This year, a gaggle of new members’ clubs has sprung up in London. They are the opposite of the narrow-minded, boys-only institutions of the past. These hubs of creativity are built for leading people in the arts and glamorous young things who live between cities, have tens of thousands of followers on Instagram and are in need of somewhere to eat, drink and dance in comfort. This kind of clientele leads to standard facilities that include everything from multi-million-pound paintings, powerful cocktails and plush cars to drive you home. And with year-long waiting lists and strict rules as to who can and cannot join, the only question is: are you fashionable enough to become a member?
“We all want to experience the best of British, and this club celebrates everything that makes this country so classy,” says Jake Parkinson-Smith, the grandson of photographer Norman Parkinson and co-owner of Albert’s, a brand-new private members’ club in South Kensington that is already a firm favourite of the royal set. And it’s not surprising given that Albert’s offers a variety of lethal Martinis; Picasso works on the walls; bouncers in plus fours and tweed waistcoats; a bathroom so beautiful it has become a cult selfie destination; a fabulous menu of Italian cuisine; its own sturgeon, Bertie, to make the house caviar; a Rolls-Royce to drive you home; and a committee that includes The Who’s Roger Daltrey, model Jodie Kidd and financier Ben Goldsmith. The club, which starts the evening as a surprisingly good restaurant, becomes a dance venue popular with people such as Princess Beatrice at around 11pm. Oh, and it is also named after Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. Britain at its wonderfully cool, slightly arrogant and undoubtedly eccentric best.
After an extensive refurbishment, Quo Vadis has reopened in Soho with an aim to provide a haven for the most creative clientele in London. Boasting the kind of backstory you only get in European capitals, Quo Vadis is housed in the same building that Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital in and is still attracting some of the city’s biggest thinkers. Now owned by the Hart brothers, who are also behind the Barrafina tapas restaurants, the Quo Vadis refurbishment has cleverly trodden a balance between a plush, glamorous interior and an old-school British ambience. With an excellent menu by Jeremy Lee that includes an eye-wateringly strong smoked eel and horseradish sandwich and a range of fish, stews and pies of the day, it is fast becoming one of the gourmet spots of Soho. The food can be washed down with the infamous Dukes Martini, which is strong enough to ensure that the private bar is packed until 2am each morning with the biggest names in British media, art and fashion.
The Chess Club
A collaboration between the experimental Cocktail Club brothers and the oh-so-trendy Francesca ‘Chess’ Zampi of The Box, this is a private members’ club for people who believe in sipping powerful drinks while talking to even more powerful people. Housed in the kind of Mayfair building you see in BBC period dramas, it is aimed at the one percent who need somewhere to eat, drink and be merry without worrying that their faces will be plastered all over the Daily Mail the following day. With a menu by the renowned (and wonderfully named) chef Jackson Boxer of Brunswick House; an extensive drinks list; games and comedy nights; and the most exclusive group of members in town, The Chess Club is guaranteed to be the venue for some of the most debaucherous nights in the British capital in 2017.