Annabel's: London's Timeless Haven of Elegance and Glamour
Nestled in the heart of Mayfair, London, Annabel's is a private members' club that boasts a rich and illustrious history. Founded in 1963 by the visionary Mark Birley, the club was named after his wife, Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart. Situated in the basement of the Clermont Club, Annabel's quickly became a playground for the British aristocracy and the international jet-set during the swinging '60s and '70s.
Annabel's exudes an aura of sophistication and charm, drawing beautiful people, celebrities, and business moguls to its lavish halls. The club's opulent decor, masterfully crafted by Birley and Philip Jebb, reflects a cluttered yet eclectic country house style. From horse and dog paintings to antique brass-covered pillars, every corner of Annabel's exudes elegance and intimacy, making guests feel like they are attending a private soirée in a magnificent drawing room.
Through the decades, Annabel's has been graced by iconic performers like Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lady Gaga, who have left an indelible mark on the club's musical legacy. Renowned for its lively dance floor and pioneering transition to discothèque music, Annabel's has continued to captivate partygoers and inspire the spirit of Swinging London.
Annabel's reputation as a haven for high society and glamour is also due to its long-standing tradition of impeccable service and loyal staff. Many employees have served the club for decades, fostering a sense of familiarity and warmth that envelops guests in an atmosphere of home away from home. The legendary Mabel James, who manned the women's lavatory, was regarded not just as an attendant but also as a psychotherapist and a shoulder to cry on for countless women.
While the club has evolved over the years, Annabel's remains deeply committed to its founding values of exclusivity and refinement. Its membership has grown to include a diverse range of individuals, from seasoned members who have been part of Annabel's history for decades to young professionals looking to experience the allure of London's social elite.
The present dress code, devised by Derek Blasberg in 2017, adds a tongue-in-cheek flair while maintaining an air of elegance. Blasberg's rules prohibit "Cheap, ill-fitting suits. Denim that is holey or deemed distressed. Shoes that women can't walk in. Hats at night. Sunglasses at night, even if they’re prescription. Nipples on women. Nipples on men, especially. Dirty fingernails. Cargo pockets. Spikey hair. Men in shorts. Women in shorts. Exposed bra straps. Visible panty lines. 'Sports bras'". The dress code encourages individuality and fabulous party dressing, but at the same time, respects the club's distinguished heritage.
In 2018, Annabel's closed its doors at No. 44 Berkeley Square to reopen with grandeur and magnificence at No. 46. Designed by Martin Brudnizki's studio, the new Annabel's dazzles with its maximalist aesthetic, featuring lush gardens, intricate chandeliers, and exquisite artwork. Brudnizki was inspired by Caring's "quintessentially British" love of dogs and gardens and modeled the interior design around "animals and gardens, flora and fauna". The interior design of Annabel's is noted for its maximalism, combining opulence with a sense of playfulness.
The entrance hall is notably more minimalist in its design in comparison with the other rooms of the club. It is dominated by a grand staircase and two candelabras with richly decorated plasterwork of fruit and flowers. The candelabras were made by Baccarat in 1915 for the Russian emperor Nicholas II and were formerly owned by Warner Bros. film studio. They appeared in the films A Star Is Born (1954) and Paris When It Sizzles (1964). In the entrance hall of the club hangs the 1937 painting Girl with a Red Beret and Pompom by Pablo Picasso of his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter.
The nightclub of Annabel's is located in the basement of No. 46. It comprises the Jungle Bar and the Legacy Bar, a main Nightclub space, and male and female bathrooms. The nightclub has de Gournay wallpaper and is lit by palm trees made from glass and brass. The wallpaper depicts elephants and maharajas in one room and jungle scenes in another. The Legacy Bar is for members that have lifetime membership of Annabel's. It has a floor of green agate with walls of antique mirrors. It is decorated with paintings by Marc Chagall, Amedeo Modigliani, and Pablo Picasso.
The Garden Room at Annabel's is a restaurant with a gilded ceiling adorned with roses painted by Gary Myatt, with walls of mirrored panels. The tulip chandeliers are made by the Sogni di Cristallo in Murano, Venice. An outside terrace courtyard garden with fig and orange trees that seats 120 is accessed from the Garden Room. It has a retractable roof manufactured by Waagner-Biro.
The club's bathrooms, The Powder Room and The Loos on the Mews, are also noteworthy for their unique and luxurious designs. The Powder Room, situated on the top floor, has a ceiling adorned with silk pink roses and features oyster shell-shaped washbasins carved from marble with gold taps shaped like swans. The Loos on the Mews, opened in 2019, are decorated in a jungle and rainforest theme with four million pieces of mosaic of trees and exotic birds. The men's bathroom features a crocodile-shaped washbasin made from a piece of green onyx weighing 500 kg.
Annabel's legacy is not just in its glamorous ambiance but also in the cherished memories and timeless moments shared within its walls. With a blend of history, elegance, and a touch of playful extravagance, Annabel's continues to stand as a beacon of refined indulgence, captivating the hearts of its guests for generations to come.
In London's ever-changing landscape, Annabel's remains a true gem, a haven of elegance and glamour, and an irreplaceable part of the city's heritage. For those seeking to experience the magic of Annabel's, its doors are open, inviting you into a world of splendor, where beautiful people, celebrities, and business moguls come together to celebrate life in the most extraordinary fashion. With each passing year, Annabel's continues to evolve and enchant, solidifying its place as a cultural icon and a symbol of timeless indulgence in the heart of London.