Behind many an unmarked door in London lie the secret havens of the capital’s most exclusive crowd. Home to celebrities, royalty and millionaires alike, there are an estimated 50+ private members’ clubs in London, so the question is – which is the club for you? Luckily, The Handbook has already done the legwork; so whether you’re looking for glamour in Mayfair or culture in Chelsea, here’s our handy list of 15 of the best private members’ clubs that London has to offer.
What: Sophistication and Fine-Dining in the heart of Soho
Why: Soho’s Quo Vadis is housed in a former brothel which was once the home Karl Marx (though not at the same time, we might add). Above the club’s Dean Street restaurant are the club’s two private dining rooms, as well as the homely ‘snug’ room for relaxing away from the bustle of Soho. The restaurant serves seasonal dishes and has been rated one of the best in London for its inventive British menu, particularly the delicacy most will likely divide opinion: a smoked eel sandwich that The Guardian described as a ‘modern English masterpiece’. Quo Vadis underwent refurbishment in 2016 and the new interior is a gorgeously lit masterpiece with lush carpets and moodily painted walls giving an old-school luxury feel.
Where: 26-29 Dean St, London, W1D 3LL
What: Chelsea's Bohemian Bolthole
Why: Chelsea Arts Club is undeniably an institution of the members’ club scene. Established in 1891, the club boasts over a century of artistic credential and in 2017 it’s bohemian as ever. Its creative crowd of members include painters, sculptors, filmmakers, poets and actors – like the rebellious younger sister to the stuffy St James’ Clubs. Indeed, the club was banned from holding it’s annual ball in the Albert Hall in the 1950s due to its notorious reputation for ‘rowdiness, nudity and public homosexuality’. Still legendary for its parties, the Chelsea Arts Club also hosts a more reputable series of exclusive exhibitions, talks, screenings and performances from its artistic members.
Where: 143 Old Church Street, Chelsea, SW3 6EB
What: The No.1 destination for London's Wine-Lovers
Why: The perfect home for the oenophiles out there, 67 Pall Mall revels in its shamelessly epicurean origins and smart location, squeezed between St James’s Palace and the Oxford and Cambridge Club. The passion is, of course, fine wine, which is the lifeblood of 67 Pall Mall. But far from extravagance, the premise of the club was in fact thrift – a backlash against the extortionate wine-markup of London’s restaurants and bars. Members can store up to 36 bottles of their own wine in the club to be enjoyed at will, or can dip into the 5,000 bottles on the club list – the most valuable being safely stowed deep in the club’s vault. So popular is the club that it was forced to close its membership list before even opening its doors, so better sign up up asap – you could be in for a wait.
Where: 67 Pall Mall, St. James's, SW1Y 5ES
What: The Soho Members Club with a difference
Why: Seemingly a million miles from the genteel St James’ clubs, The House of St Barnabas has its feet firmly in the 21st century. Going out of its way to redefine the members’ club image, The House of St Barnabas has combined the pleasures of club leisure with a commitment to social responsibility. A fully not-for-profit organisation, the club gives back to the community with programmes like the Employment Academy offering work experience to the homeless, and the donation of half of its events tickets to those who wouldn’t be able to afford it themselves. But with a myriad of spaces as well as features such as a chapel, lounge and The Library Bar, members get as much as they give – the al fresco dining in the courtyard was a clear favourite, and felt like a secret escape in the middle of Soho.
Where: 1 Greek Street, Soho Square, Soho, London, W1D 4NQ
What: Think Members Club - but way cooler
Why: Ten years after its launch as London’s edgiest new club Shoreditch House has retained its cool credentials but gained a little maturity, and a lot of members. Housed in (where else?) a converted East London warehouse, Shoreditch House offers members use of a bowling alley, Cowshed Spa and an impressive gym. But where Shoreditch House reaches dizzying heights are the is the top-floor restaurant and the rooftop pool with iconic views across London. The recently added ‘Shoreditch Rooms’ means you can now live amongst the hipsters with an overnight stay at one of the sister clubs; members have the option to make the most of facilities of Shoreditch Houses in Istanbul, Toronto, New York, Berlin and Barcelona.
Where: Ebor Street, London, E1 6AW
What: Relaxing Dog-Friendly spot on Dean Street
Why: Once home to Charles Fortnum (of Fortnum and Mason fame), this Soho venue now plays host to Black’s Club, an institution that’s seen a recent revival. First formed in 1764 and rejuvenated as a famously ‘louche’ bohemian drinking den in the 1990s. Today it has a more wholesome reputation, the building restored to its original Georgian glory and its supper club roots. Easily mistaken for an unassuming townhouse from outside, inside is cosy and welcoming with a home-from-home feel. All this is made all the more comfortable by the club’s key perk: it’s dog-friendly! So your four-legged friend can laze in front of the club’s open fire while you enjoy all the spoils of the supper club menu.
Where: 67 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 4QH
What: A little slice of paradise in South Ken
Why: For all our emphasis on luxury and maybe a little excess, The South Kensington Club is the destination to rest and restore yourself. That’s not to say, however, that The South Kensington Club doesn’t offer splendour – quite the opposite – but the club’s pleasures are health-oriented, seeking wellness and relaxation. Home to yoga and boxing classes, Russian saunas, a plunge pool and aquatic therapy, the club is essentially a masterclass in the art of the detox. If the skylit gym has you feeling a little weary, don’t panic – you can put your feet up with a host of their holistic treatments, juice bar and beauty suite. If you’re ready to start the party again, however, there’s no need to look elsewhere; The South Kensington Club also boasts a cocktail bar and terrace, hidden in a jungle of Mediterranean trees – what’s not to love?
Where: 38-42 Harrington Road, Kensington, SW7 3ND
What: Club of choice for glamour and glitz
Why: In case you hadn’t heard, Mayfair’s Jermyn Street is home to Tramp, a private members nightclub with a truly star-studded history of members and attendees. With a-listers like Joan Collins and Liza Minnelli hosting their wedding receptions at Tramp it’s remained popular with the stars to this day, with the likes of Drake, Rihanna and the Beckhams seen coming and going. The Zodiac Room Restaurant at Tramp offers not only a great menu but an accompaniment of live music and cabaret, ensuring the entertainment is night-long. This the sure option for celebrity spotting and a big night out, but be warned, the membership waiting list is considerable.
Where: 40 Jermyn Street, London SW1Y 6DN
What: Dining and Dancing in Mayfair's exclusive Berkeley Square
Why: Morton’s location is as impressive as its members list, as a grade II listed building dominating the North side of Mayfair’s Berkeley Square. Despite the imposing setting the club has a distinctly relaxed atmosphere. With a bar, basement nightclub and private dining room the first floor restaurant has gorgeous high ceilings and art adorned walls. Outside a balcony for al fresco dining during the summer months. Plus, if you don’t fancy venturing outside as we head toward winter, the 2&8 club means you can extend your evening into the early hours, dancing the night away in a cool art deco space decorated with the work of photographer Norman Parkinson.
Where: 28 Berkeley Square, London, W1J 6EN
What: The Secret Hang-out of London's Creatives
Why: A hotspot for creatives and media-types alike, The Hospital Club in Covent Garden offers a great location for both leisure and the occasional networking opportunity. Spread across seven chic storeys of modern decor, the club features a cinema and screening room, restaurant, private dining room and multiple cocktail bars, much to our delight. Perfect for creatives the club has its own TV and recording studios, an art gallery and a performance space. The Hospital has recently announced that their sister club in Los Angeles will launch in 2018. Meantime, enjoy their decadent ‘bottomless brunch’, with resident DJs every Saturday.
Where: 24 Endell Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9HQ
What: Theatre-land Club with rooftop West-End views
Why: Somehow tucked discreetly away behind a modest Shaftesbury Avenue address, one hundred steps take you up to the aptly named Century Club, spread across four floors of members’ areas. With its vogueish decor, airy spaces big enough to make you feel miles from the scrum of Soho, The Century Club is a real sanctuary. Playing host to talks and live music they even have their own grooming room so you can mix and mingle while looking your best. The Century Club’s best kept secret is without doubt their rooftop terrace – the largest in Soho, where you can gaze across the lights of the West End, a G&T sundowner in hand.
Where: 61-63 Shaftesbury Avenue, Westminster, W1D 6LQ
What: Luxury establishment home to legendary club, Loulou's
Why: 5 Hertford Street is housed in an 18th century Mayfair townhouse. Hidden behind an anonymous looking door lies a tardis-like club with multiple restaurants and cocktail bars, a cigar room, a cinema, and Loulou’s – 5 Hertford Street’s prestigious nightclub. Having opened in 2012, Loulou’s has already achieved iconic status amongst London’s young elite, frequented by royalty of both the celebrity and blue-blood variety. Despite this, 5 Hertford Street remains a club where your grandparents feel as comfortable spending their Sunday as you did spending the early hours of Saturday morning. The open fires, soft lighting and armchairs made to sink into make it a dream spot for lazing off your hangover, treating a date, or impressing your parents with your excellent lifestyle choices.
Where: 2-5 Hertford Street, Mayfair, W1J 7RB
What: Icon of the members club scene
Why: This grand dame of the London club scene has been at the heart of high-society goings-on since 1963. Founded by Mark Birley as somewhere to head after a night’s gambling, Annabel’s has played host to some of the biggest names in modern history, from Nixon to Sinatra, Onassis to Tina Turner. It also claims to be the only nightclub that The Queen’s visited. Located on Berkeley Square the intimate and exclusive club is the perfect location to enjoy a slap-up dinner and a night of dancing. Like many ladies of a certain age Annabel’s has recently undergone a rather extensive facelift and looks more fabulous than ever.
Where: 44 Berkeley Square, Mayfair, W1J 5QB
What: Soho hot-spot for the media's biggest names
Why: If you haven’t got a copy of OK magazine to hand then don’t worry, simply head to The Groucho Club and see anyone who’s anyone in the flesh instead. The discrete Soho club is a mecca for London’s media types with no visit complete without meeting at least a handful of your heroes from stage and screen and at least one popstar. Launched in the 80s the club takes it’s name from Groucho Marx, who famously exclaimed that he wouldn’t be a member of any club that would accept him as a member.
Where: The Groucho Club, 45 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 4QB
What: The classic restaurant branches out into new exclusive club
Why: Part of the ever-expanding Ivy empire, The Ivy Club is a newcomer but one worthy to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the very best of London’s nightspots. Accessed via a discrete entrance round the corner from the eponymous restaurant, a short lift-ride and you’re in the exclusive confines of the three storey club. The wood panelled drawing room features a pianist and bar while upstairs the minimalist loft feels like a spaceship or laboratory. The club is home to a membership made up of mainly creative types drawn from the media.
Where: 9 West Street, WC2H 9NE
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