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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Audley

The Audley, 41-43 Mount Street, Mayfair, London W1K 2RP Walking through Mayfair recently (as you do) it suddenly occurred to me why this district has always held such prestige. There are many other wealthy areas in a city that’s one of the world’s largest money pots: Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Chelsea etc but none of them quite carry the same mystique as Mayfair. And the reason has more to do with just its position on the Monopoly board. Mayfair’s name was made before the Mayfair Set of the 60’s but those ruthless tycoons cemented the area’s position as the most fashionable and indeed clubbable London district. Clubs like Annabel’s and Tramp (lavish new smoking terrace recently unveiled) were the byword for celebrity hangouts in the 60’s and 70’s. Those names are now seen as old old school but in recent years Mayfair has poached much of today’s top celebrity scene from neighbouring Soho, pulling in the A to Z listers with clubs like The Embassy, Mahiki and Whisky Mist. I wasn’t looking for anything as bling or booming as these haunts. Just a wee pub to sit in for around half an hour. And I wasn’t interested in finding something mockney owned by Guy Ritchie and similarly over-exposed and under-talented associates. So, something humble then, or at least as humble as is possible in these environs. I had gone past the best-looking hotel in London, Claridges, but had lacked the nerve to go past the doormen to sneak a peek at the art deco fumoir and rest my tired feet that had taken me from Euston at the same time, so I resolved to enter the next place that looked welcoming. On Audley Street, which runs roughly north to south, I spied a pub of the same name at the corner with Mount Street. In I went. It was reasonably busy already even though it was still late morning. Nicely darkened interior with chandeliers that wouldn’t have been out of place in an expensive restaurant or hotel. Looked like plenty of staff but there was a pause before service, which I only tolerate because it gives me more time to look around without anyone suspecting I’m a tax officer or other such snoop. I did notice the red ceiling, the lustrous red ornate kind with elaborate plasterwork that feature in so many London pubs. The deep red above goes well with the black and white chequer board strip of flooring in front of the immaculately polished bar. When I was served I took a Tribute ale from the St. Austell brewery. Quite an enjoyable beer it was too, sitting outside in the double enclosure they have going; the original railings and their own demarcation of the wide pavement getting as close to a beer garden feel as the surroundings allow. Customised troughs for cigarette butts, powerful burners, and plenty of foliage complete the thoughtful outdoor provisions. So comfortable it was that I was nursing my half pint (I had a business appointment in Hammersmith so had to stay reasonably compus. It proved to be another dead-end appointment, but I wasn’t to know that then). The lunchtime rush hadn’t begun so I was left undisturbed by other patrons or staff so could peruse the food menu at ease. Taylor Walker the pub owners seem to go big on British classics, such as fish and chips. They even detail on their website how many they sell across their string of London pubs. 10,000 a week! I picked up a few more details from their website such as Michelle Obama’s impromptu visit a couple of years ago and the Audley’s other celebrity patrons. The only other thing I noticed on site was the neighbouring Cellar 41 Pool Club, something a little out of place round here. A little further along Mount Street is Scott’s seafood restaurant, a distinguished place reputed to be Ian Fleming’s favourite. He’s the sort of fellow you associate with Mayfair. I left for my appointment that I hoped, vainly, would furnish me with a few more pennies, not a problem for most Mayfair residents. And that’s one of the points about it. In Mayfair you feel detached, protected from the rest of the world. Partly because it’s cosily enclosed by Park Lane, Oxford Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly. And partly because the shops, banks, restaurants, clubs, businesses and embassies here inhabit somewhere other than the real world elsewhere. But that’s what you think once you leave Mayfair and look in. From within, looking out, it’s quite the opposite. Merely a matter of perspective.

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