The Society Club

“The best of all things possible” is how The Society Club is described on its business card, white font on black and a heart crossed with bones betraying just a hint of decadence and danger. Yet when you enter through its black doors in a tiny little lane called Ingestre Place in London’s Soho, three little exuberant dogs come scuttling towards you, just as if you had entered someone’s front parlour.

Molly is a King Charles Spaniel with only one eye, Modesty is a plump Bulldog who snores and Monty is a characterful Chihuahua that is so tiny I kept looking down to make sure I did not tread on him. In the room there is black furniture, a central table with benches and cake stands filled with macaroons, fondant fancies, cakes, jam tarts and Tunnock’s chocolate mallows and caramels. From the ceiling hangs a Venetian chandelier and from the walls pornographic art work. Welcome to a new kind of event room-community hub.

Friends Babette Kulik, who has lived in Soho many years, and Carrie Kania, originally from New York, thought that this room and the basement below were ideal for their new business concept, and after gutting and renovating the rooms, including lifting the ceilings, they set about creating a bohemian, individual hanging out space.

“We’ve hosted book events, music events, poetry readings, exhibitions, corporate dinners and canapé parties. We use a really good new catering business called Café Gourmand in Lexington Street and they bring over the food and we serve it to the guests. We’ve served everything from olives and breads with toppings to Coq au vin and Cassoulet. We even do all the washing up afterwards and then sweep the floors,” Carrie tells me. She works for the literary agency Conville and Walsh and looks after the book selling side of the club. Her killer Laboutin heels click-clack on the wooden floor as she serves customers.

From “100 Unforgettable Dresses” by Hal Rubenstein, to “In Defense of Dogs” by John Bradshaw and “The Lover’s Dictionary” by David Levithan as well as cookbooks by Hannah Glasse, Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David, you will find an eclectic mix of old and new, vintage books and rare first editions. Take a good look also at the royal memorabilia, china plates, retro jewellery and range of organic dog treats in brown paper bags fastened with miniature wooden clips.

Both Babette {which is short for Elizabeth} and Carey have been very welcome into the Soho community and they feel very indebted to the people who have made them feel so at home.

“There is an 85 year old lady who lives in the building opposite, called Violet, and she has lived here all her life so she knows everyone,” Babette told me. “She told everybody about us opening The Society Club and so everyone got to hear about us by word of mouth. She’s like the cornerstone of the club.”

And there is no doubt that word of mouth is a quick messenger round these parts, as Soho has always been an enclave with a spirit all of its own. There are so many eateries in this area that personal recommendations and repeat business have been vital to the success of the business.

The area is also rich with potential business people from the world of magazine publishing or the creative arts who want a quiet place to meet and talk or entertain their customers or staff. The rooms can be rented out for all manner of events and there is seating for 24 people.

“It’s not just about the food because there are so many bakeries and cafés that prepare great food around here. It’s more about the atmosphere of a very personal space. Everything we do here is what we like doing and I think that people really appreciate going somewhere that is unique and makes them smile,” Carey continued.

The architecture of 12 Ingestre Place certainly adds to the charm: a tall corner building with huge windows looking out on all the passers-by. You can sit on stools next to hot air heaters, sipping your coffee, reading magazines, eating hot buttered toast with Babette’s homemade preserves surrounded by the fragrance of fresh flowers. A piano for sing alongs, light to lift the soul and a snoozing dog on your lap: there are so many reasons to smile here.

Further information

The Society Club website:

Follow Carey and Babette on Twitter @SocietyClubSoho

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