MY LONDON: Diplomat meets Jackie Prescott of Mark’s Club, the most exclusive members club in London
Mark’s Club is an elegant private members’ club, found in a beautiful townhouse in Mayfair. Opened in 1973 as an alternative to the St James’s gentlemen’s clubs, Mark’s Club offers both men and women a DISCREET AND LUXURIOUS retreat in the capital. Mark’s Club is one of five that complete the Birley Clubs portfolio, that include Annabel’s in Berkeley Square and George on Mount Street.
1. Mark’s Club: how did it all begin? How long have you been working there?
I have worked for the Birley Clubs spanning 30 years. I first joined Harry’s Bar, spent some time at Annabel’s, and then seven years ago I came to Mark’s Club where I have found a great sense of belonging.
2. There’s been a swathe of openings of new members clubs in recent years. What makes Mark’s Club so special and why has it endured over the years?
Mark’s Club is traditional, homely, and oozes manners, an ambiance that has been refined over time. As you enter the Club, rescue dogs Teeny Panda and Tonka (for those who remember Tonka toys for real tough boys) sleep either side of a roaring fire. Mark, our magnificent standard poodle, is usually by my side. I am always touched by how fond the members and staff are of my dogs.
3. If I’m not a member, is there any way I can book a table at Mark’s Club?
Unfortunately, not – Mark’s Club is strictly membership only. If you are lucky enough to know a member you just might be able to hint for an invite! However, non-members can book the private dining rooms for private events.
4. What’s your favourite dish to eat in the restaurant?
Our talented Chef Nicolas’ unique Avocado Tomato – it may sound simple, but it is so refreshing. No doubt he puts a secret ingredient in! Chef Nicolas previously worked at House of Roux, Hotel Concorde St Lazare and The Grand Hotel in Amsterdam. We are incredibly lucky to have him.
5. And drink?
Champagne flows, but it is a privilege to observe our Sommeliers Antonella and Giancarlo decant a fine wine, or pour an excellent cognac with appreciation.
6. What do you think makes a good hostess or maître d’?
It is my absolute pleasure to look after people and that is felt. Apart from social dining, many important meetings/occasions take place at Mark’s Club. It is important to be sensitive to the needs of the members while attentive to the guests. I think diplomacy and humour (without ever being familiar, of course) are key to create a light-hearted ease, which is the art of an excellent Club Host.
7. Who are the classic members who continue to come through the doors? Are there plenty of female members?
Over the years, Mark’s Club has welcomed some very famous guests; prime ministers, presidents, film stars (including Elizabeth Taylor, Dudley Moore and HRH Princess Diana), ambassadors and dignitaries. It is really only the names that change, with the classic Mark’s Club member remaining the same. I am pleased to say that we have many inspiring female Members and I often look into our sumptuous Red Room and marvel at the equal mix of ladies and gentlemen.
8. Dress code?
We are very proud to uphold a dress code at Mark’s Club that means all of our fabulous members and guests are always dressed for the occasion.
9. Can potential new members apply? Is the list open to new members?
Potential new members are most welcome to apply and the ‘guarded’ list is open to new members, as approved by our Membership Committee.
10. What are the biggest changes that have taken place at Mark’s Club since 1973?
The most notable change was the 2015 total refurbishment in keeping with Mark’s Club style… but the biggest difference I have seen is the introduction and effect of Mario Pederzolli as the new Club Director.
11. What provisions does Mark’s Club have for special events?
We have two beautiful private dining rooms, and sometimes the Garden Room or The Terrace are hired exclusively. Emily looks after our private events and I can tell you, she is busy!
12. When you have some time off, what’s your ideal day out in London?
The dreamy, ideal and very rare day out in London, commencing with breakfast at the Sloane Street Deli, would be to attend the one o’clock lecture at the National Gallery. To listen to people who love their subject with such knowledge is completely captivating and so interesting. I leave there wishing I had studied art all my life. From there I would have a glass of Champagne in the bar at the top of the Portrait Gallery, overlooking London. My younger years were difficult – I didn’t ‘fit in’ until I came to London where it is ok to be different, and I fitted in immediately (if not sooner!), and I always drink to that.
13. Tell us about your great passion for dogs! What is Mark’s Club policy on visiting dogs?
Tippy Toes is my darling 14-year-old Rescue Staffie/Collie mix who holds the title SuperDog 2015. She was born in the Year of the Dog, with the mark of a heart. Party Paws, known as Arty is a 10-year-old magnificent Rescue Staffie/Boxer mix who was found tied to a tree in Southwark and went on to win SuperDog 2016. Teeny Panda is the cutest 10-year-old Rescue Corgi/Tibetan Spaniel/Jack Russell mix. Tonka the wonder dog is a 10-year-old Yorkie who came to me from friends and majestic Mark IV is the Standard Poodle I always wanted. He came from a kind and ethical breeder, because that’s important, and he is just 6 months. Teeny Panda, Tonka and Mark IV are lucky enough to hold the esteemed title of Mark’s Club Dogs. I feel so fortunate to be able to bring my dogs to work with me. Tippy Toes and Arty will be dancing at Dog Fest North, West and South and the National Pet Show. I so enjoy training with my dogs. The psychology is fascinating, and they make you laugh out loud – utterly rewarding. As for the Club policy; owners are most welcome to join their dogs in The Bar/Drawing Room and on The Terrace!