Halfway through my tour of Annabel’s club, at its new home in Berkeley Square, I just give up making notes – there is simply too much to write down. Every floor, wall, ceiling, staircase, corridor, lavatory, bar and banquette in this four-storey townhouse is embellished with something: leopard print, jewelled flowers, silk wallpaper, hanging plants, gold leaf, ostrich skin, tapestries, marble. There are Grecian statues in the ladies’ loo and a unicorn chandelier in the hall. In the VIP Legacy Bar I tread gingerly on a glowing green floor fashioned from paper-thin slices of backlit green agate. The walls of the Garden Terrace (with retractable roof, natch) are smothered in scented jasmine, while troughs of bulbs and citrus trees flourish under giant palms. It’s opulent, outrageous – and also kind of fantastic.
Amid so much sensory overload, you could easily forget about the wine list. But that’s a showstopper too – Caprice Holdings wine director Guillem Kerambrun has done the place proud.
“Historically, Annabel’s was a place for wine lovers – Mark Birley was a big wine fan; there was something like £1.8m worth of wine in the cellars when I arrived – and I wanted to put wine back in the middle of the discussion,” says Kerambrun. “We have a lot of famous European wines, of course, but it’s now also a list with wines from around the world.”
In among the Château Margaux and chablis by the jeroboam you’ll find Greek wine and English sparkling and fantastic natural wine from Nathan K, a tiny producer doing Burgundy-style Pinot Noir in Finger Lakes, New York. Another surprise is a 2010 Chardonnay-Sauvignon blend from Syrian winery Bargylus. As you can imagine, this is a company with quite a story, involving winemaking by video link and grapes being transported around the Middle East by taxi, a story I can’t really do justice to in the space I’ve got here. Who knows how much longer it will be available.
There’s lots of fabulous champagne too. Seize the opportunity to taste Gosset Blanc de Noirs – only 240 bottles of this delicious limited edition were released last year in the UK, and Annabel’s has got 120. There are exclusives from Delamotte (sister house of Salon) and a bespoke brut nature from Le Chapitre that sends shivers down the spine. The Legacy Bar is one of only a handful of places to do Henri Giraud Fût de Chêne and Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill by the glass. And if thirst strikes during a tête-à-tête in the ladies’ powder room, they’ll deliver champagne to you.
If spirits are more your thing, Annabel’s also has what it claims is the largest selection of tequilas in the world – more than 600 bottles.
All in all, the new club has cost more than £55m I’m told. Who says money can’t buy you taste?