Eat Like a VIP: House Of St Barnabas

When it came to the night of my visit to the House of St Barnabas in London’s Soho, it was cold, wet, raining and the taxis were driving through the narrow streets splashing sopping wet pedestrians and shouting with cyclists. I really didn’t want to be out.

I don’t get a chance to spend a night at home very often but I do love that at home you can be yourself, know the food and drink will be exactly how you like it, dress how you want and talk about subjects without fear of eavesdroppers. Wouldn’t it be a dream if we could get the ‘night in’ feel while we were out and about so we could mingle – if we can be bothered – without washing or cleaning up afterwards?

HosBar

Well maybe sometimes dreams do come into reality as stepping through the front door of The House of St Barnabas took me out of one world and into another…in an almost backwards version of Narnia. Outside it was blowing a gale and pouring with rain and I didn’t like it very much, but inside it’s like an old home that you can imagine the children from Narnia living in.

On walking in, I was greeted by a corridor that looked homely, albeit stately homely with a sweeping staircase and antique chandeliers, and big smiles from the front desk.

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And, breathe…I almost immediately felt relaxed.

I had heard of the House Of St Barnabas before as it operated as a pop-up club run by the watch brand Omega during The Olympics in 2012. It’s now a new team running it, but Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban checked it out in 2012 along with actor Eddie Remayne, model Jodie Kidd and lots of athletes. That’s very VIP!

Now in it’s current use as a non-profit members club that directly helps homeless people and charity (I’ll explain how that works later in this blog post), you still get VIPs in arts and music. Jarvis Cocker (below) hosted a music evening recently and there was a literary salon event with author Damian Barr. You can see the full programme on the  events tab at the House of St Barnabas website.

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As I said earlier, my guest and I were rather wet when we visited but this was no trouble at all for the staff, who took our coats and led us through to the ground floor bar. There’s low lighting, dark wood and a HUGE selection of spirits. The photo at the very top of the blog post is of the ground floor bar -so cosy! BUT if you visit in summer months you can go and sit in the garden for a drink – this has to be one of the best outside spaces in central London.

HosGarden

However, we did not visit on weather to drink outside! The ground floor bar was a shelter from the elements and you can either sit at the bar on a high stool and chat to the smart barmen as they mix and pour, or sneak off to one of the leather banquettes to have a little bit more of a private conversation. As the cocktail menu was at the bar, and it would take a bit of effort to work out where to start working through the selection of coktails, wines and spirist, we decided to sit at the bar and take the weight of our legs while we used our brains to decide.

My guest went for a Gin Gimlet to test the bartender, while I spotted some Nyetimber Rose (English sparkling wine) on the long and varied wine list. English wine for a quintessential English looking building – I was warming up nicely.

Through to the dining room for dinner…another fabulously lovely room to look at:

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The menu further made me feel at home. Why? You know sometimes you get home and you’re ravenous and you want a meal to fill the edges of the plate but sometimes you’re happy to sit down and pick at a few things while you enjoy conversation or the television? The House of St Baranabas has several small dishes which you can mix and match as tapas for mains or enjoy as a starter, as well as larger dishes. Check out the quality of these small dishes. Starting with chilli squid with rocket and parmesan:

HoS-squid

Fresh king prawns in garlic:

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Boqueros on toast (I learned that boqueros are anchovies – these were sharp but tasty!)

HoS-boqueros

I was tempted to try the hoummous and the beef tartare as well but I wanted to make sure I had room for a main. I felt like the weather and the stress of walking through the weather had made me hungry! I went for fish, which came in a satisfyingly large portion while my guest’s lamb was beautifully cut and tender. Spinach was the perfect mix of moist without being soppy (and trust me this is hard to do). From the happy chat and buzz in the dining room, I could tell that other people were happy too. In the restaurants I’ve visited where food isn’t the main priority (ie they’re a place to see and be seen), there is a certain coldness as people push food around with their forks, looking around the restaurant to see if they’re missing anything. Here, people are so engrossed in their own little perfect bubbles of food and wine they don’t care what’s going on around them. All they’re caring about is will their date let them share some of their food and how long can they stay without having to go back outside.

The House of St Barnabas is a members club so it’s a sanctuary away from the elements until 2am in the morning. And talking of sanctuaries, it is not only a safe place for members (particularly on wet days) but it is a haven for the staff. London’s homeless are supported back to work through professional work experience and accredited City & Guilds hospitality training. These are offered at the House of St Barnabas during a 12 week Employment Preparation Programme before all participants receive structured post programme support. However, there is no way on earth I could have picked some of these staff out as former homeless people, and I’d go so far as to say they were a lot better than the ones I’ve had in some other London members clubs. Our dinner waitress was called Agnes and she was happy to answer every single one of our questions about the club (there were a lot) as well as come over at exactly the right times.

USEFUL INFORMATION

COST: If you want to visit The House of St Barnabas then you’re going to need to become a member (or befriend a member). HOWEVER, don’t be scared. Annual membership starts at £345 (a third of the cost of Soho House nearby) PLUS it’s for charity.

Details of how to apply can be found on the House of St Barnabas website.

CONTACT: House of St Barnabas, 1 Greek Street, London W1d 4NQ. 020 7437 1894

Zoe Griffin

Editor In Chief

Editor In Chief at Live Like A VIP. Author, Journalist & Copywriter. Often found with a glass of Champagne in hand!

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