In the midst of modern day politics and following a less than steady economic landscape, the City of London – and banks in particular – have had something of a tumultuous time (to say the least).
Once an area resplendent with glamorous lunches and debauch partying, Bank and the surrounding area have lately been little more than a through-route for those heading out to the newly revitalised restaurants of Shoreditch and trendy Hackney bars.
But all of that is about to change, as this month saw the opening of long anticipated hot-spot, The Ned. Since it's opening party, which boasted a glamorous sit down dinner with no less than a thousand guests, including London's A-list - Eddie Redmayne, Poppy Delevingne and Tracey Emin to mention a few – The Ned is already the hot ticket in town. Where stable mates Soho House and Shoreditch House are smaller, more homely affairs, The Ned’s grand dining hall, complete with high ceiling and over 90 verdite columns, instantly feels like their more grown up sibling.
The latest venture from Soho House and American partners The Sydell Group, The Ned is a hotel and private members' club with 252 bedrooms, nine restaurants, a range of men’s and women’s grooming services and ‘Ned’s Club’, a social and fitness club, where members have access to a rooftop pool, gym, spa, hammam and late night lounge bar. Formerly home to The Midland Bank, the Grade-I listed, 11-storey building was designed in 1924 by architect Sir Edwin ‘Ned’ Lutyens – hence the name – with much of the £200 million refurbishment focused on ensuring that those key features remain unchanged. The hotel's Vault bar sits behind the bank's original 20 tonne metal door, with the remaining 3,800 safety deposit boxes lining the walls. Meanwhile, up on the roof, members can access the sprawling views of London's skyline, from St Paul's to The Shard.
Synonymous with British tradition, here is a place to wine and dine, or escape from it all. From leather banquette seating to the marble columns, the grand hall is a step back in time. Dimmed lights, heavy champagne saucers and a crooning lounge singer all add to the old-world ambience which is swiftly reeling in the masses, perhaps keen to swap the deluge of London’s 24/7 pace, for an evening of 1920's glamour and the simple pleasures of good food and drink.
But simple by no means lacking in choice – from Jewish delicatessen Zobler's to world class steak at Lutyens – not to mention Californian brunches at Malibu Kitchen – there's something for everyone here. Known for its stunning Italian cuisine with a modern twist, firm favourite Cecconis was already fully booked the night we swing by – with the divine crab ravioli and spaghetti lobster taunting us from the menu. BUT! Herein lies the joy of The Ned; just paces away sits Millie's Lounge, offering classic British fine dining. For those wanting to make an evening of it, there are luxe booths to kick back and relax in, or the central bar where guests can enjoy people watching while sipping an expertly muddled cocktail.
Settling into those soft leather seats, we instantly switch off from the hubbub of the outside world, ready to lap up the relaxed ambience (not to mention a fizzing glass of prosecco). Classic starters such as asparagus with hollandaise sauce or smoked salmon are beautifully presented, while the taste showcases high quality ingredients, simply curated. For starters, I opt for the veggie dish – an artfully styled raw and roasted cauliflower with peas, pine nuts and tarragon; while my guest chooses the oysters – which are a treat for the eyes as well as the mouth.
For mains, I inhale the perfectly cooked stone bass, while my guest dives in to the vegetarian ravioli. Portions are well executed and deceptively filling, with side dishes as well thought out as the main event. The spinach, which in other establishments, may have easily been forgettable, was just the right side of moist, while something as routine as the bread and butter wasn't been left behind – I’m still wondering the following day how exactly they tasted so good…
For the finale, we share a moist, crumbly plum cake with a scoop of thick vanilla ice cream and a creamy raspberry fool with home-made shortbread. Both are just enough to satisfy our sweet tooth, leaving room for a fresh mint tea and an Earl Grey
While the quality and execution is bang up to date, the atmosphere at The Ned harks back to a bygone era and is a stark reminder that taking an evening out from the rat race can be worth its weight in gold.
While it may be sometime before the financial world has its own renaissance, it’s fair to say that for this little corner of The City and indeed, The Ned itself, their stock is firmly on the up.
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