Last night I had the good fortune to dine at the Carlton Club as the guest of one of my local councillors. I have never been to the Carlton Club, although I knew roughly where it was on St James's Street. I was therefore unsurprised when my taxi driver dropped me off outside a distinguished yet unpretentious building. I announced myself to the porter who was charming and welcoming, and showed me into the bar to wait. A courteous bartender welcomed me and offered me a glass of Champagne, which was served with hot cocktail sausages and mustard. When hearing I was 20 minutes early, he appeared with a selection of newspapers (and yes, they really had been ironed!) Everything around me reassured that all was well. The expensively suited men with their honeyed RP accents. The photographs of Prime Ministers hanging from the walls and spotting Steven Norris chatting to Lord Baker in a quiet corner
Forty five minutes passed, and my host was twenty minutes late. Concerned that I might be waiting in the wrong place, I asked the porter to confirm the time of our restaurant booking. After a few minutes he returned. "I am very sorry Sir, there is no dinner reservation in that name. In fact, the Club does not have a member with that name either...." He then, very gently, asked where exactly we had agreed to meet. "In the bar at 7pm". "And which Club, Sir?" "The Carlton", I replied. "Then I believe I have identified the problem, Sir. This is Brooks's. The Carlton is five doors away."
I apologised profusely, gathered my coat and briefcase, and asked to pay for my Champagne. "It's with our compliments, Sir. You deserve it for waiting 45 minutes!"
Fortunately, my host was waiting and was sufficiently amused by my faux pas to forgive my late arrival. .Dinner, for the record, was superb. Potted shrimps, rare sirloin and thrice cooked chips with pea puree followed by Stilton and home made walnut bread. A bottle of Pol Roger to start, house Claret with the steak and the most sublime Chateau d'Yquem to close.