Cuckoo Club is an incredible Central London haunt. The top bar staff mix complex cocktails with ease, the banter flows and the menu by Rupert Blease is divine.
Cuckoo Club is handily located in the heart of London, just off Regent Street beside the equally beautifully presented Gaucho Piccadilly restaurant. The frontage is pretty unassuming, the only clue to belie its location is the red rope that lines the doorway or, if you arrive after 11pm, the huge queue that snakes its way up Swallow Street.
Stepping past the mountain of a bouncer, you’ll immediately be greeted at an attractive heavy wood front desk where the attractive hosts will take your coat, accept your payment if you’re just there for the club, and show you to your table inside if you’re there to dine. Walking into the main bar at Cuckoo Club you can’t fail to be impressed by the stunning design touches and elegant nature of this members’ club. The ceiling is certainly the focal point of the space, purple and pink hues gleam from the array of large LED lights. Beautiful to look at, it does the job as serving as a romantic centrepiece for diners and later a funky light display for clubbers. Early in the evening, a discreet black curtain cordons off the club seating, tucked back from the main floor in a darkened corner made up of black leather booths. The floor is covered with dining tables that are simple in their elegance. A DJ booth sits to the front of the space, but whilst you dine live music plays tunefully to keep the ambience and romantic mood ebbing and flowing.
The bar that lines the back end of the space is also a real feature. Stunningly decorated, red curtains are pulled back, adding an almost theatrical touch, and the rows of gleaming premium and rare spirits raise from the floor to the high ceiling on backlit shelves. The fresh fruit and exciting looking potions and concoctions that catch the eye ensure you start craving one of the exquisite cocktails before you even sit down on one of four leather high stools. Come 11pm the tables and chairs are whipped away, the black curtain pulled back to reveal club seating and the lights dim as the music starts to pump. The transformation is seamless and diners are asked to move to the bar as the floor is revealed - a decent-sized dancefloor for a Central London members’ club.
Down an attractive metal staircase you’ll find the basement club with the same pink and purple hued colourscheme. There are a few seating areas that span the periphery of the space, allowing for a second sizeable dancefloor. The only quibble is you have to traverse the heaving space packed with people in order to reach the toilets on the opposite side, with just one cubicle upstairs, and the queue can be lengthy. However, the toilets themselves are remarkably clean even when busy, there’s always toilet paper even at 3am and – shock horror – the toilet attendant is actually helpful, friendly and not money-grabbing. Amazing.
The atmosphere at Cuckoo Club depends upon the time you visit. Go at 8pm for dinner and you’ll be greeted with a discreet, quiet space that’s wonderfully romantic without being cloying. Sit by the bar and chat to the bar staff and you’ll be amazed by their skill and knowledge as they mix you up unique cocktail inventions and talk you through their huge range of ingredients and spirits. The friendly banter is sure to charm and it’s refreshing to meet staff who are passionate and not despondent about what they do and are happy to share that passion with anyone who shows an interest. An equally knowledgeable and charming host will show you to your table and talk you through the menu and wine list with the same level of professionalism as the bar staff and help to bolster your opinion that you’re somewhere special. There’s no irritating elevator music in the background here. Instead, a live musician - such as regular Miles Winter Roberts - guitar in hand, will sing beautiful melodies in the background that adds to the romantic ambience but doesn’t intrude on whispered sweet nothings. The well oiled cogs that keep Cuckoo Club moving from one moment to the next are impressive.
Come 11pm the tables are whisked away and the bar fills with pre-clubbers looking to indulge in the exquisite and inventive cocktail menu. The lights start to dim and the DJ cranks the music up a notch as the venue takes on a cool club vibe. Downstairs and up fills quickly and you’re advised to arrive early if you don’t want to join a huge queue outside. The crowd is surprisingly friendly given the members’ nature of the venue and it loses its pretentious label.
The music at Cuckoo Club could so easily have followed the typical, and frankly unimaginative, narrative that is found at clubs like this across the capital and just followed the commercial RnB route. However, the excellent DJ mixes it up with some funky and soulful house beats that get your hands up in the air whilst combining it with a few well placed, grind-friendly RnB tunes. The mix of classics and new tunes flow well and the DJ is excellent at reading the crowd. The sound system is also brilliant, the space filling with the thumping music. Downstairs follows the same format and it works equally well although there’s a more hedonistic vibe.
Cuckoo Club has always had a good reputation for food, and the concern was the introduction of a new chef in the form of Rupert Blease would spoil what was already a well respected menu. However, one look at the menu and the presentation of the first perfectly balanced dish is enough to allay any such fears. Priced at £48 for three courses it’s well worth the money.
The starter selection is well balanced across fish, meat and vegetarian dishes. The confit of Scottish salmon, baked baby leeks with vinaigrette, Thai shallots and glacial lettuce is a real highlight. The delicate portion of salmon is beautifully presented with the pinkness of the salmon and green leeks adding a colourful edge to the dish. The salmon is remarkably fresh and flakes at the touch of a fork. The delicately soft shallots work well to add a tang to the rich flavour of the salmon. The leeks are also soft and easy on the tastebuds with a slightly onion tang that brings the flavours of each mouthful together nicely. If you prefer a meatier starter then the poached confit of foie gras, aged balsamic, poached pears and brioche crumble is a heavier starter that is equally delicious. The foie gras is wonderfully smooth in consistency and flavour with a heavy, rich aftertaste that lingers in the mouth. This works in tandem with the delicate sweetness of the pear for a balanced mouthful.
For the mains, the beef fillet with red wine essence, dressed watercress and a smoked light mashed potato is the real highlight – especially if you request the Wagyu beef. The pink fillet is so tender you don’t need a steak knife as the meat relents beneath the blade like butter. The flavours are meaty and rich and the juices flow, mixing in with the fluffy, light mashed potato. It’s truly an exquisite dish. In comparison, the line caught sea bass with fennel, pickled mushroom and lemon is a little disappointing. The fish is a tender, fresh piece of quality fillet that is full of flavour and would work well presented simply. However, the lemon sauce that accompanies it is overpowering and tastes more like lemon curd. The sweetness is really only enjoyable if you love a strong lemon flavour and takes over the whole dish, detracting from the fish and even the strongly flavoured pickled mushroom. You’re better off opting for the pan fried diver scallops with a pine nut paste, chorizo and rocket. The scallops are surprisingly large and meaty, well cooked so they’re tender without any sliminess through the middle that can so infect this seafood. The light, fresh flavour of the scallop works well with the rich, heavy meat flavours of the heavily salted chorizo and the pine nut paste cuts through each bite well with a strong pine nut flavour and a bitty texture that is pleasant on the tongue.
Although the dishes are rich and full of flavour, they’re portioned well so you won’t feel stuffed at the end. This is just as well as it opens up the option of the pudding menu. The chilled blueberry soup with fresh blueberries and elderflower sorbet is a must for fruit lovers, although the acidity of the blueberry soup – a thick sauce that overpowers the delicate elderflower ice cream – is too much and drowns out the rest of the components of the dish. A far better option is the vanilla ice cream with a separate side dish of white chocolate sauce and homemade shortbread. The shortbread has a strong buttery flavour and crumbles delightfully in your mouth. It works well with the rich, thick white chocolate sauce, which remains just on the right side of sickly. The ice cream is creamy and delicate and they don’t skimp on the portion size as a huge scoop greets you. A must for anyone who likes creamy desserts.
The cocktails at Cuckoo Club are nothing short of an inspiration. They do have a lengthy selection and often introduce additional menus such as an intriguing Prohibition themed menu. The cocktails aren’t cheap, coming in at an average price point of £13 a drink; however, this is a members’ club so it’s not surprising they’re at the top end of the scale, and the quality ingredients and incredible, inventive concoctions make them worth splashing out on. If you’re unconvinced that beetroot could possibly taste nice as the main component of a cocktail you couldn’t be more wrong as the sweet beetroot flavour is nicely complemented by a savoury undertone, all beautifully presented with a vibrant pink colour.
Other ingredients include yellow peppers in a martini, a smoky bacon infused bourbon, dark and light tea liqueurs, rose petals and a salt rim on a dark chocolate martini. It’s all about exploring the senses and pushing the boundaries. The bar staff work in conjunction with the kitchen to produce their own infused ingredients that add an extra edge to the cocktails they’re eventually introduced to. They’re all delicious and it’s exciting to enjoy truly unique cocktails that you’ll not have tasted anywhere else. The long careers of the staff in top bars across London also means they’re equipped to handle requests off menu, such as Lab’s Porn Star Martini with passion fruit and a shot of Champagne on the side.
The wine menu also doesn’t disappoint and offers a selection to cover a surprisingly large range of budgets, although the do average at around the £40-£50 mark. Well selected to match the food, you won’t be surprised at the quality of the bottles. The waiting staff are well versed in all of the menus and are on hand to advise you on what bottles best match the food you’ve ordered.
The Last Word
Cuckoo Club is an extremely well put together members’ club and it’s easy to see why it’s survived on the competitive Central London scene for so long.