We discover a world of intrigue at the redesigned venue for Annabel’s private members' club in Mayfair
I would be panicking if I was the site manager of the new Annabel’s right now. As number 46 Berkeley Square goes under renovation – it has the delightfully vague finishing date of “the end of the year” – sleepless nights would have taken over. Because when I visit the site in a hard hat and high-vis, I can’t see Annabel’s for all the builders. It’s difficult to imagine the plush furniture and detailed finishes when in their place are loose wires, cement, wooden boards covering the floor and plastic sheets stuck to the wall.
But business mogul Richard Caring has it under control. Caring, who bought The Birley Group in 2007 (under which Annabel’s sits), decided to move the private members’ club next door from its original premises at number 44, where it had been for more than 50 years, to create a bigger and more diverse offering for its members.
Partnerships with the biggest names in art, perfume and fashion have been formed to ensure that the new destination won’t fail to impress. Following the trend of private members’ clubs that provide daytime as well as evening hangouts, members will be able to enjoy breakfast business meetings, a work space and a creative cocktail or two.
The legendary Martin Brudnizki of Scott’s, 45 Jermyn St. and The Ivy fame – what hasn’t he designed? – is in charge of the interiors. Alongside him, a ‘cultural committee’ has been enlisted to sculpt this new Annabel’s, each with a vision for a certain area of the club. The board includes Mario Testino as creative counsel, Charlotte Tilbury as beauty director, Hikari Yokoyama as contemporary art director, and Derek Blasberg as style director. How much change they actually govern remains to be seen, but in this world it’s all about who you know – and they know the whole of Hollywood. Doubtless we will be seeing the likes of Cara Delevingne, Kim Kardashian, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Moss, Lady Gaga, Madonna and Anna Wintour walk through the doors.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Birley Group is hard at work planning the members’ offerings. There will be a garden room brasserie covered by a retractable roof, with a staff member on hand to study weather reports and determine whether it should be open or closed. Apparently, it will take only four minutes to wind in. Then there is the temperature-controlled cigar room, which will have bespoke cocktails for those who like to puff away on a Havana.
There will be a garden room brasserie covered by a retractable roof, with a staff member on hand to study weather reports and determine whether it should be open or closed
Two private dining rooms will create space for more intimate events, while the bar will be the main attraction. The circular structure is being built in the middle of two rooms, so the barmen can serve both sides from underneath the gold leaf ceiling. Up the dramatic staircase, which is to be surrounded by pricey artwork, a lounge area awaits for business heads who want to plug in their laptops. The ladies’ powder room will be a destination in itself – expect unnecessarily large vanity sinks and poufs on which to recline. Then, of course, there is the club in the basement; a private place to meet for a secret tête-à-tête in one of the alcoves, reminiscent of the original Annabel’s, or to party hard on the hydraulic dancefloor that floats up and down as required.
Yet, we haven’t even scratched the surface. As with any undertaking like this, the details are the most impressive part. The drinks offering will be increased; there are 6oo types of tequila for the Mexican bar and restaurant alone. Guillem Kerambrun, head sommelier and wine buyer, has been hard at work choosing vintages.
“The selection will change frequently to follow the evolution of the different food menus, but also each season,” he says. “I will make a specific wine list for each restaurant and bar. We are lucky that we are able to keep the wonderful cellar of the old Annabel’s and have all our wines close to us, but I have to keep that address secret.”
There will be a dynamic programme of wine events, lectures, presentations and tailor-made tasting dinners with winemakers as hosts. The team of nine sommeliers, who have been trained in Michelin-star restaurants or by master sommeliers, will provide members with a thorough knowledge on their favourite bottles.
"We are lucky that we are able to keep the wonderful cellar of the old Annabel’s and have all our wines close to us, but I have to keep that address secret”
No request will go unanswered, no matter how demanding. “A part of my duty is to maintain a good relationship with my 80 suppliers and the different wineries to resolve [any client’s request]. For example last month, a winemaker put six very rare bottles from his personal cellar into his own luggage and made the delivery to me himself.”
Elsewhere, British perfume designer Azzi Glasser has come up with a signature perfume for the club. “I am still finalising the scent, but so far the fragrance opens on top with sequoia wood and natural cypress oils. The heart and main character of the fragrance is filled with Chinese cedarwood, rose de mai and jasmine sambac, which is balanced with the animalistic tones of mousse de saxe to add a rich complexity and depth.”
Heart, character and a few animalistic tones? The destination may have changed, but the essence d’Annabel’s seems very much the same.