After more than 20 years, it’s caviar season again in London.
Caviar Kaspia, which was founded in Paris in 1927, has crossed the Channel for the second time, returning to London as a private members’ club with a democratic twist.
Located in a Mayfair town house that was previously occupied by The Chess Club, the new Caviar Kaspia wants to open its arms to members, their friends and anyone they know who might be craving caviar and crème fraiche on a baked potato, Kaspia’s signature dish.
“We’re a members’ club because we had no other option. We inherited the Chess Club license, but we’ve tried to bend the rules a little bit,” says Ramon Mac-Crohon, Caviar Kaspia Group chief executive officer, who’s been spearheading an international rollout, opening outposts in cities such as Dubai, São Paulo, Los Angeles and New York.
“There is no dress code, and we really wanted to make something that was for members and friends of friends. Everybody’s more than welcome,” says Mac-Crohon, adding that the lifeblood of Caviar Kaspia flows from its colorful cast of table-hoppers, and international fans who regularly don the restaurant’s branded cashmere hoodies, beanies and baseball caps.
Mac-Crohon says he loves seeing the eclectic crowd at the Paris flagship on Place de la Madeleine, a mix of old and young generations, fashion people, artists, businessmen, lawyers and other professionals.
“In London, we’re trying to do the same thing. Once you become a member you have the keys to the club. You can curate it, and send us your friends,” he says, adding that he sees members as ambassadors of the Kaspia community.
The joining fee is 2,000 pounds, and is redeemable against food, drink and branded merchandise, while members can book tables for guests — without having to attend themselves.
It’s a radical approach in Britain, where the members clubs are expensive, rules-based and populated by distinct tribes — military types, academics, politicians, aristos, the arts and theater crowd, power brokers or international jet-setters.
With a few notable exceptions, the food at these clubs is pedestrian. Mac-Crohon, instead, wants to feed a food-loving, pleasure-loving, chatty crowd. And he wants Caviar Kaspia to endure.
“Kaspia is by no means fashionable, and we’re not trying to be the coolest. We are intemporel. This is a place where time seems to have stopped, and you just enjoy yourself,” he says.
Each floor of the Mayfair town house serves a different purpose: The boutique and cocktail bar are on the ground floor, the dining room and small bar are located above, and the second floor is dedicated to private dining and a members’ lounge.
The cozy interiors, by the Portuguese design studio Oitoemponto, feature silk and velvet cushions, rich geometric and floral patterns, and a palette of dark jewel tones. The art on display echoes Kandisky and Calder.
Oitoemponto founders Artur Miranda and Jacques Bec say they wanted to bring “a very French art de vivre to London. We want guests to feel a sense of escape but at the same time [have the sense] they’re in a private house.”
Caviar Kaspia has a past in London. It opened in the ‘90s on Bruton Place in Mayfair and famously welcomed diners including Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth II. Mac-Crohon shut it in 2000 following a decision to rethink the brand proposition and focus on the original Paris restaurant.
In homage to the restaurant’s Mayfair history, Mac-Crohon is serving Dover sole, native lobster and filet of Scottish beef alongside the usual smoked salmon, blinis and glistening mountains of sturgeon and beluga spawn.
Mac-Crohon, who is operating the business directly, has also lured staff from some of London’s top restaurants, including Scott’s and Cipriani.
At times like these, Mac-Crohon’s move is gutsy. There is a cost-of-living crisis in the U.K., and the sort of nationwide public sector strikes that have not been seen for a generation. International tourism isn’t anywhere near its pre-pandemic levels, and the big-spending Russians have all but disappeared.
Laying tables with caviar, lobster and carafes of icy vodka may conjure visions of Ancien Régime excess for some, but not for Mac-Crohon. He believes the moment is right for a Kaspia comeback, and that London is on the mend after some very tough years.
“Even with Brexit, the crises going on, the political situation in the U.K. and the war in Ukraine, I have been very, very happily surprised by the energy here — the will to go out, have fun and entertain. London, and especially Mayfair, is vibrant and happening,” says Mac-Crohon, whose dream is that caviar season never ends.