In the world of the capital’s genteel clubland, I endeavoured to explore every sybarite’s privilege through private members access…
Perhaps the only club reputable for it’s intellectual members, the Atheneaum boasts of a neoclassical clubhouse with the Goddess Athena looking down on her worthy devotees. Once inside, members will find more than enough decadent rooms to flounce around including my personal favourite; the library – where wall to wall of never-ending books decorate the three-story chamber, housing all the great literary figures including that of Charles Dickens – a noted Athenaeum member.
The Atheneaum prides itself as a place for men and women who ‘enjoy the life of the mind.’ Notable names of history include Charles Darwin and of course the founding member, The Duke of Wellington.
The Athenaeum, 107 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5ER
The grandfather of gentlemen’s clubs, White’s is the oldest and most grandeur clubhouse in every social climber’s address book.
I haven’t visited personally as White’s still haven’t quite caught up to the 21st century; wherein all women are in fact completely barred from the premises, except a one-time visit from the queen, of course. I have been very well informed, however, that the club-house is rather like walking into a retirement home – made exciting only by the adventures told by it’s well-seasoned members.
Noted names within White’s leather bound book include male members of the Royal Family (Prince Charles held his stag night there, the evening before his wedding to Princess Diana), and the original dandy Beau Brummell.
37 St James’s Street, London, SW1A 1JG
Blacks Club was founded by Tom Bantock, a famous Norfolk poacher. It was named Blacks Club as the antithesis to White’s Club, it is said that many Blacks Club members had been black-balled from White’s or considered black sheep. Blacks Club has become a famously ‘louche’ bohemian drinking den.
Membership is open to both men and women, with the criteria being that you are extraordinarily interesting and interested.
67 Dean St, London W1D 4QH
‘Leave your halo in the hall’, or so the Savilian motto goes. I’m not sure if this pertains to discarding one’s ego or angelic-like qualities one surely possesses. It would seem it is the latter, having famously black-balled Stephen Fry in the 90’s for his love of naughty salt, or more recently in the press; how the library is now locked by 10pm on account of their very randy members. Even the club’s stance on women (guests only) have not been able to thwart man’s primitive nature.
The Savile is set in an original Georgian townhouse boasting a gilded dining room and a beautifully painted ballroom. No surprise there then for a love of debauchery in decadent settings. As long as you’re discreet.
69 Brook St, London W1K 4ER
The refurbished Mark’s Club is a Mayfair favourite and part of the Birley Group of clubs. A club where Vivienne Westwood launched her memoirs in 2014, and where Boris Johnson held his Christmas Party, Marks’ club caters to all riveting members of society from every background.
The gorgeous townhouse settings provide a very sumptuous yet modern approach to private member settings and incredibly tasty (and bespoken) cocktails to boot.
46 Charles St, London W1J 5EJ
Chelsea Arts Club
The Chelsea Arts Club began life as a grass roots initiative by working artists in the late nineteenth century. The Club was from the outset deliberately bohemian in character, seeing itself outside the normal definition of the ʻestablishmentʼ, in contrast to various other clubs.
Members nowadays still adhere to these set of characters, having met a painter there myself who possessed a glorious obsession with cigars; he continued to regale stories of how he came to own cubans once belonging to Che Guevara.
Members can also exhibit their work inside the club walls and is as dedicated as it has ever been to the principle of an artistic community of which rich and poor, old and young are all equal members.
143 Old Church Street, London, SW3 6EB
Founded in 1963 by Mark Birley and named after his then wife, Annabel’s is one of the very few private members club that can proudly boast of elegance and an in-house dance floor in the same venue.
Names from Mick Jagger, Grace Jones and Diana Ross to Baroness Thatcher, Aristotle Onassis and Diana, Princess of Wales, many an iconic figure has stepped over the threshold of Annabel’s in the past half-century. Please ensure you are well-dressed and well-heeled.
44 Berkeley Square, London W1J 5QB
South Kensington Club
For the adventuring Rake, the South Kensington Club draws together great culinary and wellness traditions from diverse corners of the globe. Decorated in a Colonial fashion, one feels as though on holiday and without a care in the world.
Unlike other private members clubs, SKC offers a wellness and health programme – facilities include a skylit gym, fitness studios, relaxation areas, Tea Library, Mediterranean Club Restaurant, cocktail and juice bar, a terrace, Voyager Club Room and a bathhouse with hammam and banya, saltwater Watsu pool.
38-42 Harrington Road, London, SW7 3ND