Traditional clubs have always held a fascination for me, in particular how these private members-only clubs have evolved in recent years.
The traditional gentlemen's clubs were aristocratic in nature, the first of which was White's Club, established in 1693. Held in "Mrs. White's Hot Chocolate House," White's provided members a private environment where otherwise illicit activities could take place.
Royal Thames Yacht Club, established in 1775, was formed when Prince Henry, brother of King Henry III, hosted a "silver cup" race along the River Thames. Club members initially met in coffee houses, and, as the club grew in size, private members properties were established becoming the first clubhouses.
Since its opening in 1917, The Ivy has hosted a prestigious crowd and has been a must-dine restaurant in London. The Club at The Ivy opened in 2008 and takes up the three floors above the restaurant; the entrance to the club is discretely concealed in a flower shop on West Street.
The art deco inspired club, designed by Martin Brudnizki, is elegant and provides an exquisite dining experience. Contributing towards the evolution from the traditional "boy's club," The Club at The Ivy represents an open-minded and vibrant social gathering environment.
Among the many clubs now focused on the younger generation is The Union Club, on Greek Street in Soho, London. Housed in a gorgeous 270-year-old Georgian townhouse, members and staff alike are kind and sociable; it was truly a pleasure to be hosted there.
Soho House, founded by Nick Jones in 1995, stands at the forefront of modern private clubs, with nine houses around the globe, 11 restaurants, and two cinemas. Soho prefers younger members, most of which deal in art, music, film and new media -- and are vanguards of their craft.
Soho's Shoreditch House, in the top three floors of a stunningly renovated East London warehouse, sets the standard for congeniality. I have yet to find a venue where like-minded members and staff offer such fine company and conversation.
Soho House West Hollywood, while a bit too "LA" for some, is set in the penthouse floors of a Sunset Boulevard high-rise and proves to be a great place to unwind and dine. The calendar of social events is outstanding, including this year's Halloween theme of Dead West.
What I keep coming back to throughout my travels is that humans in essence are social creatures; there is an inherent need for belonging in us. In a major metropolis with an aristocratic heritage such as London, it is no surprise that there is a renaissance of private members clubs. But most importantly and interestingly, these clubs are no longer focused on kings and queens or around a race on the River Thames, but instead on creating a home-away-from-home and networking environment. These clubs provide a place for culture to collide.