Though Public, a favorite nightspot of both Pippa Middleton and Prince Harry, may have closed earlier this year amid complaints from neighbors, the party is far from over. From members-only hotspots to a "theatre of varieties," London is where to be when the sun goes down.
If you're young, rich (or just wanting to feel as if you are) and looking for a good time in Britain, it will always be available. But if you're looking to meet your prince charming — or just spot a prince — make sure you're not wearing trainers. Dress codes at the hottest clubs tend to be strict.
For the ultimate in privacy and exclusivity, The Fumoir at Claridge's sets the standard. With capacity for only 12 people and 1930s rum-runner-meets-boudoir décor, it's no wonder the likes of Dita Von Teese and other fashion-forward elites call this their favourite hotspot. Low-key and luxurious, this is more than a party-boy hangout. Of course, any place offering something more is going to be asking for more as well: Dress code is "elegant smart casual," and the prices aren't cheap.
Members-only clubs seem to be popping up all over London, though you'll have a tough time getting in without an invite, or at least an extremely influential friend. With The Arts Club — home to a-listers from Gwyneth Paltrow to Mark Ronson — and 5 Hertford St, among others, you'd think everyone in town was a member of something. In reality, only the hand- chosen get a spot on the list at these chic spots — and it's no wonder. With over £30 million spent on 5 Hertford St in renovations alone, the entrance fees are enough to make most people dizzy.
Robin Birley, son of legendary nightclub owner Mark Birley (the man behind the famed Annabel's, the original members-only spot in London), has a larger stake in 5 Hertford St than just cash. A bitter feud and family scandals figure as much in this establishment's tale as booze and parties. When it opened, trendsetters clamored for a spot on the members list and willingly coughed up the joining fee. 5 Hertford St features bars and dining rooms as well as a basement nightclub called Loulou's. Week one saw Mick Jagger, Kate Moss and, as ever, Daphne Guiness rushing to be a part of the hubbub. One billionaire reportedly left a £5,000 tip — in cash.
The Arts Club is, as its name suggests, a place for artists (involved in everything from architecture to fashion to television) to gather, dine, converse — and party. Paltrow, an investor in the club, helped reopen it late last year after an extensive renovation. Among her guests: Cameron Diaz, making for an exciting night for guests including Prince Philip, a longtime club patron.
Members-only club fees can range from the palatable (a few hundred pounds) to the palpably ridiculous (rumour has it a founders membership to Birley's club is over £25,000). For the super-wealthy, it's worth it to be able to say you're a part of something few others are.
If you've ever watched an episode of "Gossip Girl," you'll know what I mean when I say The Box is where Chuck Bass would want to spend every waking hour if he could. Described as hedonistic, naughty, raucous, raunchy and beyond, The Box is a favorite hangout of real-life playboys like Prince Harry and Jude Law and party girls like Kate Moss. More low-key celebrities have dipped their toes in the Box's murky waters. Stars like Emma Watson, Keira Knightley and Rachel Weisz party till dawn at this all-you-can-fathom sideshow of the sensual.
As you enter this self-described "theatre of varieties," cuddling cherubs on the wallpaper are the only hint of the club's outré happenings. Smoky mirrors and crisp white tablecloths make you feel like a true high roller, and with table bookings starting at £1,000 on weeknights and rising to over £3,000 on weekends, you have to be one to even set foot in the door. Everything, from the décor to the drinks (one house cocktail costs £70) to the dancing, is the extreme end of indulgence.
Whether it's at Salon at Embassy Mayfair — popular with Prince Harry — or at the Automat, where Emma Watson held her 18th birthday, or Boujis, where Prince (the singer), Mischa Barton and Prince William have been spotted, or even at Bungalow 8 where celebrities have been turned away, partying like a celebrity in London is like shooting fish in a barrel. Assuming that barrel costs a king's ransom and the only way to get in is to know someone.
By Leigh Bryant
Top: Co-owner Gary Landesberg, Cameron Diaz, HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Gwyneth Paltrow attended a reception to launch The Arts Club after its renovation last year. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)