Mention luxury casinos to most travelers, whether they play casino games or not, and most will think of the Monte Carlo casino in Monaco. While the Monte Carlo has indeed been the standard of luxury in many areas including gambling, many of the luxury standards used at the Monte Carlo were established in London casinos in the 1700’s.
Londoners have long been gambling aficionados. At one point St. James Street was basically one long casino which attracted English royalty, aristocrats, nobility, and artists as well as European dignitaries. Both men and women frequented the clubs to not only try their luck but to enjoy amenities which included gourmet meals, the finest wines, and even overnight accommodations. The less well-heeled also tested their luck in “coffee houses” which were located in the same area. The coffee houses were often frequented by trade union members with different unions having “their” location. Coffee and meals were served in the front and casino games were offered in the back.
The influences of the early London casinos are hard to ignore.
White’s was one of the first clubs to open on St. James and was one of the first to make guest amenities a fine art. White’s was also the birthplace of a staple of the modern world, the sandwich. John Montagu, the Earl of Sandwich, was a regular with a habit of playing marathon sessions. He frequently asked the staff to bring him a meal consisting of meat between to pieces of bread. Soon other patrons were asking for “the same as Sandwich” and an icon was born.
Image: Daniel Dionne
Whites, and the other clubs such as Almack’s, reigned as the ultimate in luxury gaming until 1828 when Crockford’s opened at 50 St. James Street. Crockford’s offered amenities heretofore unseen in London casinos. The decorations cost £100,000 and the wine cellar was stocked with over £70,000 worth of fine vintages. The club’s chef was Louis Eustache Ude, whose fame and reputation made him the Gordon Ramsey of his day.
The modern day Crockford’s, which is only a short distance from the original location, pays homage to the original. However to get a glimpse of the luxury and atmosphere enjoyed by the original patrons, the true place to visit is the Clermont.
The Clermont Club is one of the most exclusive clubs in London, if not the world. Ian Fleming was a regular and no doubt used the club as an inspiration in his Bond novels. The Clermont is totally devoid of bright lights and loud music, and instead provides members with a genteel atmosphere surrounded by understated elegance. The Clermont features a five-star restaurant, a plush bar and lounge, sitting areas conducive to business and socializing. The gaming tables are set in opulent surroundings and appointed with fine art on the walls, and plush decorations.
The tone for casinos that was set in the 1700’s is still felt today. The casino owners, whether it is the online casinos in the UK or the brick and mortar ones such as Dusk to Dawn or the Hippodrome, pay homage to the original standard of excellence established by White’s and Crockford’s.