Bold and beautiful
Legendary London nightspot Annabel’s has a spectacular new home. Where better to lounge with three Middle Eastern movers and shakers on the international scene?
The eptiome of exclusivity, members club Annabel’s on London’s Berkeley Square has hosted quite literally anyone who’s anyone. Aristocrats and heads of state such as Princess Diana and US President Richard Nixon have all frequented the place, quite possibly partying alongside Hollywood and rock ’n’ roll royalty – think the likes of Jack Nicholson and Mick Jagger. Founder Mark Birley opened the club in 1963 – his friend, the socialite and zoo keeper John Aspinall insisted they needed somewhere to gather of an evening, and Birley evidently agreed. In 2003, the Queen visited the club for dinner and a drink. It is the only nightclub HRH has ever visited (officially, at least).
Following its acquisition by fashion and restaurant tycoon Richard Caring in 2007, Annabel’s was given a spectacular makeover, re-opening two doors down in a four-storey Georgian townhouse earlier this year. The décor, realised by interior designer du jour Martín Brudnizki, is a dizzying mix of eclecticism and eccentricities – jungle murals surround one room, while bucolic English gardens scenes unfold across others. And there is even a life-sized gorilla in the hallway.
Although the Annabel’s of old was strictly an after-dark affair, its palatial new home is open from 7am until 4am daily, and needs populating with the ‘right’ people. With a historic membership policy that could be succinctly summed up by poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s Ode, it is up to newly installed membership overseer Astrid Harbord to sift through the applicants and build a coterie of movers, shakers, music makers and dreamers of dreams.
“It’s a delicate balance,” she explains. “We want to build something intimate. It should be the kind of place where you can even go on your own, and you’ll still see someone you know, or someone you want to know, connect with them and and potentially form a new friendship.”
While some members-only clubs have an invite-only policy, presumably the clientele that Harbord envisages are all of such stature that a cold approach would never be unwelcome.
“We want everyone to have fun, but of course manners and charm are of the utmost importance,” she adds. Sounds like the recipe for a perfectly charming evening. annabels.co.uk
“We want everyone to have fun, but of course manners and charm are of the utmost importance”
The Flower Room is embellished with embroidered Pierre Frey silks and thousands of ceramic blooms. The intricate original plasterwork has been restored to its former glory OPPOSITE: Chalhoub wears a look from her latest collection, with a velvet jacket featuring a floral print that serendipitously echoes the interior design