Alfresco city views. Cocktails with a twist. Secretive atmosphere. A droolworthy menu that features something different.
If a restaurant has just one of these things then I’m normally swayed to sashay through its doors. But what if I told you that I’d found a place that ticks every box? A place that not only satisfies my list of favourite features but also pairs it with personalised service, an exclusive touch and central location.
Welcome to Century Club.
Between a Bella Italia and sushi joint on Shaftsbury Avenue is a rather ordinary wooden door, easily passable by those none the wiser. But to a club member or knowledgeable guest, this is the entrance to the private Century Club, a place that has welcomed many media names and entertainment biz folk up its 100 steps since 2001.
Four floors welcome members looking for a quiet spot to write their latest novel, a corner to catch up with a lover or somewhere to see an exclusive art opening or movie screening. Amongst the bars that fill these spaces is the best kept secret of London, Soho’s largest rooftop restaurant.
Here is the spot where I escaped the West End rush hour, taking Allyn up to the top floor for a dinner among the foliage filled terrace.
Sitting in a cushioned corner we began with two cocktails from a menu dotted with wonderland illustrations and quotes to encourage a good time.
I took a Trip to the Moon, inspired by one of the first silent movies, serving a smooth 23 year aged Ron Zacapa rum with Buillet Rye, port, sugar syrup and angostura bitters. Shaken and poured on delivery, it was accompanied by a crumbly iced biscuit; perhaps more of a strong dessert cocktail, or perfect for those like me who see no reason why something sweet shouldn’t come first.
Allyn picked his cocktail within a few seconds of scanning the menu; an English Garden, the perfect fruity mix of Belvedere vodka, cranberry juice, vanilla syrup, lime and a mixture of berries.
The food menu was just as exciting, with one starter in particular grabbing my eye. Normally I would skip over the soup option, but not this time. Instead of the usual ‘plum of tomato’, Century Club have gone all out, serving a chilled pea and mint soup with bacon ice cream.
That’s right. Bacon. Ice cream.
Not only was it so weird that I just had to have it, but it was also bloody delicious. With every mouthful my brain repeated ‘this is wrong this is wrong’ but my taste buds reacted in surprised glee. The mint green soup was refreshing and didn’t at all taste like soup ‘gone cold’. Mixed with the sweet salty bacon ice cream it was a weird but wonderful dish.
Allyn stayed safe, going with a matured Aberdeen burger from the grill selection. Served in a brioche bun it was dripping in tomato relish and Montgomery cheddar, topped with cured bacon.
My main was as pretty as round one; a roasted monkfish tail rolled in crisp Parma ham skin. Beneath lay a sweet cherry tomato and grilled courgette stew, punctuated with roasted peppers. It was hearty and filling, not at all your typical seafood dish.
Of course I couldn’t help ordering a side of sweet potato fries, for I am always on the hunt for the best in London. These were close contenders, crisp and soft with only one or two rebellious hard chips in the mix.
Despite being full beyond belief, my sweet stomach perked up when it read about a strawberry and basil parfait, served with an aged balsamic and strawberry sorbet. I can’t resist anything basil scented and like my first dish, an unusual flavour combination always leers in my curiosity.
The parfait was like a creamy basil ice cube, complimented by the fresh berry sorbet and helping ingredients in their natural form.
Allyn picked the pud that had almost tempted my choice, a Baileys and milk chocolate mousse with a chocolate snap and pop candy. Both were beautiful, elegantly sitting in fragile glass bowls that we almost licked clean to sneak home.
Century Club is one of those places that despite not having an empty table on a Tuesday evening, still felt smugly secretive. I almost felt slightly arrogant, tucking into my bacon ice cream, knowing that the busy tired people below had no idea what pleasures were happening just above them.
I feel relieved, knowing that on one humid day in the (hopefully) not so distant future, I’ll be sweating my way around Oxford Circus, craving an alfresco spot to get a bite, when I’ll suddenly remember a rooftop terrace perfect for fanning away the heat under a palm. On that day, you’ll find me in Century Club.
Our meal at Century Club was complimentary but as you know by now, I don’t care for false reviews. I really did enjoy bacon ice cream.