When Mark Birley opened Annabel’s in 1963, there was really no place like it in London.
A members club styled with the chintz and comfort of a country house – in what was formerly a coal cellar below Berkeley Square – the subterranean lair fast became the place to see and to be seen, drawing in everyone from Hollywood royalty to The Queen herself.
All these decades later, a monumental makeover and a move two doors down into a Grade-I-listed Georgian townhouse, has ensured that there will be no other place like Annabel’s for years to come…
Reflecting the the voguish vision of Martin Brudnizki – the interior designer who’s fashioned several other of current proprietor Richard Caring’s iconic venues (including Sexy Fish across the road) – the new Annabel’s is at once outrageously over-the-top, yet wonderfully whimsical and wildly playful… Monkeys run recklessly up the carpet of the stirring cantilevered staircase (the second-largest of its kind in London after Buckingham Palace!), towards a 5ft winged unicorn suspended from the top. A hot-air balloon hangs idly overhead.
The 26,000 square feet space spans a multitude of bars and restaurants, including a Latin American one helmed by Chef Jorge Dorbecker (a.k.a. Coko), who was formerly at one of Mexico City’s most buzz-worthy restaurants, Pujol.
The main dining room is wallpapered in bespoke de Gournay prints, with hand-printed birds of paradise soaring out from the frame. The garden theme spills out onto a capacious terrace, cleverly cocooned under a retractable glass roof to lend an al-fresco feel to this French-style brasserie, all year-round.
There’s also a cigar salon, nightclub, fitness centre and spa (tucked away in the mews behind). Having recently had a poke around the place, here are just some of the many stand-out features at Mayfair’s ultimate fantasy land.
The loveliest loo in London
With sinks carved from pink onyx, gold swan taps, make-up stations, chaise longues and a ceiling sheathed by pretty-in-pastel silk flowers – the ladies room at the top of the four-storeyed building is really as dreamy as it gets…
… #FlowerPower continued
Floral fancies add an eminently-Instagramnable touch to one of the private dining rooms too, with the walls empanelled with over 9,000 ceramic and diamanté flowers…
If the charm of the old Annabel’s lay in its sybaritic sense of cosiness, the new Annabel’s picks up the mantle with aplomb. Think Rococo fireplaces, hidden snugs and couches which invitingly double as a makeshift workspace during the day, the stresses of one’s #worklife considerably eased by the mood-lifting surrounds.
The Garden of Eden
Brudnizki’s homage to flora and fauna reaches an exhilarating pinnacle in the drinking and dancing destinations in the basement, the exuberant energy practically permeating from the life-sized bronze gorilla standing guard outside the nightclub. Inside, a Garden of Eden serpent is seen uncoiling against one of the walls, while gilt-edged palm trees surround the hydraulic dance floor. That’s essentially a dance floor which can be transformed into a stage in an instant.
There’s a separate bar – The Jungle Room – complete with zebra and cheetah prints; but where you really want to find your way into, is the super-secret club-in-a-club cosseted away behind closed doors. Off-limits to all but a hundred-odd members, it’s kitted out with a crystal floor and a bar swathed in solid silver…
As for guidance on what to wear, Vanity Fair’s ‘Our Man on the Street,’ Derek Blasberg has drafted a new dress code which makes allowances for smart trainers and jeans before 7 p.m., but not sport shoes ‘that look as if they’ve actually been used to play sports’.
Also rendered unwelcome are ‘cheap, ill-fitting suits’, ‘anything that may be worn in a gym or sports field’, ‘shoes that women can’t walk in’, ‘sunglasses at night’, ‘visible panty-lines’ and ‘dirty fingernails’.
And while ties are no longer required in #theNewAnnabels, shirts and jackets are still encouraged “to maintain a sense of decorum.” In a world filled with constant change, it’s good to know that there are some things which still remain sacred!
Annabel’s, 46 Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London W1J 5AT
All pictures in this article are the writer’s own. Please do not reproduce them without prior permission.