Well worth the surcharge: A review of Clubrooms lounge, Gatwick South
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
If you’ve been turned away from the popular — but very crowded — No1 Lounge at Gatwick South you may have seen a very luxurious (and much quieter) alternative next door. In fact, you may have even been offered access to this space — for a fee. If you’ve been wondering if it’s worth paying for over the No1 Lounge next door you can access for ‘free’ with your Priority Pass next door, you’re not alone.
I’d been wondering the same thing for quite a while, so I went to find out.
Clubrooms Gatwick are a unique lounge offering in that it relies on paid access. While many independent lounges who offer paid access are rarely worth the entrance fee due to their limited facilities, Clubrooms markets itself as upmarket, luxurious and relaxing.
Clubrooms Gatwick South offers pre-booked entry for £38 per person which is certainly steep — that amount could get you a nice meal anywhere in the airport terminal. The price rises to £50 per person on the door — you would be expecting an excellent lounge offering at this price as it could be more than you paid for your actual flight.
The lounge does accept Priority Pass member bookings, but for a fee. This is both a blessing and a curse. It sets a dangerous precedent of lounges charging members to access a lounge they expect to be able to access for free as part of their lounge membership they may have already paid for. At the same time it offers access for just £15 per person if you have a Priority Pass Membership — less than half the price they charge the general public to enter.
I booked a £15 entry with my Priority Pass online a week or so in advance — you can enter the lounge up to three hours before your flights scheduled departure time (not boarding time), regardless of the airline.
The lounge is easy to find at Gatwick South as it is directly below the British Airways lounge, and adjacent to the No1 Lounge. It is open from 5:30 a.m until 9:00 p.m. seven days a week.
If you try to enter the No1 Lounge with a Priority Pass membership but without a prepaid booking you can expect to be turned away. Even if you did gain access, though, in my experience it’s a very average lounge — packed to the brim, noisy, chaotic and with poor food and drink offerings.
No1 and Clubrooms share the same entrance.
There was a slight queue, which was filled mostly people being turned away from the No1 Lounge with a Priority Pass but without a booking. When I advised staff I had a Clubrooms prepaid booking I was quickly ushered into the left where the Clubrooms section is.
The lounge itself is three separate rooms of varying sizes, each with room for a dozen or so guests. The decor is dark, moody, sophisticated and peaceful.
There are various sized seating areas for groups from two up to eight people.
There were only a handful of other guests when I arrived and I was welcomed to sit wherever I liked. The front two rooms have runway views, which the third room behind them does not.
This was a world away from the usual chaos of the No1 Lounge next door at around 2:00 p.m. on a Sunday. A few small groups of people came and left — all of them were quiet, respectful and civilised. There were no children running around screaming, no-one face-timing without headphones, no rowdy stag parties sinking as many pints as possible. Children under 12 are not permitted in this lounge.
It was the exact environment you would hope an airline lounge would be.
There were various magazine available as I entered.
The bathrooms were clean, quiet and tastefully decorated.
Food and beverage
The main reason I wanted to try this lounge (other than the expected peaceful environment) was the food and beverage on offer. At a normal Priority Pass lounge (or even a British Airways Club lounge) you would expect buffet items of low cost items like bread, cous cous, salad, basic cheese, soup and maybe a hot dish of vegetarian or mystery meat curry with rice. Maybe an overcooked pasta drowning in creamy cheese sauce.
Some lounges have a very basic menu where you can have one made to order item. This might be a small bacon bap for example. Clubrooms, on the other hand, promises “the ultimate jet set departure with its hosted table service, hot seasonal dishes freshly prepared in the kitchen, and wide range of wines, beers and spirits. It’s a tranquil retreat with a personal service to match”.
When I arrived my personal waiter introduced himself, led me to my seat, provided me with a combined food and drinks menu and explained the set-up. There was a couple of small sections dotted around the lounge which I could help myself to.
Otherwise my waiter would serve me anything from the menu I wanted.
He explained that everything was included with the exception of Champagne, which was priced by the glass — the prices were in line with what you would pay at a bar in the terminal.
I started by ordering the mezze salad and a glass of rose Champagne (for research purposes of course!). The champagne was brought promptly, with the salad arriving soon after.
The salad was a good choice before my seven-plus hour British Airways flight to New York — light, fresh and tasty, though nothing I couldn’t make at home for an easy mid-week dinner.
When I finished my glass of Champagne the waiter immediately topped it up again — it happened so quickly I didn’t even stop to think of the cost as I had only planned to buy one glass as a treat. The glass he poured finished off the bottle — he winked at me and said I’d “have to finish it off!”. When I left the lounge I asked for the bill and he charged me only one glass so the second must have just been his generosity.
I wasn’t overly hungry after the salad but then ordered the cheese plate both to see what it looked like and to nibble on. It was great.
The staff kept topping up glasses frequently with no questions asked. I had read reports online that some guests felt that staff in this lounge “cut them off” an hour before their flight departed by just disappearing and then if asked for more drinks would be told “isn’t your flight boarding?”. I saw none of this while I was there. And, my waiter asked if I wanted any more drinks just before I was planning to head to my gate less than an hour before my flight departed.
This is an excellent lounge. It’s beautifully furnished, very peaceful and relaxing and I suffered none of the issues I regularly see with other Priority Pass lounges. It is in a completely different league to the No1 Lounge next door.
The staff were incredibly attentive, the food and drinks were brilliant and I felt completely relaxed boarding my flight afterwards, which is the main purpose of the lounge, is it not?
From my experience here, I would say it’s definitely worth the surcharge, and if you will have more than an hour to kill at Gatwick and have a Priority Pass membership I would definitely recommend paying the pre-booked surcharge for this experience. Clubrooms also operate at Gatwick North, Birmingham (BHX) and Luton (LTN) airports and can all be booked online here.
Featured image by the author.