The Ned Foyer – Design Review

From Soho to the City – this week’s design review checks out Nick Jones’ latest venture.

As a member and long standing fan of Soho House, I was intrigued to see what Nick Jones, with his US partner, the Sydell Group, would do with a space at the heart of London’s financial district.  Until now, his clubs, restaurants and hotels have been purposefully aimed at the creative set with a firm ‘no ties’ policy.  There are 18 clubs in the Soho House family and of those I’ve been to, all have a creative heartbeat.  This, combined with Soho House’s treaty yet informal brand of hospitality gives each club a soul. It makes the ‘Houses’ exciting, special, and warm places to be, no matter how many times you visit.

So, as I leave Shoreditch house and head across to Bank, I have a couple of questions on my mind – where will The Ned’s heartbeat come from and will the place have a soul?

‘The Ned’ is short for Edward and a reference to Lutyens who was the original architect of the building, formerly a bank.  I warm to the familiar treatment of the name.  Has Nick Jones cut through the formality of the City to create a melting pot for all who appreciate the very good things in life.  I’m about to find out.

Walking up the steps of the grand Lutyens building, I pass well heeled tourists on their way out and am greeted by two ‘hosts’ with clipboards.  I admit to feeling a little overwhelmed.  The space is huge and the ceiling height vast. I feel as though I’ve arrived at a beautifully designed railway terminus and the people greeting me are tour guides.  There doesn’t appear to be a reception desk or obvious place for me to head to so I gladly accept the help of the woman with the clipboard who tells me I’m welcome to have a look around.

The Ned is truly spectacular.  A raised band stand reminds me of a 1920s movie and I feel as though I could be on the set of one of many glamorous films of the era.  There are rows of perfectly placed bar stools and shiny silver bar lights.  I recognise the style of seating from Soho House but here, it’s a lot more formal in its layout and upholstery.

There’s a bar that seems to sit in a vast space – something of a rarity in London and a lot of sparkly lights against polished wood.  So, where to sit?  Whenever I go out to a restaurant, I like to get the measure of a place by walking around before I choose my seat but here there’s so much ground to cover.  And, when I complete my tour, I realise that there’s a distinct lack of cosy corners.  Perhaps when the place is full (if this is possible), corners become cosier but at lunch time in the middle of the week, everywhere feels distinctly public.

I settle on a booth seat and pause to take in my surroundings.  The foyer has been treated with a light touch to preserve the original architecture.  The multiple restaurants between green marble columns rising from a chequered stone floor remind me of an upmarket food hall and I’m struck by the beautiful attention to detail in the finishes and fittings.

As I survey the scene, I imagine what occasion would bring me here again and I think perhaps I would come for cocktails, ahead of going to a more intimate place to eat.  Whether the Ned offers a more intimate place to eat will be subject for a further review.  Before I leave, I head down to the loo on the lower ground floor and take a peek at the entrance to the private members club, which is housed in the bank’s original vault.  It’s certainly an impressive feature, and very ‘James Bond’ which also makes it feel a touch foreboding.

Back to my reason for going downstairs and I’m not disappointed.  The brassware is beautiful – Drummonds (swoon) and the space is big enough for a beautiful perching seat.

On leaving, I reflect on my original questions.  My first visit has left me with the feeling that The Ned’s heartbeat comes from the joy of extreme wealth.  The design celebrates excess in every way.  The vastness of the space, its openness and the generous walkways all speak of opulence. Everything is on a large scale, including the sheer number of restaurants.   As to whether it has a soul, I think I’d need to stay there to find out.  My initial impression is that it lacks a warm centre of gravity and that the design does little to nurture human contact.   Visually the focal point is the band stand, which lies dormant during my visit. Personally, I’d prefer this central position to be occupied by a beautiful reception desk with friendly people, rather than hosts hovering in the walkway. Of course, this may feel altogether different at cocktail hour, when the pianist tinkles the ivory keys as the sun goes down and the city comes out to play.  I’ll have to go back and see.

Social Fabric’s Verdict

Look: Spectacular

Welcome:  Cool 

Weekday atmosphere: A little on the dry side

Best for :  People watching

Highlight: Beautiful attention to detail

The Ned
27 Poultry, London EC2R 8AJ