AS THE CAPITAL OF AN EMPIRE THAT ALWAYS CONDEMNED THE VULGAR, LONDON HAS A HISTORY OF LUXURY EXCLUSION - DATING BACK TO VICTORIAN TIMES THE OLD GENTLEMEN’S CLUBS WERE THE EPITOME OF THAT PRESTIGE.
The heart of clubland was historically located in St. James’s and alleys of Mayfair, whileRegent Street marked the eastern border. Beyond that in Soho, people were considered bohemian, theatrical, unmoneyed and wild.
As the post-war environment gradually loosened society’s laces, the younger rich needed somewhere to go after spending the day at their gentlemen’s clubs, somewhere with more licence but equal prestige: so Annabel’s appeared in Mayfair, with others following suit.
In the 1980s, what a “club” comprised, in the original sense, would suddenly start to change.
A new raft of members’ clubs appeared in Soho, full of artists, musicians, women, and all those who’ve been considered decadents until that moment – now they crowded plush bars as well, with waiting lists, and membership categories.
The first one was the Groucho, which still describes itself as “an antidote to the stuffy gentlemen’s clubs… a bastion and refuge for arts, literature and media folk”.
Blacks was designed as an antidote to White’s, and its strict rules – and encourages members to bring their dogs.
Soho House, the one that went global, only wants new blood from “the creative industries”, and discourages “corporate attire”.
Annabel’s, increasingly trapped between worlds, has chosen this winter to renew itself. It’s about to move one door down Berkeley Square, to a tall Georgian townhouse that’s variously been an office and a bank.
The Groucho Club – Soho
Founded in the Eighties as an alternative to stuffy gentleman’s clubs, the Groucho Club hums to a more bohemian tune. Hosting mavericks and innovators in the world-renowned Soho space, the Groucho opens its doors to individuals who work in the arts and media.
Blacks – Soho
Blacks Club has stayed true to its 18th-century supper-club roots, with its fine food and extensive drinks list (signature cocktails are inspired by the club’s Hogarth prints). Housed in the heart of Soho, the dog-friendly club is perfect for arts and media eccentrics who enjoy witty, stimulating conversation.
Annabel’s – Mayfair
This legendary club is the embodiment of elegance and style, and has remained terrifyingly trendy since it’s conception in 1963. For decades, Annabel’s has continued to be the place to be seen, and a firm favourite among English high society – everyone who’s anyone has partied here, from Kate Moss to Elizabeth Taylor to Princess Diana.
Soho House – Soho
An internationally renowned name, the Soho House group needs little introduction. The original House, located at 40 Greek Street, was founded in 1995 as a sanctuary for those working in the creative fields. Fast-forward 20 years, and you’ll find 13 additional offshoots located all over the world. From central London hot spots – Little House (pictured), Shoreditch House and Electric House – to countryside getaways – Babington House and Soho Farmhouse – an ‘every house’ membership grants you access to the most exclusive and sought after locations.