If you had to name one London nightclub, one famous London institution that captured both the grandeur of old school England with its heady doses of glitz and glamour, it would have to be Annabel’s. Launched by Mark Birley in 1963 and named after his then wife (before she ran off with his friend, Jimmy Goldsmith,) Annabel’s is a veritable British insitution. Famously located at 44 Berkely Square, it’s a members club, restaurant and nightclub decorated once and kept today to look like a fabulously opulent and comfortable home, a place as famous for its bad behaviour as its discretion, a place where everyone from Prince Charles to Frank Sinatra, Kate Moss to Mick Jagger, Aristotle Onassis to Lady Gaga has strutted their stuff, each one seen disappearing down its famous tented staircase and headed straight for its immaculately plush banquettes.
Key to Annabel’s fame has always been its completely unique and entirely recognisable style. From Mabel the coat attendant to the famously brilliant barmen, from the art adorned walls to the old school menu, from the cut glass held cocktails to the cavernous, sofa filled nooks and crannies, the club in all its perfect glory was the vision incarnate of its founder – the inimitable Mark Birley.
Mr Birley sadly died last year, aged 77 and after selling Annabel’s and his other concerns (he founded the equally famous and chic London eateries Marks Club and George,) to the restaurant magnate Richard Caring in 2007. But, no matter that the places he founded had once hosted his current customers’ grandparents, no matter that his mantra had been to preserve the old fashioned way things had always been done, no matter that his empire had been sold before his death, right up until the end, Birley was a man whose name was totally synonymous with a particularly British sense of style.
That style is now on show, as Sotheby’s prepare to auction off the contents of his London home in a sale that takes in everything from his art to his nick nacks, his furniture to barware – each one, you guessed it, brilliantly chosen, perfectly kept and inimitably, old world chic. From David Hockney prints to a collection of cocktail shakers, small ornaments to cosy chairs, if you want a glimpse of how they used to do it, in a time when martinis were the perfect pre lunch aperitif, playing Backgammon, a valid career, and chic, the only way to go, it would well be worth taking a look.
Mark Birley: Private Collection goes on sale at Sotheby’s March 21st http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/2013/mark-birley-collection/overview.html
The interior at Annabel’s
Mark Birley shot by Jonathan Becker for Vanity Fair
The interior at Annabel’s
Neisha Crosland fabric on the sofas at Annabel’s from mydeco.com
A Brazilian party at Annabels photographed by Norman Parkinson
Interiors at Annabel’s
The Entrance to Annabel’s