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Members Elite

05.10.22

Forget the faceless clubs of yesteryear, the London private members’ club scene is the best place to see and be seen. Natalie Flaum showcases the most exclusive hotspots, old and new, from Annabel’s to AllBright where the capital’s elite eat, drink and talk business

Private members’ clubs have come a long way, evolving from the etiquette of a traditional gentleman’s establishment into eclectic playgrounds that court creatives, entrepreneurs and London’s high society.

100 years ago, the term members’ club had a whole different meaning than it does today. Pall Mall and St James’s Street were the beating heart of gentleman’s clubland, with White’s known as the first and oldest members’ club in the city, opening its doors in 1693. These institutions were ultra-exclusive, offering high society Alpha males an escape from the pressures of work and family, with potential members judged on their eligibility by class and gender. Unsurprisingly, women were categorically prohibited from joining.

Thankfully, most of these establishments have moved on from their archaic pasts with serious competition from anew wave of societies erupting in London, redefining what it means to be part of an exclusive network. Far more inclusive than their older counterparts, beautifully designed, serving exquisite food and drinks, where entrepreneurs and business leaders unite, these latest offerings blur the lines between a working space, previously not permitted in gentlemen’s clubs of old, and a social hangout. Younger social members today, want to be able to network, drink cocktails and tap away on their keyboards, encouraged and welcomed by the new age of clubland.

5 OLDIES

Annabel’s, on Berkeley Square, is legendary on the London club scene, globally known and founded on superb service, exclusive ambience, first-class cuisine and unparalleled entertainment. Reopening after a whopping £65m spending splurge that saw the establishment move to a Grade I listed Georgian townhouse, two doors down from where it all began in 1963, Annabel’s is top of its game. With interiors by international acclaimed designer Martin Brudnikzi, spread across four floors, it’s a playground for the rich and famous with Lalique gold swan taps, to a floating unicorn hanging from the chandelier in the lobby. The club has an impressive facilities offering with bars, private dining rooms, a garden terrace, cigar salon and even an in-house dog walker. Boasting six restaurants some of which are located under a retracting glass roof, the latest is ‘The Japanese,’ an elegant, contemporary Asian dining space and exceptional culinary experience on the first floor.

www.annabels.co.uk

The Groucho Club in Soho remains a bastion and refuge for arts, literature and media folk in the bohemian heart of London’s West End. Launched in the 1980s, it was created by a group of women publishers as an antidote to its stuffy predecessors, taking its name from Groucho Marx, who famously exclaimed that he wouldn’t be a member of any club that would accept him as a member. Recently bought by hospitality business Artfarm in a deal reported to be worth £40m, it’s the third time the Dean Street Club has changed hands since it was founded in 1985. With numerous bars, two restaurants, private event rooms and 20 bedrooms, The Groucho has long been popular with musicians, writers, media figures and artists, with Damien Hirst famously putting his £20,000 Turner Prize winnings behind the bar in1992. The club is also noted for its collection of works of art,by artists including Francis Bacon, Tracey Emin and GavinTurk. Artfarm, a six-year-old business run by the founders of art gallery Hauser & Wirth, said it planned to respect the history and traditions of the club while welcoming new members. Boss Ewan Venters headed luxury department store Fortnum & Mason for eight years and is himself a member.

www.thegrouchoclub.com

Mark’s Club opened in 1972, situated in a beautiful Mayfair townhouse, is indeed a home from home for members. Timelessly traditional décor, perfect comfort and an attentive service create a peaceful retreat far removed from the bustle of city life. Members can dine on British and French favourites, take tea or drinks around an open fire in the drawing room, enjoy a cigar on the covered terrace or entertain in one of the Club’s private dining rooms. Interiors by Paris based interior designer, Tino Zervudachi, create a classic setting for both business and pleasure. Mark’s Club is a haven fiercely cherished by its members.

www.marksclub.co.uk

Harry’s Bar is one of the most elegant and sophisticated private members’ clubs in London. The glamorous, Italian restaurant is famed worldwide for both the beauty of its décor and the quality of its food. Inspired by the original Harry’s Bar in Venice, the Club is adorned with Italian splendour. Venetian chandeliers, Fortuny fabrics, Murano glassware and a polished wooden floor to create an atmosphere of relaxed luxury, reinforced by the knowledgeable and attentive service. The predominantly northern Italian menu has delighted members for 40 years. Its impeccably sourced ingredients from Alba truffles to beautifully cured Prosciuttodi Parma, are matched only by the care and skill given to their preparation. Used by member’s for both socialising and business, Harry’s Bar has a lightness of touch that belies the care and devotion of its staff.

www.harrys-bar.co.uk

 

The Arts Club is set in a five-storey 18th-centurytownhouse on Dover Street, the club was originally founded in 1863, by creatives including Charles Dickens and past members have included the sculptor Rodin and the painter Whistler. Today, it boasts a stylish Japanese restaurant, oyster bar, brasseries, nightclub garden and terraces, as well as an exceptional programme of panel discussions, exhibitions and live music. There’s also a members gym with adjoining Lanserhof medical facility offering a range of cosmetic and healthcare treatments. The club is, naturally also home to an unrivalled and exceptional collection of rotating art and installations. With 8 bedrooms that come with 24-hour butler service, including a gargantuan penthouse suite, anyone with a deep appreciation for the arts would never want to leave.

www.thartsclub.co.uk

5 NEWBIES

AllBright, Mayfair is London’s first vanguard all-female member’s club, driven by a mission to empower a thriving global sisterhood. Opened in March 2018, the club is named after the former USA Secretary of State, Madeleine Allbright, who famously said “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” A space to host brilliant like-minded women, AllBright is located in a beautiful five-storey townhouse, in the heart of Mayfair, founded by Debbie Wosskow OBE, founder of Love Home Swap, and Anna Jones, ex CEO of Hearst Magazines. Members also have access to a business-focused digital platform aimed at connecting female entrepreneurs and helping women progress their careers as well as the AllBright Academy, a series of digital professional development programmes covering leadership, diversity and inclusion financing and more. The club boasts an all-day restaurant showcasing Michelin star experience, two rooftop terraces overlooking the city, a stylish hair salon and one of London’s most captivating collections of female art. It’s the place where ‘Sisterhood works,’ as declared by the neon sign at the club’s reception, but where men are very welcome as guests too.

www.allbrightcollective.com

Home House in Marylebone is a feast of 18th century grandeur, its entrance at Portman Square, comprises of three Georgian properties, including the new House 21, reportedly inspired by the ‘notorious Countess of Home’s wildly lavish parties.’ The bar has a backdrop of grandfather clocks where cocktails are exemplary. Society portraits fill the ladies powder room and one mantelpiece is a showcase of ostrich eggs. With its glass-domed top and blue fresco adorned walls, the entrance hall is possibly one of London’s finest. The interiors, designed by Russell Sage, are a seamless blend of Georgian heritage with 21st century style. The club features two relaxed spaces, two bars, a dancefloor, a private dining room, a collection of opulent bedrooms with suites named after Marquis de la Luzerne and Lady Charlotte, an impressive gym and spa, plus a late-night underground bar, four connecting drawing rooms and beautifully landscaped gardens. Non-members can experience Home House by booking an overnight stay.

www.homehouse.co.uk

Nikita, Mayfair is one of the coolest new openings in the capital. The décor was designed by Victoria Vogel, and features heavy patterned fabrics, comfortable booths upholstered in velvet, and designer furniture and art by Harif Guzman. During the day, events and wine tastings take place, before the lamp-lit tables provide the perfect backdrop to intimate dinners. Members can enjoy curated playlists and DJ sets in the main lounge, while enjoying food from SL favourite Comptoir Robuchon – think caviar with champagne, individual patisserie treats and a selection of classic French dishes. Sister restaurant Mister Nice is set to open this spring – members will be able to walk through a secret passageway into the venue for priority access to tables.

www.nikita-london.com

Pavilion Club is a visually spectacular classical building with a grand balustrade punctuated by Corinthian columns, located in the beating heart of Knightsbridge, next door to the iconic Mandarin Oriental Hotel, opposite Harvey Nichols. Having once served as the Danish Club from the 1920s-1990s,Pavilion acquired the site in 1996, as serviced offices since its renovation in May 2021. With interiors by Russell and Sage, arguably, its pièce de resistance is the third-floor terrace, offering panoramic views of Hyde Park. The restaurant is headed by UK chef Tom Kerridge of the Michelin-starred Hand & Flowers in Marlow, where you can expect seasonal British produce like dressed Cornish crab and a smoked king oyster mushroom masala. Set over six floors, Pavilion Club has multiple office spaces, work booths, two bars, a library, and a penthouse suite; an impressive space to work, dine and enjoy cocktails on the terrace.

www.pavilion.club

67 Pall Mall was founded in 2015, by former hedge fund manager and wine collector Grant Ashton who launched this haven for like-minded wine lovers. After 30 years in the City, he had amassed a hefty collection of vintages, so he started a place where they could be enjoyed with minimal mark-up and the concept was born. So successful, that sister clubs have opened in Singapore and Verbier, and known as one of the most iconic ski destinations in the world, Verbier now has its first fine wine bar, complete with over 3,000 wines, including a long list from Swiss suppliers, taking vino-centric expertise to the Alps above the vineyards of the Valais wine region. With the aim of offering a membership like no other, members can expect an ever-changing menu which compliments the extensive wine offering. 67 Pall Mall will be opening in Beaune in summer 2023.

www.pallmall.com

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