Private members’ clubs have come a long way since the gentlemen’s gaffs of old, evolving into eclectic playgrounds that court creatives, entrepreneurs and London’s high society. From Annabel’s to the AllBright, Mayfair has long been home to some of the capital’s most illustrious members’ clubs, each of which offers far more than your average hotel, bar or restaurant – whether you’re looking for glamour, philanthropy, truffles at 3am or a daily dog walker. It’s up to you, however, to find a proposer and seconder to get you in…
The AllBright Mayfair
‘Sisterhood works’, declares neon signage at reception, setting the tone in this women-only members’ club. Spanning 12,500 sq. ft. across five floors, it houses everything you could possibly want from your central London home-from-home: dine in the restaurant and bar, host an event in the private dining rooms, network on the roof terrace and stay looking your professional best with the help of the second floor hair salon. 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. With interiors by designer Suzy Hoodless, this Mayfair outpost of AllBright is chic and welcoming (and men are very welcome as guests).
Founders: Debbie Wosskow OBE (Founder of LoveHomeSwap) and Anna Jones (former CEO of Hearst).
Why: For being part of a trailblazing women-only club, with like-minded, dynamic women
Price: Club membership £1,500/year (£300 registration fee); digital membership starts at £8.33/month. Members must be over 21.
Best for: Working women who spend their time wisely
Alumni: Naomie Harris, Ruth Wilson, Martha Lane Fox, Sarah Brown, Jameela Jamil, Olivia Wilde
Dress code: None specified – you’re as welcome in your gym gear as workwear
Fun fact: The club is named after the former USA Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, who famously said, “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”.
24-26 Maddox Street, W1S, allbrightcollective.com
The Arts Club
With 16 bedrooms that come with 24-hour butler service, including a gargantuan penthouse suite, you really could live at The Arts Club. Set in a five storey, 18th-century townhouse 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, brasserie, nightclub, garden and terraces, as well as an exceptional programme of panel discussions, exhibitions and live music (Mark Ronson was previously music director of the club). There’s also a members gym with adjoining Lanserhof medical facility offering a range of cosmetic and healthcare treatments while the club is, naturally, also home to an unrivalled and exceptional collection of rotating art and installations.
Owners: Property developer Gary Landesberg, fashion wholesaler Jai Waney and Arjun Waney, who co-owns Roka and Zuma restaurants
Why: Anybody who wishes to be a member must show an appreciation of the arts, including film, music, fashion, theatre and photography
Price: £2,000 joining fee, £2,500 per annum, with young person and joint memberships also available. Membership to the Lanserhof centre costs from an additional £334/month.
Best for: Creative types
Alumni: Auguste Rodin, Gwyneth Paltrow and Grayson Perry
Dress: Stylish – jeans and trainers allowed at the discretion of management
Fun fact: The Arts Club is international: in 2020 it opened a Dubai outpost with a West Hollywood venue set to follow
40 Dover Street, W1S, theartsclub.co.uk
Annabel’s, founded in 1963, has built a global reputation as the most elegant and exclusive club in the world. Over the club’s 50-year history, it has welcomed Hollywood royalty, ranging from Leonardo DiCaprio to Elizabeth Taylor, as well as actual royalty – it is reportedly the only nightclub that the Queen has ever visited. In 2016, the infamous club moved two doors down, from 44 to 46 Berkeley Square, and reopened as a maximalist adult playground, under the leadership of society restaurateur Richard Caring, who bought the club from the late Mark Birley in 2007, also inheriting George, Harry’s Bar and Mark’s Club (more on them below).
Set in an 18th-century Grade I-listed Georgian townhouse on Berkeley Square, the multistorey members-only mecca was designed by Martin Brudnizki Design Studios, who was inspired by quintessential British eccentricities. Opulent highlights include exuberant silk wallpaper, sculptural lamps and pink onyx sink basins in the women’s bathroom, cited by many as the prettiest and most lavish in London.
Owner: The Birley Clubs
Why: It’s the place to see and be seen, with glamour on tap
Price: £3,250/year plus £1,250 joining fee, under-35 and joint memberships also available
Alumni: The Prince of Wales, Frank Sinatra, Richard Nixon
Dress Code: “Fabulous party dressing” is encouraged
Fun Fact: The club has an in-house dog walker
46 Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London W1J 5AT, annabels.co.uk
The Fitzdares Club
More than 2,500 metres of cable has been hidden in the walls of The Fitzdares Club, the new members’ club from upmarket bookmakers Fitzdares, meaning that you can watch all manner of sport live, via the latest in audiovisual technology, while enjoying a menu of bar classics with a twist (highlights include Cotswolds Gold chicken and truffle dippers, Clarence Court Scotch egg and treacle cured salmon crumpets).
The sports-themed club is the brainchild of Balthazar Fabricius, who founded Fitzdares bookmakers in 2006 with backing from Zac and Ben Goldsmith. Located on Davies Street, the Fitzdares Club screens live sport seven days a week and hosts regular talks by sports stars and television pundits. Design maven Rosanna Bossom, the creative mind behind 5 Hertford Street (more on that below), provides the interiors, while Dom Jacobs, former bar director at Sketch, curates the wine list.
Owner: Balthazar Fabricius (whose father served as Lord March’s racecourse manager)
Why: Possibly the only place in London where you can enjoy a home-made Beef Wellington with a vintage claret while watching England play rugby
Price: £600 per annum
Dress Code: Smart casual dress, unless stated otherwise for a private event. Slippers and gowns are encouraged.
Fun Fact: Balthazar Fabricius is named after the protagonist in J.P. Donleavy’s novel The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B
50 Davies Street, W1K 5JE, fitzdares.com/club
University Women’s Club
Founded in 1883 by Gertrude Jackson of Girton College, Cambridge, this club provides a quiet corner for scholarly women. The atmosphere is much like that of an old school, with worn-out sofas, chipped paintings and mismatched cushions. Thursday evenings offer up club suppers and the libraries, grand rooms, 22 bedrooms, garden and even a secret door make this an exciting place to explore. Poetry, music and embroidery, as well as career advice, a book club and film nights, add to a diverse calendar of events.
Owner: The members
Why: To partake in intellectual conversation
Number of members: 834
Price: Yearly membership is £481 for overseas members, £646 for those living in the country and £772 for those living iwthin 50 miles of Hyde Park Corner. Junior, student and senior membership is also available.
Best for: Graduates, professionals and businesswomen of all ages
Alumni: Dorothy L Sayers and Xanthe Clay
Dress code: Smart casual
Fun fact: Rooms at the club were used for filming Downton Abbey
2 Audley Square, W1K, universitywomensclub.com
The Savile Club
Harking back to the era of the traditional club, at the Savile Club you’ll find leather banquette seating, a snooker room and a dark wood-panelled bar. Founded in 1868, the men-only club moved home in 1927 to an old Victorian house, which retains many of its original features thanks to a hefty renovation bill footed by the club. There are private ballrooms as well as bedrooms and food is provided by Michelin-starred chef, Michael James. Friendly conversation is…
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