Dynamic CEOs and successful entrepreneurs find a fitting playground for their capital at the exclusive Les Ambassedeurs Club, at 5 Hamilton Place in London’s Mayfair. Sir Philip Green notoriously won big, betting against the house at the roulette table, winning £2 million in a single night back in 2004. However, I am compelled to remind readers that statistically, the odds favour the casino and when it comes to ‘‘Les A’’ (as it is affectionately referred to by its members), thank goodness that this historic Grade II* residence of Sir Leopold Rothschild, built in 1810 with a superior library and oak staircase by Florentine master wood-carver Chevalier Rinaldo Barbetti, is in existence. It is a beautiful and historic building.
At its core, Les A has always been a renowned pleasure dome and hints at its nefarious past were inscribed in the oak walls of the library that Sir Rothchild commissioned. “Virtue rejoices in temptation” and “He possess wealth, he who knows how to use it” – truly inspirational words for the hedonistic super-rich that parade past these walls. Play well and reap rewards!
Such was my lack of gambling experience; I had hoped to visit the club, for the purposes of this review, with a friend who is a seasoned gambler and lifetime member at Aspinal’s. He treats his membership of the latter as a wonderful badge of honour, as a prime display of his skillful risk assessment, his lucky nature and his charm. Like Aspinal’s, membership to Les A is highly desirable and a status symbol, with premium membership set at £25,000 per annum – which obviously sets apart the men from the boys.
However, my chosen companion was incognito for this event so in a bid for this humble reviewer to not simply observe but also engage in the activities so central to the club, I approached my next best companion to come with me. A younger gentleman, a friend of my husband’s from Eton, who occasionally gambles at home amongst the company of good friends – his sophistication at anything but Texas Hold’em was questionable but when approached, he was keen to try his luck.
Sadly the gravity of the event, the surroundings and the minimum bet left us poorly prepared for Les A and we stood out like sore thumbs. Firstly, we were a little over-dressed – one of the more noticeable high-rollers winning big at the tables that evening was in a slogan T-shirt and jacket, with floppy hair and a glint in his eye. He smiled almost pityingly as my friends and I bet and lost, and lost, and lost.
Not that we particularly minded – the allure of the whole experience and the wonderful opportunity to see a London institution with international acclaim in action was satisfying in itself. The casino features in Dr. No, the first and most famous of the Bond films, and has always attracted diplomats, celebrities and heads of state galore.
The club offers baccarat, black jack, American Roulette and Three Card Poker with a smoking garden and series of private gaming and dining rooms. Their croupiers are some of the best in the world and the casino gives off an air of inherent professionalism when it comes to the rules and regulations of gambling.
In the knowledge that not everyone gambles but everyone eats, Les A have brought together a team of international chefs to cater to every culinary whim. The dining room high ceilings make for an elegant restaurant setting with Murano glass chandeliers hanging beautifully and a serene ambience to enjoy. I particularly liked the pretty display plate featuring the painting ‘‘L’ Escarpollette.’’
Upon reviewing their expansive menu offering dishes from around the world, my companion and I felt rather overwhelmed by the variety. We asked for the headwaiter’s recommendations so that we could accurately assess the food on offer. He suggested that we try a selection of mixed starters and then choose a main from the sea and the land. We chose Steak Tartar, Lobster with ginger, Wague Beef and Tiger Prawns with chilli sauce. As a side, we ordered the lobster macaroni. This last dish was divine and the most memorable. A fruit platter to finish brought light and fresh relief to full tummies. The prices for the mains are on average around the £50-100 mark. However, if you are dining at Les A, let’s presume that money is not an issue for you today and you are here to truly enjoy life.
Les Ambassdeurs is an interesting place and there is no doubt that they are at the top of the casino game. I wish the gamblers luck! A difficult place to review as it will always be out of my league. But if you fancy yourself a lucky man and want to see a London institution in action, then this place has merits, history and charm galore.