To the Ned, as diarists say when they can’t provide a rational reason for their voyage: the colossal banking hall transformed into ten restaurants, or one super-restaurant with ten menus, by the owners of Soho House, who are sucking up all the press coverage the age of churnalism can grant. I cannot yet decide what is more chilling: a Soho House open to all or a Soho House safely hidden behind its semi–weaponised membership criteria. I began to loathe the brand when I saw the table-tennis tables and selfie booths at Shoreditch House. I wouldn’t care if the media class played table tennis and took selfies until their hands and faces fell off if they had predicted Brexit or Donald Trump’s election victory, but they didn’t because they were playing table tennis and taking selfies, and that is disgusting.
The edifice first: a pale, cold block with angry ornamentation by Edward ‘Ned’ Lutyens on Poultry, a street near the Bank of England named for chickens. Outside, two paid hipsters lurk, drawing in the ugly and dismal (that is, the non-membership) with reassuring smiles. It works. On Saturday evening, much of Essex is here.
Inside, a spectacle: a massive restaurant ebbs towards a stone horizon. There is Millie’s Lounge (England, specifically Bournemouth); Cecconi’s (Venice); Café Sou (Paris); Zobbler’s Delicatessen (New York City); the Nickel Bar (the rest of America, excepting California); Malibu Kitchen (California by itself); Kaia (Asia, all of it lumped together); Ned’s Club Upstairs (wet members of Soho House only, for it has a swimming pool with City views); Lutyens Grill (dry members of Soho House chomping on steak); and Ned’s Club Downstairs, a members-only beverage opportunity in a bank vault seething with so many metaphorical possibilities I don’t bother writing one, for who says criticism should be easy?