Here’s a conundrum for you. Your estranged great uncle Winston is over for a few days from America. You’ve been assigned to squire him about town as best you can. Big hat. Red face. Terrifying mustache. He has the letters “III” after his surname and several thousand square miles of leaky Texas oilfield in his back pocket, and it would be handy, for reasons we don’t need to go into here, to find yourself down for a couple of quid in his Last Will and Testament, whenever that may come about. (Sooner rather than later, probably, at the rate the big lad goes through the porterhouse.)
Winston’s a huge football fan — can’t get enough of the stuff — and demands you take him somewhere pleasant and airy (fond of a good sweat, this one) to watch the much-hyped England vs Scotland Euro 2020 match at very short notice. No way you’ll take him to a rowdy pub. Your club won’t deign to erect a TV screen in its brocaded walls, and your Fulham flat share is still recovering from a particularly Aperol-Spritzy barbecue that took place last weekend. All avenues appear closed. All hope is lost. What do you do? To whom do you turn? Where will you take the tetchy Texan?
This is the gap in the market that the bold and beautiful Fitzdares Club, down on Mayfair’s Davies Street, aims to fill. (Not necessarily the cholesterol-laden wealthy relative bit, you understand — more the bit about watching sport in a lovely setting.) It opened triumphantly last September; then it closed its doors for the November lockdown; then it re-opened even more triumphantly in December; then it closed its doors, once again, in January. Can you see where we’re going with this? It’s been a whirlwind few months of doors opening and closing faster than someone trying to air a room — but rest assured the Club is now open once again. Moreover, its sport watching aesthetics, surroundings and all-encompassing luxury are second to none.
“Always, in the back of my mind, was the thought that there was nowhere really nice to watch sport,” says CEO Will Woodhams. Fitzdares’ previous pop up events at places like Mark’s Club and Glorious Goodwood had always gone down pretty well, so Will thought he’d make things permanent — and do so at the precipice of the most cavernous recession in modern history, and at the precise moment that the hospitality industry-at-large has been thrown into a deep crisis. (That’s the Fitzdares way, apparently.) But you get the sense from its Ascot celebrations alone (we’re talking lobster and champagne in vast abundance) that this happy gamble might just have paid off (and that’s putting it mildly).
“I want to say it’s as if Claridge’s did Belushi’s Sports Bar, but really it’s more than that,” Will says. “Rosie Blossom from 5 Hertford Street did the interiors, and at the same time we have nine 4k TV screens. It’s elegant, but there’s sport on.” And lots of sport, too. “There’s nothing to stop you watching the first ball of a test match, meeting a client for lunch, friends for supper, and not missing a single ball.” The racing is on for 12 hours per day in a dedicated racing room, and 150-ish hours of Ashes Cricket per tour.
“Yes, soft furnishings are important,” Will says. “TV screens are important. Having someone to mediate what’s on is important. But the really important thing is the food and drink.” Cellar Master Dom Jacobs, he of Sketch and the Running Horse pub, has helped the club source a top notch house claret (the House Burgundy, by the way, reads: “let Bourgogne be Bourgogne” in serif on the label). The food, meanwhile, is best described, Will says, as “English club classics done by a Frenchman.”
"Comfort food executed to excellent standards"
“We’re also doing a play on American sports bar food, but our way.” (Think exquisite free-range chicken ‘dippers’ with panko breadcrumbs.) “Beef Wellington every day, and turbot coming in from Devon. It’s comfort food executed to excellent standards.” The club also bought a load of odd, rare magnums at auction, and — thanks to its nifty Coravin system — they open a couple a day and just charge by the glass. It’s all thoroughly reasonably priced too, by central London standards. “The first thing everyone asked is whether the food and drink will be at ‘Annabel’s prices.’” Will says. “And we’re happy to say that no, [it’s certainly not].”
The membership is selective, but the main criteria is simply that you love sport. Dogs are welcome throughout the club, and they get free food and drinks on greyhound racing days. John Motson, Fitzdares’ ambassador, will be doing live commentary on big match days. There’s speedpoker — a sort of speed-dating singles nights over cards — and 40 original Bill Butcher prints on the walls. There will be a 2003 Rugby World Cup final day where you can watch Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal as if it was live. There are Polkra candles burning throughout, and a ‘Jockey’ menu of healthier fare for those looking to ‘make the weight.’ All great stuff, in other words: deliciously detailed and just what the doctor ordered.
Let’s not forget that Fitzdares itself is a bookmaker — and a pretty fine one, too — so the betting side of the proceedings is not to be underestimated. So if you’re outside of London and can’t get to this suave, sophisticated Club in person — or, indeed, if you’re one of the lucky few who’ve managed to get abroad — simply pick up the phone and give a Fitzdares broker a call. Simple.
And yes, it’s wonderfully useful on the odd occasion that you’re attempting to secure the inheritance of a hypothetical oil tycoon uncle by securing a place to watch the Euros. But I suspect it’ll be thoroughly good fun for the rest of the year, too.
The Fitzdares Club
The Fitzdares Club, Davies Street, Mayfair. Membership: £600 p/a. Membership is limited to 2000 members, and you can apply here.
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