A Guide To London's Best Private Members' Clubs

Where to take your social life to the next level

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Like buying a proper watch or being measured for a bespoke suit, joining a Private Members' Club - or being a guest at one, at the very least - is a landmark moment for men of style, aspiration and taste.

They're also perfect date spots, an alternative office and somewhere to escape for a late night drink when the world outside has let you down.

London has several, and some are very good indeed. Here is our selection of the best, to give you some inspiration for taking that next step. You won't regret it.

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The Groucho Club (above)

Founded in 1985 as a response to Britain's draconian licensing laws – pubs were closed in the afternoons – and more traditional, men-only, gentleman's clubs, The Groucho had an eclectic inception. It was established by a group of publishers, writers and agents, and funded by an assortment of their friends. It was home to unmatched debauchery in the Nineties, and continues to preside over Dean Street. A recent resurgence in the clubs popularity has restored its reputation as a home for Soho's most creative, eccentric and misbehaved population.

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thegrouchoclub.com/membership

The Devonshire Club

The most handsome addition to London's PMC scene for many a year (it opened in 2016), the Devonshire Club is set over two floors and combines comfortable longue areas with three luxurious bars in a way that straddles the worlds of work and play perfectly. Or to put it another way: you can hold a business meeting here that moves seamlessly into a night of fun with ease. On top of that, the 68 beautifully decorated rooms, Champagne bar and intimate terrace means it's also the perfect place to take a date. This City venue has thought of everything and, so far at least, is executing it all exceptionally well.

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South Kensington Club

While some Private Members' Clubs still trade on fading reputations as dens of sin, 'SKC' takes a more modern approach with an emphasis on health and relaxation. With one of the best kept secrets in London's spa scene - the authentic 'banya' Russian steam bath is an experience you won't forget - a well-equipped gym and a program of stimulating speaker events, nourishment for the body and mind and body comes with the membership. More traditional nourishment is covered too at the excellent restaurant, while the jewel in the crown may well be the grooming studio, where a session with resident barber Carmelo Guastella will leave you with, for our money, one of the best haircuts you can find in all of London.

southkensingtonclub.com

L'Escargot

One of the capital's most illustrious restaurants, L'Escargot was restored to its former glory a few years ago by Brian Clivaz, perhaps London's best connected restaurateur (formerly of Home House and the Arts Club, not to mention Simpson's-in-the-Strand and Scott's) and Laurence Isaacson (co-founder of Chez Gerárd). Established in 1927, it was the Soho restaurant simply everyone wanted a table at in the Eighties and still serves the best classic French cuisine around. The relaxed atmosphere - no dress code, merci - is the real draw here.

lescargotrestaurant.co.uk

The In & Out

Founded 152 years ago for naval and army officers and still frequented by military grandees, The In & Out now accepts civvies, too — so long as they share an affinity with the ethos and culture of a military environment. The best way to explain this place is to point out two of its policies - no one without a tie hets in, and no mobile phones are allowed. The St James's Square clubhouse hosts constant events for the In & Out's many societies, and is spectacularly well-appointed: it boasts a swimming pool, gym, sauna, solarium, massage area and the oldest squash court in London.

navalandmilitaryclub.co.uk

The Arts Club

Charles Dickens was among the founding members of this eminent Mayfair club, which began life on Hanover Square before expanding to its current Dover Street premises. The club was set up for artists and patrons of the arts, literature and science - not just potters or painters - and it aims to support the arts in the broadest sense of the word. To that end the club offers an extensive programme of events, including poetry readings, cabaret performances and curated tours of arts institutions. "

theartsclub.co.uk

Photographs by Christoffer Rudquist