There is a certain charm about historic buildings; the architecture, the history, and the allure of what we might discover behind those grand Georgian doors.
A classical Georgian building in Clerkenwell Green, the Old Sessions House is a beautiful 18th century Grade II listed landmark, once the biggest and busiest courthouse in England. On a typical shoot day, it would have been an ideal backdrop for one of my dance photography shots, but my priorities that day were focused on what awaited us inside.
I circled the building in search of the entrance before stopping in front of a bright red door, an inconspicuously displayed menu suggested that I was at the right place.
A couple that appeared to have frequented the venue before seemed to have knowledge of a hidden doorbell to request entry, behind which we followed suite into the dimly lit reception area, a receptionist sat ready and waiting behind the desk to greet us. We were advised to head up to the fourth floor, accessible by lift or on foot, up a rectangular spiralling staircase – worth climbing for some dramatic, insta-worthy shots.
Getting our daily steps in as we powered through four flights of stairs, we eventually arrived at Sessions Arts Club, an urban sanctuary that now occupies the old judges’ dining room. The space itself is impressive, and a lot of its original structure has been retained, the faded paint and peeling plaster walls adding to its aesthetic raw character. Natural light flooded in through the arched windows, the candles added a touch of romance to the already beautiful Victorian room.
Modern artwork lined the walls between the columns, our eyes particularly drawn towards the sculptural piece by Gabriele Beveridge; two peculiar pairs of silver mannequin legs that dangled above the dining room.
The cocktail menu is succinct with some intriguing twists on the much-loved classics; we began with bubbly glasses of Rhubarb Bellinis before I moved on to the bolder Sage Old Fashioned.
The kitchen is headed by acclaimed chef Florence Knight whose menu offers modern European cuisine based on seasonal local produce. The menu had a well-balanced selection of small and larger sharing plates. The crab croquette specifically came as a single serving, and despite my initial reservations (£5 for one croquette?), the execution thankfully just about justified the price, enticing enough to consider ordering it again on my next visit, if it was still on the menu. We shared several small dishes which included the purple sprouting broccoli, the smoked haddock with egg & dill, and the smoked eel which I was especially fond of, sandwiched between thin layers of potatoes marinated in smoked rapeseed oil and deep-fried to a crisp texture. On the side was some fresh rocket, edible flowers, crème fraîche, and roe which added a pleasant sharpness and acidity; a dish that was as pleasing to the eye as it was to the tastebuds.
From the larger plates, we opted for the rabbit, minced together with cotechino and neatly wrapped inside a large cabbage leaf. Simple in presentation, but delicious nonetheless. We finished with the chocolate tart and a refreshing blood orange sorbet, served in a hollowed-out orange – it’s all about the aesthetics these days after all.
Although rather rare for me these days to have the desire to frequent a place more than once, I have a feeling that I’ll be sauntering in through those doors again very soon.
Perhaps opting for the lift next time, just to mix things up.