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The evolution of London’s private clubs

September 22, 2015 The evolution of London’s private clubs

The Groucho Marx quip of not wanting to join any club that would have you as a member is being happily ignored in London. A new wave of clubs is spreading across the capital like a well-shod virus, and there appears to be no shortage of willing members.

A stuffy St James members club in London was traditionally a place where privilege met with privilege. In order to get future establishment figures into the clubbing habit early, graduates of public schools and top universities are still offered automatic membership to clubs such as the East India. The term ‘clubbable’ is a uniquely English one. To be a ‘clubbable’ sort of chap was to be so popular and sociable so as to be suitable for membership of any club.

Then in the 80s the Groucho came along and members clubs became associated with hedonism and tawdry glamour. Rockstars rather than gentleman were given memberships. The opening of Soho House in 1995 did little to change this perception. To fall out of either one at 3 in the morning on a Wednesday, was to know that you had achieved some level of success within the creative industry.

Today, the members club is undergoing yet another change. They’re as elitist as ever, perhaps even more so, and nowhere near as riotous. In their place are hybrid environments, places where it’s possible to conduct business, have fun, and increasingly, take care of yourself. Some are even family friendly.

Here we round up some recently opened members clubs with a difference:

South Kensington Club

Located in the historic Georgian Music Hall, the South Kensington Club aims to be the ultimate health and fitness club. Its facilities include Russian banyas and Turkish hammams, London’s only salt-water Watsu Pool (a therapeutic experience combining warm water and Shiatsu massage), wellbeing retreats, a state-of-the-art gym, private training studios (including yoga and pilates) and treatment rooms. Membership also includes special access to the Royal Parks, where rowing, tennis and swimming are available.

Maggie and Rose

Also based in Kensington, Maggie and Rose offers a friendly stimulating place for families with young children. Facilities and activities include cooking lessons, art lessons, soft play areas, a playroom and cafe. Memberships are valid for the whole family including godparents and nannies.

12 Hay Hill

Part of a new wave of establishments which blend high end, fully serviced offices with all the luxury facilities of a traditional members club. In addition to meeting rooms, business lounges, there’s a Michelin-starred restaurant headed up by Shaun Rankin, a cocktail bar, deli-style dining in the basement, and al-fresco dining on the terrace, which overlooks Berkley Square.

Gansevoort Shoreditch

Michael Achenbaum, the man behind two of New York’s most fashionable hotels – Gansevoort Meatpacking and Gansevoort Park Avenue – is about to open a new members club on Commercial Street. While the nearby Shoreditch House is said to actively discourage celebrity membership, Gansevoort Shoreditch will have no such qualms. The new venue will have a 1,600 sq ft rooftop pool area, café and bar with views across the City. The hotel will have 120 rooms — against Shoreditch House’s 26. A Michelin star chef has been signed to host his first London restaurant at the hotel.

67 Pall Mall

Based in the heart of historic St James’s, in a magnificent Sir Edwin Lutyens’ building, Pall Mall 67, is London’s first private members club for wine connoisseurs. Members have access to some of the finest and rarest wines in the world, direct from the club’s extensive cellars, and can even store their own fine wines using the club’s state of the art facilities. There is a rolloing program of events including Chateau dinners and wine tasting masterclasses.



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