It’s about quarter to ten in the morning of Thursday 30 June. Venues & Events is hosting two tables of important clients in the new Gatsby Club at Wimbledon and I’m walking up from Southfields
tube to meet them. It’s gloriously sunny, people all around are smiling – it looks like we’ve got the makings of a great day out. But then I get a call from Richard, our photographer, who says:
‘Annica, I think we have a problem.’ Not exactly words you want to hear when your guests are half an hour away. I walk on nervously, my mind racing. What could possibly have gone wrong? Has he
overslept? Has he left his camera behind? As it turns out, I have nothing to worry about.
‘Remember you told me to meet you outside the marquee?’ he asks. ‘I’m pretty sure I’ve gone exactly where you told me to go but I can’t see a marquee.’ Right. That’s a bit odd. Where could he be? ‘I’ve got my back to the road and the AELTC Clubhouse is ahead on the left.’ Yes! That’s it! So what’s on the right? ‘There’s a great big glass-fronted structure that says “The Gatsby Club” on the front.’
Ah. The penny drops. Keith Prowse’s swish new hospitality facility must look nothing like your usual marquee. I tell Richard to stay put and pick up my pace, intrigued to see the place for myself. It’s got to be good if it’s had a photographer fooled.
Let there be light
The double-heighted Gatsby Club structure is glazed on all sides, allowing daylight to flood its green and white interiors for a fresh, summery look that’s very Wimbledon. Hints of tennis also make their way into the decor – note the balls in the artwork and flower arrangements – while Q&A sessions with players (on our visit, the six-time Wimbledon doubles winner Mark Woodforde, pictured below) add to an entertainment programme that also extends to live music and, of course, tennis screenings. A new, larger garden with views of the AELTC practice courts was also introduced and the adjacent Terrace Bar kept the Champagne and Pimm’s flowing throughout the day. Like in previous years, a courtesy buggy was on hand to ferry guests across to the tennis (Gatsby Club packages come with either Centre Court or No.1 Court tickets) but we enjoyed walking across in the sunshine – the walk only takes a few minutes and it’s nice to soak up a bit of the atmosphere along the way. Another popular feature this year were the new semi-private tables of eight, set a few steps up from the bustling main dining area, with white fringe screens adding a touch of privacy. These, according to Keith Prowse’s head of operations Nick Gratwick, went down a storm with corporate customers and will definitely be returning for 2012.
A legend in the kitchen
Catering in The Gatsby Club is overseen by Albert Roux OBE, the legendary chef who, with his brother Michel, opened Mayfair’s Le Gavroche – the first UK restaurant to receive three stars in the Michelin Guide. Given that the kitchens here feed more than 9,000 guests over the 13 days of The Championships, his decision to offer an à la carte menu is ambitious, but the team certainly pulled it off on our visit.
Highlights at our table included an indulgent half-lobster starter, some perfectly rare roast beef for main, and a strawberry crème brûlée to finish. And it’s not all about lunch either. Guest can return from the tennis anytime between 4-6pm for afternoon tea served with generous bowlfuls of strawberries and cream. All of this is matched to specially selected wines and the complimentary bar stays open right through to 7pm.
The facility opens at 10.30am (courtesy shuttles run from Southfields station from 10am), with lunch served from 11.30am, so skip breakfast and bring a healthy appetite – you’ll want to have finished your lunch before play starts on Centre Court at 1pm.
The Championships at Wimbledon will this year take place from 25 June – 8 July and The Gatsby Club’s packages come with a choice of No.1 Court tickets (available for the first 10 days only) and Centre Court debenture tickets, which are only sold in pairs but available throughout the tournament. Prices start from £475pp for an early date with tennis on No.1 Court, rising to £3,950pp for the prestigious men’s final on Centre Court. The official hospitality provider also serves up a choice of different entertainment options. The range extends from the budget-friendly Experience Club, where packages include No.1 Court tickets, a buffet lunch and open bar (beer, wine and soft drinks) for £325-£405pp depending on the day, right through to the exclusive Centre Court Skyview Suites, priced from £1,250-£3,950pp. Book through Keith Prowse (tel: 0845 415 0628, squaremeal.co.uk/kp-wimbledon).