Tucked away on a residential street, the Chelsea Arts Club has kept it’s old-world charm whilst staying up to date with a thriving culture scene.
With walls dominated with work from the latest exhibition, there is a feeling of both permanence and change, of tradition and the avant-garde. In the main bar of Chelsea Arts Club, a grand piano stands in one corner, there's a cosy nook with an open fire and big leather sofas and, opposite, a snooker table where you will usually find a couple of eccentrics bent over, potting balls and discussing the merits of Marcel Duchamp.
In the large garden, with its sculptures and mature trees, they have erected a tent for the devout smokers and, for those who don't want to miss the sports, a TV stands in what's quaintly called the Ladies Bar. Ladies have been allowed in as members since the sixties, but there is still a gentlemans club feel about the place.
The decor and furnishings are slightly threadbare and more charming for being so, but you need to be prudent when you throw yourself down into a seat as the club cat, a stately ginger Tom, moves from place to place looking for some peace and quiet, which isn't easy to find, in spite of the no mobile phone policy.
The evenings are generally busy, with a full events calendar boasting everything from film nights and fashion shows to live jazz and opera. It's an ideal place to meet during the day for lunch, afternoon coffee or an early drink. The average age at Chelsea Arts Club is close to 50, but the bar still attracts younger revellers due to its classic yet young vibe. Everyone from aging aristocrats to arty indie kids and the local Sloanes believe it is their club, as well as the artists themselves, of course.
The well priced bar snacks at Chelsea Arts Club are a meal in themselves, but for the full experience you can't beat the picturesque dining room with its walls covered in work by former members, some pieces now worth a fortune. The food is superb, subsidised and there's an excellent fixed priced menu. The wine list is not extensive, but there are some choice wines including an exquisite Muga from Rioja.
The Last Word
Despite being one of the oldest members' clubs in London, the Chelsea Arts Club is still one of the best - a great place for a quiet beer and a spot of celebrity watching, which is frowned upon, of course.