“The Club, in the general acceptation of the term, may be regarded as one of the earliest offshoots of man’s habitual gregariousness and social inclination.” – Club Life in London, 1866
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Mystery, intrigue, and a palpable sense of refinement shrouded the earliest, most exclusive Gentlemen’s Clubs in 18th century London. Originally for aristocratic and upper-class gentlemen only, the Gentlemen’s Clubs grew into a rich tradition of camaraderie, belonging, and brotherhood for discerning husbands, fathers, and bachelors alike.
Image source: telegraph.co.uk
A Gentlemen’s Club was more than a luxury establishment, with posh interiors and the finest amenities; it was a place of gathering, of emotional support, of merriment and revelry, of delights and comforts, of heated discussion, and of laughter; it was, all in all, a community of the most cultured and worldly men of society.
A Cherished Escape for London’s Elite
You can imagine a dapper gentleman from this era dressed in a well-fitted waistcoat and specially-tailored pantaloons, a carefully-tied white white linen neck cloth, a top hat, polished black boots, and perhaps brandishing a cane whimsically with every step. Though gentlemen’s fashion changed gradually over time, the ethos and purpose of a Gentlemen’s Club remained constant through it all, and the spirit of refinement that captured the earliest of London’s clubs carried over into the 19th century and beyond.
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While gentlemen of class typically took great care of their external appearances, many felt burdened from the pressures of politics, work, and family life. Men with notable standing in society, whose reputations faced constant scrutiny from the press, needed a place that encompassed all the comforts of home, but out of the public eye—somewhere they could relax and unwind, and perhaps regale their friends with the latest current events in a time when news often travelled by word of mouth. It was out of this need for sophisticated comforts that the Gentlemen’s Club was born. Truly, for these dapper gentlemen, the clubs served as a home away from home. By the end of the 19th century, Gentlemen’s Clubs reached peak popularity as hundreds of them had been established in London alone, as well as hundreds more throughout the British Commonwealth.
The Birth of a Legend
Numerous legends and myths arose from these Gentlemen’s Clubs, with one particular tale paving the way for a grand tradition still enjoyed to this day. It is the story of the mysterious delicatessen merchant Mr. Marcel, with origins rumoured to be French but with an accent no one could quite place. He lived opposite one of these Gentlemen’s Clubs in 1930s London, and every so often would bring his fine meats and cheeses over to the club where his old friend, the club owner, would pair them with premium beverages and wines.
To the delight of all who attended, this night became an enduring tradition started by two old friends: Delicatessen Night. It was as much a celebration of fine food and drink, as it was an opportunity for people to gather and share stories and, if they were lucky, to learn more about the mysterious and enigmatic Mr. Marcel.
An Enduring Tradition
At present, Gentlemen’s Clubs serve a niche crowd, and few of them retain the character, elegance, and tradition that defined those legendary gathering places of a bygone era. Most of these clubs remain on the streets of London, though many of them have come and gone, with only avid art collectors and museums left to preserve their memory.
There are, however, some unlikely corners of the globe where the spirit of the London Gentlemen’s Club lives on in the grand old tradition. One such place is none other than Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. MGallery’s Hôtel des Arts Saigon contains an authentic Gentlemen’s Club atmosphere, made possible through the furnishings of an entire heritage London Bar won at auction and carefully transported halfway across the world to this exotic destination. The Saigon Social Club vintage bar not only looks the part—its very substance comes directly from the source of the grand old tradition of London’s Gentlemen’s Clubs. A live jazz band provides the perfect, timeless soundtrack to what feels like a portal to another era.
Best of all, the spirit of Mr. Marcel lives on in the iconic Saigon Social Club vintage bar every Wednesday night. Delicatessen Night at Hôtel des Arts is a celebration of fine food and drink, sourced from the finest modern farms and producers from all over the world, with a wink and a nod to the storied tradition that came about on the streets of London in the 1930s.
Art de Vivre: The Art of Living! At Saigon Social Club Vintage Bar
Art de Vivre—or the Art of Living—is what defines the character of London’s finest Gentlemen’s Clubs, and this art form endures at Hôtel des Arts Saigon and the Saigon Social Club vintage bar. It endures in the celebration of sumptuous and tasteful interior design. It endures in the proud traditions of the London Gentlemen’s club, carefully replicated with authenticity and reverence for the old ways, yet thoughtfully adapted for the latest modern comforts. It endures, most vibrantly, in the men and women who gather together in spaces that celebrate, above all, the fine art of living.
The Gentlemen’s Club is, at its heart, a celebration of the convivial and social nature of humankind. Few expressions of art de vivre are more prestigious, grand, and legendary than the spirit of the Gentlemen’s Club, and its spirit lives on at the Saigon Social Club vintage bar Delicatessen Night. The soulful sounds of the live jazz band add to the brilliance and warmth in the room that combines with the authentic furnishings and delightful libations for an incomparable experience.
To those familiar with the storied traditions, walking into the Hôtel des Arts Saigon and the Saigon Social Club vintage bar will feel like greeting an old friend. To the newcomer, the delightful atmosphere and infectious, jovial aura carried over from the spirit of the London Gentlemen’s Club, made manifest by the unmistakable authenticity of a genuine London heritage bar, will perhaps mark the beginning of a lifelong friendship.