Dining at ultra exclusive clubs and bumping into fellow Mumbaikars on shopping treks – summer in London does not disappoint
London on a warm sunny day is the best city in the world. “You’ve brought gorgeous weather with you,” exclaimed Ms Stylish Sloane Ranger, when I phoned upon arrival. And so I had, it seems, because last week was wet and freezing. In any event, visitors must make hay while the sun shines, so I marshalled the troops — my army of two little people — and meandered through parks, high streets and churches.
The night I landed, I was whisked to Annabel’s, the ‘King of Clubs,’ which lived up to its OTT reputation because of its lavishly sumptuous decor. There’s a $50 million Picasso hanging in the entrance. The women’s bathroom has a ceiling swathed in pink silk roses, with basins made of pink onyx. If the restrooms are so wildly rich, you can imagine the rest of the club. Richard Caring, the owner, spent about $80 million to give it a makeover after he bought it in 2007, and it shows. The local press describes the styling as ‘extreme maximalism’. We dined in the Garden Room, a verdant courtyard filled with rose murals and lovely orange trees. It has a retractable roof for when the weather permits. The food was surprisingly good, if somewhat limited for us vegetarians. Gone are the days of the 90s, when I lived in London, and dining out meant some below average bland food. The city has upped its game so much that I have seldom had a bad meal out.
I found myself at another members-only club a few days later, but this one had a totally different vibe. The Conduit opened in Mayfair last October, but its purpose is to bring together a community of individuals who want to effect social change. It was the brain child of Paul Van Zyl, a South African human rights lawyer who was hand-picked to be the executive secretary of the country’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 1990s. Founder members include journalist Christiane Amanpour, and Amnesty International’s Salil Shetty, while the board has Robert Devereux, one of the founders of Virgin, and desis like Rahul Munjal of the Hero Group and Alkesh Tandon, who founded The A club in Mumbai.
My girlfriend, Dr Nitya Mohan Khemka, had kindly insisted on hosting an event for Changemakers (the book I co-authored with Mallika Kapur), since miraculously, we both happened to be in London at the same time. The arty crowd was going to the big Anish Kapoor opening at Lisson Gallery nearby and there were so many other things going on that evening, but we managed to draw in a decent crowd, including Smita Tharoor (sister of Shashi), Shalini Hinduja, Karima Burman, Abha Housego, lots of fellow journalists, and of course our relatives!
It would not be London without a shopping trip and a quick bite at conveyor belt sushi staple, Yo Sushi. Of course, this being May, there was bound to be some bumping into fellow Mumbaikars. Harvey Nichol’s did not disappoint. I ran into a fellow class parent and we exchanged holiday notes. Then it was a quick swing by Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty counter, which has the best colour choices for our skin tone. The news of her joining the LVMH stable is so wonderfully welcome, and sort of a given, since the company has been distributing the beauty line for the past two years. I have a pair of sneakers from her PUMA collaboration, and cannot wait to see the ready-to-wear she unveils under the LVMH umbrella in a few weeks. (According to The New York Times, when the singer showed her fashion line in Paris, she is said to have described it as what “Marie Antoinette would wear if she was going to the gym”.) Here’s to all of us looking as good when we work out.
This fortnightly column tracks the indulgent pursuits of the one-percenters.
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