Great London Casinos
These casinos are the reason why you should come to London to gamble, since you will play in some of the most beautiful gaming rooms in the world. The finest casinos will allow you to play if you apply to them by fax or e-mail in advance, if you know a member of the club, or if you apply at the door, looking well-dressed and wealthy. Sometimes, they will try to charge you a joining fee, but you should not resist, telling them that you have come to gamble and that should be good enough for them. Once in, prepare to be beguiled by grandly proportioned rooms, fine art, chandeliers and gold leaf. These casinos will allow you to place your orders from the bar (or be served at the gambling tables) all on the house-the quality of wines, champagnes, and cocktails is superb. The barmen, sommeliers and waiting staff have often been with the club for years and they truly know how to look after you.
If you are betting at mid-stakes (in terms of these clubs, perhaps £50 per hand), you can expect to be treated to a fantastic dinner or lunch, and high rollers will receive VIP invitations to sporting events and special performances. The atmosphere inside these clubs differs from most casinos. It’s more like gambling in someone’s drawing room than in a casino. Unless you happen to catch a busy and excited group inside, the atmosphere is usually hushed.
Crockfords in Curzon Street, was created by David Gray-one of the great perfectionists of the London casino scene. The club is very grand, boasting a lovely circular bar and gambling tables in a grand sunken room. The Punto Bunco table takes up one end of the room and, when the table is in play, it is an impressive sight indeed. The restaurant serves wonderful food and is overseen by some of the best staff in London.
Like many of the Grand casinos in London, Crockfords has only one small gaming area: three Blackjack tables, three Roulette tables, Three-Card Poker and Caribbean Stud Poker, plus a full size Punto Bunco table. Also opened by David Grey just around the corner in Hertford Street, is the more modern Colony Club. More relaxed, bigger and it attracts a younger crowd, this is a more glamorous casino to visit, it has a first-rate restaurant, serving excellent oriental cuisine. The casino is larger, with roughly six tables of Roulette and Blackjack, plus the usual extra table games.
Fifty, in St James’ Street, is in the original building occupied by the famous Crockford’s Club. In the late twentieth century the owners decided to renovate the building and, in association with English Heritage (a body which supervises restorations of important buildings and gardens), the casino has now been returned to its former glory, painted and decorated in the original colours and designs of the era. The bar and restaurant are a must visit.
Les Ambassadeurs Club in Hamilton Place-again in Mayfair-has long been associated with very grand gaming. The casino has recently been renovated and has a funky modern feel to it, the restaurant has superb cooking and service. In spite of being in one of the busiest part of town the casino exudes an air of peace and serenity.
The Ritz Club is a tiny, beautifully gem of a casino right next to the hotel of the same name. Set underground in what used to be a private ballroom, the décor of the gaming rooms, bar and restaurant is exquisite. It has very few tables but, if you can, try to get into see the perfect little example of grand London gambling in action.
Aspinalls, next door to Crockfords in Curzon Street, is a very grand club with an excellent restaurant. It attracts a younger more fashionable crowd, it bills itself as a private club, demanding membership, but check with their front desk if you really want to wager there. The décor alone is wild and definitely worth a look.
Finally, The Palm Beach on Berkeley Street is an accessible grand casino, set in a huge high-ceilinged building. It is one of the very few grand casinos to have any Slots and, even here, the number is limited to a dozen. The Palm Beach offers up to six Poker tables and provides both cash games and daily tournaments.