Yesterday I had lunch at the BAFTA Club. It is an extraordinary place, decorated both inside and out in the grand style (slightly decayed). It is situated at 195 Piccadilly, in an unassuming building conveniently equidistant between two great bookshops: Waterstone’s Piccadilly and Hatchard’s. I entered a small foyer and mounted a shallow flight of steps. Massive red velvet curtains, drawn, not open, hang at the top of the steps, presumably so that the club’s more distinguished members can burst upon the scene with a flourish. To the unfamiliar and more humble visitor (especially this one with a bent for crime fiction) these curtains are vaguely intimidating. What might lurk behind them? The answer proves to be a 1950s-style reception console, ‘womanned’ by two terrifyingly efficient ladies. The Greek masks of tragedy and comedy have been fixed high on the wall to their right.
The dining-room is small, cosy and cramped. The waiter service is friendly but formal and the food is excellent, in an old-fashioned upper-class clubby sort of way. I was there to meet Matthew Pritchard, an author new to the crime-writing scene; we had both been invited by a literary agent. I have had the privilege of reading some of Matthew’s work in draft and I am very impressed. He is definitely an author to look out for.
In fact, watch those curtains – he might just pop out from them!