Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Hospital Club, Covent Garden

Covent Garden is a funny place. If you venture into the tourist trap that is the market square, you will find many of the worst pubs, bars and restaurants in London. Yet a few streets back are some of city’s best shops, and tucked in between the theatre land eateries is arguably its hippest members’ club.

The Hospital Club on Endell Street was developed with London’s creative set in mind. The club was founded by the very cool Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, and very wealthy Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. Unlikely bedfellows in most peoples minds, but its hard to argue with the result.

Built on the site of an 18th century hospital, the club wears its creative credentials on its sleeve, and houses a television studio, music studio, screening room, restaurant and art gallery. But what makes it more than an overpriced media suite is its styling: From the art gallery-like reception area, up to the restaurant and relaxation space, the Hospital Club combines mid-century furniture with noughties art pieces to great effect. You feel like you are in London’s creative hub, which after all, is the point.

I was dining there as a guest of the Producer, who owns a video and event company, and fortunately for me is a member. After a cheeky aperitif in the bar, we headed to our table for lunch. We shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio, which is not normally a grape for me, but worked a treat on a warm September afternoon. The Producer opted for the scallops to start, which he reported as tender and flavoursome. I went for the eel salad special – a controversial fish to many of my friends, but one that I find delicious. This was no exception, although I could have done with a bit more eel and a little less salad. For mains the Producer selected the poached pollock in a chorizo broth, while I went for the king prawns and chips. The former was hearty, with the paprika-flavoured sausages combining well with the meaty white fish. My prawns were tasty albeit a little messy. But that’s no cause for complaint. For desserts, the Producer went for the homemade rum and raisin ice cream – a flavour I don’t like, and this version, although well made, gave me little cause to change my opinion. I opted for my new favourite fruit, the flat peach, which was baked and served with vanilla ice cream. Much better.

The waiting staff had that combination of charm and good looks that makes you wistful for your youth. They can be a little casual, particularly in the bar area, but they are always friendly.

The crowd were mostly, but certainly not exclusively, men. However, these punters were head-to-toe media cool. It was no coincidence that there was a London Fashion Week bash in the bar the night before. This place certainly has style.

As a restaurant, there are much better places in London to visit, however as an overall experience, the Hospital Club takes some beating. It’s relaxed, but with the right amount of cool quotient to make you feel the sense of occasion. And it's certainly a far cry from the tourist trap of Covent Garden market