Robb Reader: Darius Namdar

The Club Director at Mark’s Club and group cigar sommelier of the Birley Clubs reflects on his career to date

When he decided a career in finance was not for him, his hospitality career began with a stint at The Wolseley before opening Chiltern Firehouse and becoming its Maitre d’Hotel. His work there complete – it’s now one of the London Glitterati’s haunts of choice – he opened the Beaumont Hotel before heading off to helm Mayfair townhouse establishment Mark’s Club in 2015.

The architect of that haunt’s notable ramp-up on the hip stakes, Darius has also made another notable achievement of late: winning the Havana’s International Habanosommelier Contest 2018 – often dubbed “The Cigar World Cup”.

The Bar at Mark’s Club 

What prompted you to quit a career in finance?
Quite simply, I was not happy. I was struggling to be interested in middle-office financial services… Actually, no, I could never be!

Why were you were drawn to hospitality?
I grew up in a household where there were a lot of parties. Initially I am likely to have been helping begrudgingly, but it became second nature after a while and I simply enjoy it.

Was there any risk-taking involved moving from finance into hospitality?
Of course – most obviously the livelihood change at the outset. The hours worked are unforgiving, but the industry is so much more rewarding in different ways.

Has there been any other major catalyst moment in your career path?
A close friend told me that luck is the residual effect of good planning: however, I feel like I’ve been very fortunate in the timing of new projects that came my way. Winning the World Habanos Sommelier contest certainly lit a fire under my profile in the Cigar world, but I think a dinner at Sushi Tetsu in Clerkenwell with Peter Dubens was a catalyst moment as, years later, he would become responsible for my current position at Mark’s Club.

What did you feel was needed when you arrived at Mark’s Club in 2015?
[Designer] Tino Zervudachi from MHZ [Mlinaric, Henry and Zervudachi] knew what the Club needed aesthetically, and I knew what needed improving elsewhere. There were certain decisions that we knew would be contentious but no ‘coin flip’ moments.

Do you feel that the nature of luxury – and what people perceive it to be – is changing?
Real Luxury will always be subjective, but I believe fundamentally the desire is the same. I don’t necessarily believe that today’s obsession with ‘convenience’ means luxury. It has to be about the emotional reaction one has to a service or product at its core.

What does it take to become a Master of Havana Cigars?
The higher certificate demands a lot of attention, in every aspect. The amount of information, the specific dates, the dimensions – and the Spanish names – would require a huge effort from anyone.

One of Mark’s Club’s dining areas  PAUL GRIFFITHS

What specific details or attitudes make sartorial masters – whether it’s Cifonelli or Cleverley – appealing to you?
These are masters of their craft – the attention to detail is so specific and their characters are what sets them aside from the rest. I’m so fond of Lorenzo (Cifonelli), Massimo (Cifonelli), George (Glasgow) Snr and Jnr and consider them all friends.

You’re currently reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari – what have you taken away from it so far?
How unbelievably lucky we are to be here – and perhaps how insignificant our time on this planet is also!

Photos by Paul Griffiths Photography

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