Taking its name from the village of Belgrave, Cheshire near to the then Grosvenor Family main country seat of Eaton Hall and known as the ‘Five Fields’ a rather dangerous place due to highwaymen and robberies. It was Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquis of Westminster under the direction of Thomas Cubitt who started the development of Belgravia in the 1800’s after George III moved to Buckingham House (now Buckingham Palace) The Scottish Presbyterian Church, West Halkin Street built in 1830 would have attracted a congregation ‘proverbial for rioting and disorder, for drunkenness and ignorance’
It was de-consecrated and bought by then Zoe Oakley Maund in 1924. Her first marriage was to banker and mountaineer John Oakley Maund. She later married again to Sir Vincent Henry Penalver Caillard and became Lady Zoe Caillard. Zoe is reputed to have spent over £4,000 having the church converted into a private residence and she called it The Belfry. Having a fascination for birds and a huge collection of some thousand china ones or more. She was also renowned for her interest in the occult and spiritualism. The Belfry’s upper rooms were often used for meetings and seances. She wrote several books and died January 16th1935. The property then was acquired by Dion Fortune (Violet Mary Firth) another occultist and converted the property into the Temple of Isis. It was in the top room that she and fellow magicians would conduct the Rites of Isis a ceremonial performance before an audience of invited guests. The Spiritualist Association of Great Britain whose membership included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is reputed to have attended on several occasions.
So, the Belfry was to be transformed once again into a Private Dining Club. It became one of the successes of Gastronome Joseph Vecchi, (Gastronomes President 1953-1954) He had been born in a village near Bologna in Italy and came to London around 1906. He managed several distinguished restaurants including Claridges; the Kaiserhof, Berlin; the Astoria, St Petersburg and the legendary Hungaria in Lower Regent Street.
Now enter Gastronome Stephen Korany. He too was the son of a well-known Hungarian Restaurateur. He trained in the hotel school Nice. He took up a position of Assistant Manager at Selsdon Park Hotel and then to Manager of the Pigalle Restaurant on Piccadilly. In 1953 and only 28 years old he became the youngest General Manager in London, when he was appointed to the Basil Street Hotel. In 1962 he also became the General Manager of the Belfry having helped the ‘Basil’ to buy the famous club from the Estate of Joseph Vecchi.
After Mr Winslow-Taylor owner of “the Basil” died in 1969 Stephen became Managing Director of both establishments and remained at “the Basil” until 1995 when he decided to retire. When the Réunion so sadly lost its first newsletter editor Stephen, who had recently retired, he was the ideal member to take over the editorship and this he did with great aplomb.
The influence of Basil Street Hotel continued amongst Hoteliers and restaurateurs, then Stephen’s number two and later to become General Manager was Gastronome, Cyril Freeman (Gastronomes Treasurer). Both Stephen and Cyril also employed Gastronome Ian Faul who is currently Secretary of Brook’s Club.
Frequented by royals and aristocrats of London the Belfry is said to have hosted the stag night of the Duke of Edinburgh and a party was held when the now Prince of Wales was born.
In the early 80’s the Belfry was purchased by a group of businessmen. A refurbishment undertaken by the interior designer Nina Campbell. Her theme a country house in the heart of London. It was opulent and cosy and saw a new generation of members. In 1984, Club Manager was Gastronome, Paul Wenham who then went on to join the group Kennedy Brook’s.
In 1988 the Club was acquired by Gastronome, Anton Mosimann. Anton was born in 1947, the only child of Swiss restaurateurs in the Jura mountains. He spent his early years in Nidau, near Biel helping his parents run their own restaurant where he developed both a love for food and a desire to become a cook. The first taste he clearly remembers is that of Emmental cheese.
“It was so tasty and so different from my previous food of vegetables and cereals.”
He started his apprenticeship at a local hotel at the age of fifteen, and at the age of twenty-five became one of the youngest Chefs to receive the coveted Chef de Cuisine Diploma.
At the age of 28, he was appointed Maitre Chef des Cuisines at the Dorchester Hotel in London – the youngest ever to hold this position. During his thirteen-year tenure he was awarded two Michelin stars; the first time such accolade had been given to a hotel restaurant outside of France.
It was whilst at the Dorchester that Gastronome, Brian Clivaz met Anton and had an influence on his career as a young and enthusiastic recruit to the hospitality industry.
And so Mosimann’s Club was created. In 2007 Anton’s sons joined Mosimann’sas joint directors of the Company.
The history of a building and the many lives that it has touched over the years continues to evolve as the Reunion visits for one of its monthly dining experiences in February 2022.