King of Clubs
Mr. Birley was not a fool sufferer, his exacting nature, which resulted in small innovations like the muslin that is wrapped round a lemon to stop seeds popping out, led to a series of clubs all named after members of his families, all designed and serviced to the very highest standards of hospitality. One club in particular stands out, Mark’s. The townhouse at 46 Charles Street, a small tributary off Berkeley Square is not so much sprinkled with the Birley fairy dust, but has it sewn into the Tino Zervudachi cushions. It is named after him because he considered it the club that is most modelled on his own house.
He opened the club in 1972, which the arithmetic whizzes amongst you will calculate that this year is Mark’s 50th anniversary. I have therefore given some thought as to why Mark’s is, and has always been the club I love the most, and why we should all perhaps be a bit more thankful or its edifying presence in clubland. For one, as a passionate cigar smoker, the terrace at Mark’s is by far the best solution to anti-smoking legislation in the land. The conviviality of a full terrace at supper time is perfect for someone like me who finds anything that prohibits fluid conversation to be grating and unsatisfactory. Mark’s Club is the thinking men and women’s club, where good company is prioritised over loud music.
The service is also a high point. The legacy of Mark Birley should be that members feel that when they go to their club, they are known, liked and looked after by the staff. This is certainly true of Harry’s Bar with Luciano Porcu at the helm. Mark’s shares a similar intimacy with Harry’s and so when they bring me my tankard of Diet Coke with lime without me even asking, it makes a difference. The clubs appeal is eternal, and many people with far better taste than me often refer to it as their favourite club, largely because they seek reminders that civility still exists, and if there was ever a club where civility would make its last stand, it is surely Mark’s Club.