I’ve rocked up at Shoreditch House somewhat under-prepared. Coming off the back of a fraught working day and running late to hook up with a hot date for the weekend, I stupidly haven’t thought through exactly what I am wearing; I may even be sporting – oh the shame – last season’s sunglasses. For the sake of your own self-esteem, and to fend off any potential competition, you need to be on your style game in the extraordinary surroundings of what is London’s – if not the country’s, possibly the world’s – most fashionable private members’ club.
Checking in, I assume there’s a fashion event taking place upstairs, such is the parade of rolled-up skinny jeans teamed with side partings (the boys) and towering heels with thigh-skimming summer dresses (you guessed). And there is: it’s called ‘Friday night in Shoreditch House’. And we have front-row seats at the show. In keeping with the ethos of its parent Soho House Group, the entrance to Shoreditch House on Ebor Street is almost unbranded. The ground-floor reception area has a rough-hewn industrial feel befitting its shabby chic E1 habitat. But, believe me, there’s nothing shabby about the club, which operates on the fifth and sixth floors, or its clientele.
Excitingly, ordinary mortals can now step into this rarefied world without paying the hefty membership fees, courtesy of staying at Shoreditch House. The members club has occupied a former biscuit factory off Shoreditch High Street since 2007, bang next door to a brand-new London Overground station. More recently it has converted the adjacent building into 26 bedrooms shrewdly marketed as Tiny, Small and Small+ in name. This ploy successfully downplays expectations, portraying their bunk-ups as cosy little crash pads.
When I join Mrs Smith in our Small+ room we are pleasantly surprised as to the dimensions. What’s more, the space is cleverly designed: rows of hooks replace wardrobes, every nook is used to store little essentials, the minibar is the bedside table, the small but well-formed bathroom packed with every type of scrubbing, nourishing, massaging and invigorating Cowshed product you could wish for. The decor is also characteristically offbeat but effective: New England painted wood and Venetian shutters evoke an airy holiday cabin atmosphere, in immediate contrast to the urban bustle of the streets below.
Having changed into some sufficiently on-the-money evening get-up, we step out onto our room’s large balcony for a welcome aperitif overlooking the East London skyline. Sufficiently reinforced, we head off to meet friends in the sixth-floor poolside lounge bar/restaurant. As it is a hot summer’s evening, this large space with retractable roof is jam-packed with the media and fashion worlds’ finest. An understandable delay in service is offset by the fascinating people-watching – and the obligatory celeb-spotting.
Throughout our stay at Shoreditch House the food – whether served to us poolside by shorts-wearing staff or in the slicker, smarter fifth-floor House Kitchen or Sitting Room – is Italian through and through and consistently excellent. Even better is the group’s Pizza East restaurant on this very same block, and here we enjoy the finest thin-crusted mozzarella-mounded margaritas of our lives. But, in all honesty, we’re here less for the food and more for an unusual-for-us dose of London living: no children, no last orders, no ‘breakfast until 10am only’, no demands, no restraints. The buzzing DJ-serviced Square Bar is open until 3am and we take full decadent advantage.
We do venture forth to work on our retail skills – Spitalfields is a five-minute walk, along with the rest of Shoreditch’s plethora of hip indie shops and markets – but should you want to stay put, a weekend of urban indulgence can be happily accommodated within the confines of Shoreditch House. The Cowshed, newly opened on the ground floor, provides a super-friendly and non-clinical spa experience. (A facial here soon smoothes away the effects of a mild hangover, while my already gorgeous companion’s manicure keeps her up to speed with the fashion mavens of the sixth floor.)
A games room with pool table and in-house bowling alley offer hours more entertainment as does working our way through the once-full glass sweetie jars available on each room landing (sorry). There’s even a new luxury cinema, the Aubin, opened in association with Shoreditch House, just around the corner. While more active guests enjoy the house gym, we contentedly read the weekend papers in the secret Mediterranean-style rooftop garden room, before perusing the eclectic mini-library in the spacious Sitting Room. The latter is an architecturally arresting but comfortable space featuring huge skylight windows, individually sourced ‘statement’ furnishings, high-backed armchairs and impeccable service.
Fantastically unique, but not for the faint-hearted, is the famous Shoreditch House swimming pool. Taking a dip involves parading your bikini'd or trunked self in front of a most discerning audience. This doesn’t appear to put members off. Expecting only a few hardy swimmers one morning, we find it rammed with parents treating their kids to a rare outdoor swim in sunny East London – or ‘Costa del Shoreditch’ as one member of staff refers to it with an exaggerated sigh. In the evening, as a well-lit centrepiece surrounded by daybeds full of cocktail-sipping hot young things, it adds a bit of SATC sexiness to this city. Oh, and the date thing? That went well, too, thanks for asking. She certainly seemed to enjoy the room and the club. It looks like these Smiths will be stuck being married for a while longer yet.