Robin Birley’s 5 Hertford Street, the eye-wateringly expensive club in Mayfair, has been given until March to sort out its kitchens or face serious consequences after receiving an abysmal one star rating for hygiene from the food inspectors of Westminster Council.

This comes after the departure last summer, in apparently acrimonious circumstances, of the designer of the kitchens, former executive chef Alberico Penati. Penati, who used to work for Birley’s father at Harry’s Bar and Aspinall’s, has had a chequered history: a waitress who worked under him at another establishment was awarded £124,000 by a tribunal for sexual harassment in 2006.

James Armitage, Westminster City Council Food Safety Manager, revealed:

‘Following an inspection of the kitchens at 5 Hertford Street Limited in September 2013, Environmental Health Officers from Westminster City Council sent a report to its operators. In short, it said there were a number of changes that needed to be made in the way they prepared food and handled food. The operators were told that their staff weren’t following agreed food handling techniques. Furthermore, the storage, preparation and serving of both raw meat and fish raised concerns. The preparation of both Sea Bass Carpaccio and burgers were highlighted and detailed advice was given on how changes could be made so such dishes could be served safely and Westminster City Council will always work with owners to help achieve this. Other recommendations were made regarding a ventilation system and a wash basin with the operators also told to repair, or replace, floor and ceiling tiles.’

A spokesman for the club assures Mr Steerpike that the ‘inspection took place during a period when the club was undergoing substantial refurbishment of its kitchen and food preparation areas… £1 million has been invested in these areas – a decision that was made well before this inspection took place – and our new, state-of-the-art food preparation facility will open in the near future.’ Mr S has been pursuing Signor Penati for comment, but has been unable to reach him.

Mr S has dined at 5 Hertford Street before, and he’d be surprised if anyone there has an appetite.

Tags: clubs, Food and Drink