When I step into the warm embrace of Salon 64 for a pre-party zhuzh on a damp Saturday, the first thing owner Ricky Walters does is hand me a Martini. ‘It’s barely lunchtime!’ I half-heartedly protest. Taking a sip, I look around while he examines my split ends. Something feels… different. There’s an air of mischief about the place. People are sitting, chatting or reading, cocktail in hand.
‘Didn’t I tell you? We’re also a members club now,’ Walters says. Two and a half cocktails later, I prop myself at the bar, braced to learn the cost of the membership. ‘There’s no fee, you just have to be a regular customer,’ he tells me, handing over a matte black membership card and a roulette chip inscribed with ‘Club 64’. ‘Come back one evening when the salon’s closed,’ he instructs. When I walk past the large queues outside All Bar One and enter the unassuming looking spot the following Friday, there’s not a hint of salon in sight — only low lights, animated conversation and a roaring fire, all hidden behind a discreet blackout blind.
After a little digging it becomes apparent that Club 64 isn’t the only new private hideaway in town. ‘Some of the established clubs are losing traction with members, becoming victims of their own success,’ says Maurice Marshall, general manager of Greek Street’s latest private bar, Martinez, which comes in at an affordable £300 per year. ‘People have missed a physical sense of belonging to a group rather than the virtual experience which got us through lockdowns. Now seems a natural time to respond to demand.’ The plush, dimly lit space has all the charm, mystery and intrigue you’d hope for from a private bar — with a dance floor and nibbles by Michelin-starred chef Hervé Deville to boot.
Elsewhere in central London, restaurant and studio space Chameleon is set to open Cillian’s House in spring underneath the iconic One Marylebone building, a former church designed by eccentric architect Sir John Soane. Designed to hold up to 400, the moody space will feature a Mediterranean restaurant, a late night lounge and a mysterious ‘Voodoo room’, filled with booths for the types of antics reported by Popbitch.
At the pricier end of the scale at £150 per month, Pavilion is Knightsbridge’s latest tremendously chic haunt. An art deco behemoth set over six floors, it has two bars, a lounge, a brilliant restaurant by Tom Kerridge, private offices, a penthouse suite and a scene-stealing terrace with views over Hyde Park. Over in Mayfair, there’s the mysterious Maison Estelle, where a very select few are invited for an opulent house party experience.
The ever expanding Soho House group has unveiled a new spot south of the river named Brixton Studio, a mini space featuring a restaurant, lounge and pop-up spaces. Access to this hobbit hole is accessible via a ‘Soho Friends’ membership, which costs only £100 a year — less than a tenth of Soho House’s usual membership. Those seeking a true sense of community should look to The Fitzdares Club in Mayfair, a hyper-luxurious space for ‘the discerning sports fan’. Until Soho is badged as ‘the world’s first ever club for wellness professionals’, or there’s wine-lovers’ paradise Planque in Haggerston, for whom membership comes with personal cellar storage. Or if you’re simply after a place to type away for the day, sign into Carmine in Streatham, which offers members somewhere with bottomless coffee and very good brunch fare for a bargain £45 per month.
Essentially, it seems, in 2021 there is a members club for everyone. And after the past 18 months, who doesn’t want to feel a little special?