One trend visitors to London Fashion Week might notice is the Battle of the Clubs.
For more than 40 years, Annabel’s was the pinnacle of cool London nightlife because of its mix of intimate rooms, fabulous food and longtime bartender Mohammed. Earlier this year, Annabel’s founder, the late Mark Birley, sold the storied venue to Richard Caring, whose assets include London restaurants The Ivy and J Sheeky. No one knows how Annabel’s might change, but in the meantime, a new crop of clubs has emerged, thanks to a generation of hedge funders and the young royals’ penchant for strong drinks and discreet staff. Below, a few pretenders to Annabel’s throne.
A tiki-themed, underground boîte on Dover Street in Mayfair.
The crowd: Posh—and not the Spice Girl. Prince Harry held his leaving party here before his now-aborted mission to Iraq; Prince William celebrated his breakup with Kate Middleton by promising to “drink the menu,” and Middleton herself has tipped up almost nightly this summer. Wills’ chum Guy Pelly is on the management team.
The vibe: Mutiny on the Bounty meets Mayfair.
The poison: Tongue-in-cheek cocktails such as Treasure Chest, a mix of rum, peach liqueur and brandy, served with eight straws.
Tabloid moment: Paris Hilton was rumored to have been carried out of the club after downing a Treasure Chest by herself.
The South Kensington club where Wills and Kate’s blossoming romance was first snapped by the London tabloids.
The crowd: Residents of the rarefied neighborhood, visiting celebs, Saudi princes and bankers and, of course, Prince Harry, et al.
The vibe: Manager Jake Parkinson Smith, a grandson of the late photographer Norman Parkinson, and founder Matthew Hermer make it difficult to get past the velvet rope. But once in, they promise revelers will be welcomed into the “Boujis family.”
The poison: Crack Baby cocktails: shots of Champagne, vodka and raspberry liqueur served in a test tube.
Tabloid moment: Prince Harry once threw a drunken punch at one of the mob of paparazzi outside.
It’s named after the act that brought prohibition to the U.S. in 1919.
The crowd: Owned by Boujis’ parent company, it skews toward a slightly older group who’d choose a well-mixed cocktail over lethal Crack Baby shots. Liv Tyler, Josh Hartnett and James Franco all snuck in for the Kings of Leon after-show party.
The vibe: Leather banquettes, mirrored walls and silver Art Deco fixtures complete the Jazz Age feel.
The poison: Bathtub Gin, a cocktail made with lavender and grapefruit.
Tabloid moment: Too sophisticated for paparazzi scuffles, but Lindsay Lohan did make a trip there on a recent bar crawl of London.
The South Kensington club named after London “It” girl Chloë Delevigne and run by her fiancé, Louis Buckworth.
The crowd: A children-of-the-famous set including Delevigne’s sister, Poppy, and chums Marissa Montgomery and Emily Compton.
The vibe: Black leather armchairs, an aquarium filled with orange and blue tropical fish and black-and-white photos of Buckworth’s mother, a former Sixties model, lend the club a decadent, Blowup feel.
The poison: Moët or classic cocktails made with Belvedere vodka.
Tabloid moment: None yet.
A Sloane Square club inspired by the Caribbean island of the same name.
The crowd: Young Chelsea-ites and a few celebs. Daniel Craig is a member, and his Boodles-branded silver pendant—the club’s version of a membership card—is numbered 007.
The vibe: London’s latest generation of Sloane Rangers and Hooray Henrys.
The poison: Kitts daiquiris: white rum stirred with citrus sweetened with either damson, rose hip or Japanese cherry blossom flowers.
Tabloid moment: Middleton turned up at a party for Rabbit Fever—a film featuring sex toys—wearing bunny’s ears.
NEXT UP: London’s scene will get an injection of New York’s nocturnal style this fall when Amy Sacco and her business partner, Ben Pundole, open a London branch of Bungalow 8 at the Saint Martins Lane Hotel in October. The interiors are by architect India Mahdavi and the cocktail waitresses’ dresses are by Issa. Also set to open is Almada, Carlos Almada’s new restaurant—with a basement club to follow—on Berkeley Street. It’s been dubbed the “uptown” sibling to the architect-turned-restaurateur’s “downtown” diner, Automat, which is located around the corner on Dover Street.