Private members clubs have always been divisive beasts. In his resignation letter to a Hollywood club in the 1940s, the comedian Groucho Marx famously wrote: ‘I refuse to join any club that would have me for a member.’

These days they get a bad rap for two reasons. Many consider the old breed to be elitist and misogynistic and naysayers don’t like the newcomers for being pretentious and expensive.

They wouldn’t still be standing, though, if they weren’t a brilliant concept. Giants of the genre, like Nick Jones, Richard Caring and the late Mark Birley, have ensured that the ancient institution flourishes.

Is It Worth Joining A Private Members’ Club?

Whichever way you roll, there exists a club for you. From rooftop swimming pools, on-trend restaurants and excellent coffee to book-lined drawing rooms, perfectly mixed martinis and an uninterrupted night’s sleep, private members clubs offer an escape from your norm.

Naturally, they come at a cost, and so to answer whether they are worth it is really a question of how much of your monthly budget they will consume and the value they represent to you.

The key is first to identify what benefits you are hoping to get from your membership, and it is important to remember that every club is individual and therefore brings its own advantages. Each one has its own niche, so do think about whether you’re chiefly hoping to join a club to meet like-minded people; have a comfortable and conducive workplace in a convenient location; lock-down a go-to place to make merry; or engage existing interests with people who share them. If any of the above are important to you, then you may be on the right track with joining.

For some people, the benefit is in offering a little of all of the above. For example, most exclusive clubs in London come with smart dining options, a retreat from the bustle of the outside world, and, frequently, access to swanky gyms and pools. It might, then, be that joining offers so many benefits under one roof that it makes financial sense to do so, rather than running a few concurrent accounts elsewhere.

Can Anyone Join Any Private Members Club?

The short answer is, alas, no. Each club has its own application process – for example, you may well need to be recommended by an existing member or even two, or you may need to be demonstrably part of a sector. For example, at Soho House, thanks to its origins as co-working space, you will need to be part of a creative industry to join.

Is There An Easy Way Into A Private Members’ Club?

Private members’ clubs are, by definition, bastions of privilege. Under their roofs, networking is done and deals are made. So, is there any easy way to get a golden ticket to access their glittering rewards? The fact remains, the only sure-fire way in is to know an existing member, ingratiate yourself with them like mad, and thus secure yourself an invitation. They may require you to pay handsomely for the privilege of being a member, but no one has ever mistaken an exclusive private members’ club for being a mainstay of egalitarianism. It is, in the end, who you know.

The Top Private Members’ Club in London

There are many to choose from if your interest is piqued and, like the capital itself, they are richly varied in what they offer. Here, we round up some of the finest and most exclusive clubs in London.

Soho House

Nick Jones founded Soho House in 1995 as a place for creative people (bankers used to be banned) to come together. Now the celebrated group operates 28 impeccably well-designed and much-copied clubs worldwide. Members love the group; non-members profess to loathe it. Jones said in a recent interview: ‘Everyone’s allowed. We’re very inclusive – it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what you do, what you earn. They just have to fit in with what being a member of Soho House is.’ Discover more here.

The Allbright


Encouraging smart-minded women to connect, create and collaborate, The AllBright opened in London in March 2018. Men are welcome as guests, not as members, at the stylish Mayfair premises. Notable members include Naomi Harris, Ruth Wilson and Cath Kidston. It offers members great perks, such as The 'Academy', an online platform awash with online courses covering topics ranging from confidence to networking. Discover more here.

Who is it for:

Smart creative and business-focused women wishing to meet and collaborate with like-minded women and springboard their careers.

Membership requirements:

Fill out a four-page application form, submit and hope to be accepted into the sisterhood. Oh, you will need to be over 18.


An AllBright Townhouse membership costs £181 a month, AllBright Accelerate costs £251 a month and AllBright Elevate costs £621 a month. Under-27s membership costs £1,320 a year.


George Club

Overlooking London’s elegant and refined Mount Street, George is a club for eating, drinking and meeting. One of the five clubs that make up The Birley group, George is supposed to be typified by youthful informality. But, with Hockney etchings on the wall and a stunning Art Deco bar, it is pretty much as sophisticated as can be. Before Mark Birley’s death in 2007, his ex-wife Annabel Goldsmith, said: ‘His clubs are so special for three reasons: Number one, his perfectionism. It’s a question of looking at every single detail on every single night until it is absolutely right. Secondly, anything I’ve learned taste-wise I’ve learned from Mark. And thirdly, the fact that Mark has the ability to inspire enormous loyalty in his staff – they adore him and that makes a team.’ It is worth having a look at George’s beautiful website for the detailed dress code alone. Discover more here.

Who is it for:

Bright young things of an upper-crust artsy persuasion.

Membership requirements:

Prospective members must be recommended by a current member.


It costs £2,000 annually, plus there is a joining fee of £1,250. If you’re under 35, expect to pay half the price.

The Garrick

Garrick Club

This plush club has sat stoutly in the heart of Theatreland since 1831. Named in honour of the actor, David Garrick, it was supposed to be a place where ‘actors and men of refinement could meet on equal terms’. It hits the headlines often for the on-going row surrounding its ban on women members. Great treasures lie within, however, including over a thousand paintings, sculptures and a world-famous theatrical library. Notable deceased members include: Charles Dickens, J.M. Barrie, A.A. Milne, T.S. Eliot, P.G. Wodehouse… need we go on? Discover more here.

Who is it for:

Distinguished literary types.

Membership requirements:

New candidates must be proposed by an existing member before election in a secret ballot. The ethos? ‘That it would be better that ten unobjectionable men should be excluded than one terrible bore should be admitted’.


Shrouded in mystery. Apply to find out or, simply, ask an existing member.

5 Hertford Street


If you’re young and posh, it is your duty to be a member here. Royals, actors and towering socialites feel safe amid the warmth of its stunning maximalist interiors, cigar bar and glamorous basement nightclub. Such is the club’s cloak of secrecy, we can’t be sure who its notable members are – but we’d put money on Princess Beatrice. It is beautiful, but do note: crashing snobbery of almost every persuasion reigns supreme here. Discover more here.

Who is it for:

Royalty, A-listers and aristos. Get ready for disappointment though: some billionaires have reputedly been turned down.

Membership requirements:

Robin Birley, heir to Mark Birley’s establishments and founder of this one, is famously keen on exclusivity. You will need two letters of recommendation before undergoing an interview with the club secretary. Seriously, it’s easier to get into Oxbridge, a pursuit which some might argue that youngsters’ efforts would be better spent on.


Membership starts at £1,800 a year.

Home Grown

Members – ‘the brightest minds in London’s thriving business community’ – head to this block of four Georgian townhouses in Marylebone for food, drinks, meetings and a stylish place to spend the night. Designed for the mixture of business with pleasure, Home Grown opened in 2019 as a place for high-growth entrepreneurs to expand their ventures in elegant and luxurious surroundings. Discover more here.

Who is it for:

Movers, shakers and people who want to network with like-minded businessfolk.

Membership requirements:

One of the easier ones, this. Simply fill out an online form and register your interest.


Full membership starts at £2,000 a year, but you could opt for Homecoming Membership for half that, as long as you limit visits to 20 a year.

The Groucho Club


The brainchild of a group of publishers seeking an antidote to the stuffy gentleman’s clubs of St. James’s, The Groucho opened in Soho in 1985. It took its name from Marx’s quote and draws its membership from the superstars of the creative, media and arts worlds. It is laidback, cool and retains a distinct air of irreverence. Notable members include Lily Allen, Stephen Fry and Rachel Weisz.Discover more here.

Who is it for:

Rock stars, writers, artists, media folk, publishing types, hellraisers.

Membership requirements:

You must be proposed by a current Groucho Club member. And, do note, ‘Applicants should have a creative role within the creative industries and share the Club's maverick spirit.’


Membership to The Groucho Club is £950 per year plus a £250 joining fee.



High society flocked to Annabel’s (Mark Birley’s first club) to dance the night away when it threw open its doors in 1963. Now in its second incarnation – but still part of The Birley Club group – just two doors down from the original site, the opulent décor of this all-day-all-night playground will have your eyes on stalks. The wine selection in the cellar is among the finest in the world. Discover more here.

Who is it for:

Socialites, the ultra-glam, celebs, the mega-wealthy.

Membership requirements:

Applicants must be proposed by current members and only then may they join the waiting list. Those hoops duly jumped through, the committee will deign to review the application and invite the new member if successful. Welcome to the Birleys’ riff-raff-free world.


£3,750 per year, plus a £1,850 joining fee.


Joining a club can offer huge benefits that span the social, the professional and the practical. By doing so, however, you are entering a world of exclusivity that, depending on your sensibility, you may find uneasy in the 21st-century. As ever, there are advantages and advantages, but two things are clear: you must cultivate friends (at least two of them in most cases) in high places and you must have deep pockets should you wish to join a club. If, that is, they accept you at all.

By Becky Ladenburg
Updated November 2023

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