London has become a members’ club haven, behind unmarked doors and hidden streets, you’ll read about A-list celebrities stumbling out one evening.
But each venue is open to join, some more exclusive than others, and over and above the club element, they are a place to do business, exchange ideas, blending the idea of networking with the aesthetic of the ‘scene’. Allbright is an example in itself of a club, exclusively founded to provide a home for women in business to work, relax, learn and network.
From the more exclusive to the traditional, whether you want to rub shoulders with investors and celebrities, or discuss your latest start up or indy films, we have compiled our list of 10 best Members’ Clubs in London.
This iconic brand has just reopened Kettner’s Townhouse restaurant after acquiring the site in 2016, and given it a swanky, two-year long makeover akin to their sister sites across the globe.
Originally opened 150 years ago by Auguste Kettner, rumoured to be one of Napoleon III’s most favourable chefs, it quickly developed into a hub for society’s rich and famous. Its modern transformation will see the building returned to its former glory, with a contemporary twist. Featuring 33 bedrooms coolly decorated with intricate patterned wallpaper and plush, antique furnishings, Kettner’s mixes ‘fin de siècle’ and art deco styles. The cosy dining rooms with French cornicing and elaborate mirrors create the perfect setting for intimate conversation over dinner and a chic, horseshoe shaped bar of burnished walnut, topped with marble makes a fine centrepiece to the drinking saloon.
The Soho House Group, a stalwart in the booming industry of members clubs, has boldly taken over the whole block. Just around the corner, Soho House Greek Street is back as well, with new touches such as an extended roof terrace and updated restaurants and bars.
This continually burgeoning brand is creating an unquestionable legacy. With 18 properties now in its international portfolio, Kettner’s is Soho House’s eighth location in London, and joins its siblings in Barcelona, Berlin, Chicago, Miami, New York, Hollywood, Toronto, Istanbul and Mumbai.
Without a doubt, the most revered member’s club in all of London. Named after founder Mark Birley’s then-wife, Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart, Annabel’s is known the world over for a reputation of being exceptionally exclusive. Status is key here; you’ve got to be in the know to have a chance of getting in – once you’ve made it through the door, you have well and truly made it in life! Word has it that this is the only ‘nightclub’ that Her Majesty the Queen has ever set foot in back in 2003.
Set to reopen this spring after a head-to-toe revamp, and inflating from a handful of rooms in the building’s basement, it has now taken over four floors, with bejewelled and gilt-everything and oozing excess. The ladies loos on the top floor are a “joyful explosion of pink” with chintzy, pink onyx washbasins and embroidered silk flowers adorning the walls.
Five decades of illustrious history contribute to Annabel’s reputation for first-class dining and entertainment. Mick Jagger, Lady Gaga and Grace Jones have been know to frequent.
Membership is a delicate subject and dress code requirements are an endless list of don’ts, so black-tie is one’s safest bet in this seriously exclusive Mayfair establishment. Put your phones away as well; no calls or photographs are permitted inside. That said a new feature is that four-legged friends are now welcome, providing you manage to charm your own two-legged way past the doorman in the first place.
Soho’s definitive home of cool, Groucho typically attracts a crowd from the media and arts world. Described by the Evening Standard as a ‘home for hellraisers’, this club is well known for descending into wicked revelry in the small hours “mostly because many of its essential clientele – journalists, writers, artists – don’t have to be up in the morning.”
Expect to spot the likes of Hollywood heartthrobs and the social elite who rub shoulders with the crème of the arts world. While Quentin Tarantino is a known frequenter, so too is Sir Tim Rice.
Set up as an alternative to ‘stuffy gentleman’s clubs’ Groucho appears to be attracting a younger clientele among its usual known names. This injection of youth within a typically grown up environment means that Groucho maintains prestige in the club of members clubs for future generations. No chance of this establishment lagging behind the trend any time soon.
South Kensington Club
This more unassuming club focuses principally on wellness, and is “inspired by a spirit of adventure and a multicultural perspective”. Guests can immerse themselves in a range of state of the art facilities led by a team educated to the highest degree in relaxing therapies. As well as a fully kitted-out gym and boxing, yoga and other classes, members can unwind in the plunge pool, beauty suites, Russian saunas and access a tantalizing menu detoxifying treatments.
A far cry from the classic, stuffy clubs that dot central London, this one is decorated for an unfussy, Mediterranean feel. You join the South Ken more for indulgent relaxation rather than all out luxury.
67 Pall Mall
The world’s first private members club specifically for wine lovers. This club has the most wines available by the glass in the world (800!) and a selection of over 26,000 bottles. A serious feat by CEO and former city trader Grant Easton, who decided to house his collection in this smart and swanky club just next door to St James Palace.
Members get the privilege of sampling the world’s rarest tipples at an exclusively cut price. The idea stems from Easton’s desire to encourage other connoisseurs not to ‘downgrade’ their wine choices because of extortionate prices. What a selfless gift to the community, you might say.
5 Hertford Street
Brainchild of Robin Birley, heir to the throne of the late, great Mark Birley’s member’s club empire, is 5 Hertford Street. Set within 4 conjoined townhouses, expect to rub shoulders with socialites and social climbers, and you may even spot Leo DiCaprio and the Clooneys. Another seriously secretive contender to this list, 5 Hertford Street won’t even reveal their membership price until you get formally invited to join after applying. Expect it to be in multiples of thousands.
The décor is as extravagant as you can imagine. Wildly stunning prints adorn the walls and carpets with inspiration spanning Venetian Ottoman and Imperial Russian. What’s more, a magnificent explosion of gold resembles a halo over the bar, ironic against the decadent activity below. It would appear that every A-lister has instagrammed a selfie with the famous giraffe mascot in the bar.
Top-class tapas and sushi feature on the menus of its two restaurants, and drawing rooms and libraries are tucked away in its labyrinthine corridors, while the infamous Loulou’s bar, a favourite nightly haunt of the rich and famous, dwells downstairs.
Officially opening its doors on International Women’s Day, The AllBright is London’s first private members’ club dedicated solely to working women. Located in an elegant five-storey townhouse on Rathbone Place in Bloomsbury, the space will host a series of workshops, debates and social events with the aim of helping women to grow their professional networks and turbocharge their careers.
The AllBright was founded by Debbie Wosskow, the ex-CEO of home-sharing platform Love Home Swap, and Anna Jones, the former CEO of publisher Hearst Magazines UK. Initially, the focus of the business was on raising capital for female entrepreneurs. However, they have changed direction, feeling they have spotted a gap in the market for women-only members’ clubs. “A woman must have money and a room of her own”, is the quote they use from Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own”. Will you make this one yours?
Think croquet, cricket and wandering peacocks. With magnificent lawns bordering the Thames, the Hurlingham is one of the most venerable establishments on this list. Its classical Georgian décor remains relatively unchanged since it’s opening in 1869 retaining its quintessential Englishness.
Members can escape the city’s thronging crowds by dipping in the pool, playing lawn bowls, working up a sweat in the fitness suite or locking away with a good book in the reading salon. Apparently the young Princess Charlotte is having tennis lessons here, don’t you know?
The Devonshire Club
Located at the foot of The City’s skyscraper cluster, The Devonshire club introduces a touch of west end glamour to the tech and finance quarter of the east end. The self-proclaimed “City club with a Mayfair spirit” is unashamedly high-end, taking over a former East India Company warehouse from the 19th century, with the adjoining Georgian townhouse. The menu features sumptuous delicacies such as King salmon, flown down from Scotland that very day, as well as a seemingly infinite supply of wines champagne from France, USA and England.
Members are spoilt for choice with private meeting rooms, a superior quality gym with personal trainers and workout studios, and there’s even a blow-dry and nail bar in the treatment centre.
The bar area is designed by March & White, famed for their luxury yacht interiors; very fitting then that the club’s watering hole is a nod to the nautical theme shared with the former shipping warehouse in which it resides.
Lastly, the hippest club in our stylish list comes in the form of Black’s. Nestled in the crowded bosom of Soho’s member’s club Mecca – Dean Street – Blacks is possibly the most welcoming of the members clubs here. It focuses heavily on attracting an innovative, young crowd of creatives, and media types.
The building itself is steeped in history. Designed by an apprentice of Sir Christopher Wren it was, once upon a time, home to Charles Fortnum of Fortnum & Mason. Later it became the venue for a gentleman’s supper club, and this legacy was reignited in 1992 when Black’s was born.
Behind its aptly black front door lies a collection of elegantly appointed dining, living, reading and drinking rooms. Painted in a dark palette, it echoes the masculine energy of gentlemen’s clubs of yore. These days however, women are welcomed to join as well, and the monthly supper clubs that focus on wine, art or fashion are particularly popular among members.
(Title image of Shoreditch House, part of The Soho House group)