Want to be welcomed like an old friend? Want to be addressed by name, not ma'am? Want to know that your Martini will be made with your favourite vermouth and your Old Fashioned will have three maraschino cherries, not just one...?
Then it's time to invest in your own happiness and cough up for a membership to one of London's excellently exclusive venues.
There's a lot to choose from and the location probably has the most impact on whether you’ll get your money's worth... After all - paying for the privilege can feel pretty galling if you rarely step through the door. So we'll tackle this area by area over the next few months and first up... Soho.
Relaxed, eclectic interiors, sometimes erring on the slightly wrong side of shabby, Quo Vadis is incredibly well placed within Soho and while the food currently overshadows the drinks - this is a good hideaway when the streets feel just a bit... Hectic. In the summer the windows are thrown open and the noise from below drifts up and makes the space feel a bit bohemian.
Each of the top dogs involved are marvellous, and incredibly welcoming which definitely gets a big tick from us. Sometimes someone plays the piano. You can’t tell when though.
The alumni of staff over the years are pretty epic, but you can only trade off that for so long and not since its opening back in 2010 has the bar (or the parties) been quite as fun! The members that have been loyal for the last decade are daily visitors, which give the club an old fashioned feel. And private conversations are easy to have... There's a tiny roof terrace for smoking or snogging and a Barrafina on the ground floor (though there’s no special service for members’ – you still gotta queue up with the rest of them). Food in the club is provided by the glorious Jeremy Lee and is satisfyingly hearty. Please try the smoked eel sandwich.
£550 a year
£350 a year (under 30)
£150 joining fee
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW : You’ll need two existing members as proposers and to write a short witty paragraph about yourself to be considered.
Fact. The Groucho is fun.
It was probably the absolute most ridiculous in the nineties, and it was positively wild in the early 2000s – but you know what, it’s still fun now. It feels authentic. There’s a healthy smattering of famous faces at all times and you really know you’re sat in the heart of Soho. The food and the drinks are perhaps not overwhelming, but – it doesn’t really matter because you’re in The Groucho.
Split over a few floors (and including a few hotel rooms) once you’ve traversed the reception desk – the space really opens up. There’s a bar at the front and lots of comfy couches to slide on into on a weekday afternoon. There’s a big dining room at the back and another bar on the first floor where there’s often a party happening. We’ve definitely danced like lunatics up there. Not sure at what time of day.
Their calendar of supper clubs, parties and quizzes add to the value of the membership and the staff turn over seems to still be low so you’ll easily see the same faces behind the bar again and again. The other reassuring thing about Groucho is there’s just no blagging this one. If you’re not on the list – you’re not coming in. Cool.
£950 a year
£350 a year (under 30)
£250 joining fee
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW : You’ll need two existing members as proposers, to work within the creative arts and include a biog or a list of career achievements before your application goes before the committee.
The waitlist is long, but once you’re in – we can guarantee it’ll be the best direct debit you set up. Soho House in the West End has… spread out. With the acquisition of Kettners, the refurb and expansion of the original Greek Street site and 76 Dean Street still going strong – there’s a lot of options within just a few roads.
The membership to end them all. That’s right.
TO END THEM ALLLLLLL.
Now - there’s loads of rules with Soho House and god forbid you actually want to do any work in there – laptops are forbidden from most floors and using your phone is the equivalent of killing kittens, but – the food and drink offering is excellently abundant, all the chairs are comfortable and space on the roof terrace is worth hustling for – because it basically feels like you’re on holiday up there.
If it’s offered to you and within your budget – get Every House. It’s worth every penny. If you’re lucky enough to get a gym at your ‘local’ house – use it. Sign up for the talks, take the weekly cinema tickets, invest in mindful meditation before work, or rooftop yoga or cocktail making classes or life drawing or, or, or… And all free and included with your membership. See – told you it was good.
£1000 a year (Local House - Soho)
£500 (Local House - under 27)
£1650 a year (Every House with a Soho site as your local)
£925 a year (Every House – under 27)
£400 joining fee
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW : You’ll need two existing members as proposers and to fill out a very embarrassing form explaining why you should be granted membership. Please note - wait list can be VERY extended.
MILK & HONEY
Launched in 2002 with the New York outpost as inspiration this place is… old school. Dark, discreet and grown up – there’s been very little change to the set up since day one. There’s the house rules – which effectively say “don’t be a dick”, there’s a very generous bar tab as soon as you join (£150 a head - nice) and there’s lots of lovely dingy corners to snuggle up in.
Spread over four floors and with a new (not that new – we’re just old) roof terrace, there is usually always a table available, even without a reservation.
The cocktails are the pride and joy of this club and with some of the best and biggest names in modern bartending having cut their teeth behind the stick at Milk & Honey, there are good habits that have passed down the generations. Ask the bartender for a recommendation, sit back and enjoy.
£400 a year (includes £150 bar tab)
£250 a year (under 30)
£50 joining fee.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW : No nonsense joining process here – just apply.
Non-members can make a reservation pre 11pm, subject to availability.