparison with a certain other club, I promise) membership here is open to anyone willing to pay their dues, follow the house rules and 'not act like a wanker'. And that, as a general rule, is the kind of place which deserves to be this favourably reviewed.

The Clubhouse Shoreditch @ The East Room, 2a Tabernacle Street, London EC2A 4LU Tel: 07000 847876
East Room on Urbanspoon

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