“A re-energising escape from the crazy pace of London life” is how Sicilian hospitality impresario Luca Del Bono describes his concept for the South Kensington Club, a stylish, health-conscious haven for private members that’s preparing to open its doors in January. (Just in time to service those most earnest of New Year’s resolutions.)
The vast Georgian building once housed Ronnie Wood’s notoriously decadent Harrington Club and is now conjoined with what was Francis Bacon’s first London studio. Surveying the site plan reveals that being liberally soused is still very much on the agenda, but more by way of spa water than whisky. Membership starts at £2,250 for overseas members, with a fee of £2,800 for under 30s and £3,500 for full membership.
The club’s lavish bathhouse is to be a major draw – set to proffer fragrant wood-panelled Russian banyas with private plunge pools, shimmering mosaic-lined Turkish hammams, London’s only saltwater Watsu pool (“with seawater imported from Sicily”, Del Bono deadpans… But is he joking?), a discreetly positioned beauty salon and a clutch of private treatment rooms, all to be furbished in a sensual, Mediterranean-cum-colonial scheme that looks blessedly timeless and welcoming, dotted about with greenery.
Fitness areas will be likewise gracious and “state of the art”, with a dedicated hot-yoga room, spinning studio, Pilates space and unusually airy gym on the top floor featuring a conservatory roof that floods the room with daylight. A gentle cool-down post workout is suggested via the juice bar, which will open out onto an elegant open-air terrace – a nice spot to consult your expert nutritionist and/or trainer to tweak that personal programme to perfection.
Flexing the mental muscle is also encouraged, with plans for lectures inspired by local museums and artists, workshops and the intriguing-sounding Voyager Club: a series of talks designed to inspire adventurous group escapades, tackling such far-flung climes as the North Pole or Mongolia with the help of the club’s “in-house explorer” Christina Franco.
If all this sounds a little puritanical, fear not, hedonists. There’ll also be a bar and linger-worthy restaurant serving Italian-inspired cuisine and wood-fired pizzas. So that gluten-free resolution might be challenged a little.