This week I went to 3 different places and accessibility has never before felt more like a mission from the pages of a James Bond novel (or maybe I was too caught up in the Sky TV depiction of Ian Fleming)
First was a visit to the private members club House of St. Barnabas – I call this ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ as this was a discussion that started on Twitter due to the fact they have a ‘membership that is dedicated to social change’ but not for anyone who needs disabled facilities! This resulted in an offer to audit/advise on their accessibility – On The BBS Secret Service – Agents 001 & 002 were in the field….
This is a unique, not for profit members club that aims to “create unique work experience opportunities through our Employment Academy” for the homeless. Located at 1 Greek St. on the corner of Soho Sq., this Grade I Georgian listed building has an interesting history – Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities ‘immortalized the garden and a plane tree beneath which Dr Manette and Lucy were portrayed entertaining’ – It still exists in the garden. As you can imagine the club is not easily accessible but the BBS Agents were on a mission: to make this social enterprise truly inclusive.
The entrance has a portable ramp which is steep due to the narrow pavements (I wish some one at Westminster Council would give people leave to use a ramp that can temporarily go into the road, let them try pushing a wheelchair or sit in a wheelchair, up such a steep gradient!!). Obviously there are a few steps to get in – 3 I think but there are railings either side for support. Inside the floors are slightly uneven and rugs create a few more obstacles but the fantastic art and decorations make this a must see venue. Tracey Emin and Martin Creed in the same place! There’s no disabled toilet and access to the garden is via more steps. There is a downstairs and upstairs dining room (up a huge & wide flight of stairs) but most of the ground floor is accessible. There are plans for a disabled toilet and a lift and Agent 002 has given them some cost effective ideas for improving the facilities. Until then Agent 001 will not join the club even though the art and ambience is ‘to die for’.
Not because the City is a giant gambling house but because there was a bet to see if I could in fact get access! Unfortunately the lift in this newly refurbished old warehouse wasn’t working and there were at least 10 steep steps to get in and no hand rail to help. To be fair they had phoned us to warn of the impending problem but I chose to go anyway as they were very apologetic and promised to have people on hand to carry me as soon as I arrived. They were true to their word and getting attention from attractive men (Double Agents) isn’t to be sniffed at. Not only that, they reduced the bill to make amends, needless to say I liked this place. Not just because the service was efficient and friendly but because the food was great (a beautiful, simply served, Dorset Crab to start and a pan fried Brill to follow). The wine was also very good, a very well rounded Chablis, obviously from their own wine shop next door. The cocktail bar was really easy to access as it adjoins the dining area and there’s a disabled toilet in the corner. The courtyard area, accessed from street level, is an option when the lift doesn’t work. They get a fully audited 2.5 BBS Ticks from Agent 001.
My last MIA was a visit to Cafe Boheme in Soho or Dr. No (OK yes if you insist)…..
The Cafe Boheme, owned by The Soho House group, has access but only on the bar level and in the street. There are 2 steps to get to the dining area of this traditional French Brasserie. They have Dr. No! disabled facilities as it’s a very small restricted building. However the staff could not have been more helpful, even at a busy lunchtime they carried me up the steps where I had a very good and wholesome rabbit with lentils followed by cheese. Great atmosphere of a bustling french cafe and good spies don’t need to pee! A great place to sit & spy on the diverse clientele of Soho. They get 2 BBS Ticks.
Can’t wait for next week to see if there is a Man with a Golden Gun, a Quantum of Solace or a View to a kill in my BBS Secret Service??