Inside story: An invitation to clubland

Bon viveur Peter York gives an insider's guide to the best places to network, schmooze and unwind in medialand.


THE HALLION

Atmosphere: Has been described as "Edinburgh's answer to the Groucho". This Georgian mansion set-up by Glyn Partridge is elegant but spacious.

Who goes there: Christian Slater stayed during his run in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and celebrated his birthday here with co-star Mackenzie Crook (top right) and a group of friends. The comedians Alan Davies and Bill Bailey have been seen, while the novelist Irvine Welsh (below), actor Alan Cumming and Canongate books publisher Jamie Byng are members. Actors including Rupert Graves, Tilda Swinton and Miranda Richardson (right) signed up to its Festival membership scheme, as did the director Danny Boyle.

Peter York's verdict: I would like to know it better; it is a reminder of how many liberties can be taken with a big Georgian house.

12 Picardy Place, Edinburgh

0131-523 1523

Membership: £350

SUSSEX ARTS CLUB

Atmosphere: Relaxed yet eccentric, with a good wine list and excellent local seafood. In the early 19th century, the club was a school for expat Indian children; its most famous pupil was the Nobel Prize-winning poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Who goes there: Radio 4's Michael Crick and Simon Fanshawe. The male cast of Emmerdale chose the venue for a stag night, and members of Green Day spent a night dancing at the bar. Actors from Bad Girls, Gaz from Supergrass, Alan Bates (below) and Brighton's raffish set. Julie Burchill (below) lived here for a year.

Peter York's verdict: Welcoming and Brighton-ish.

Sussex Arts Club

7 Ship Street, The Lanes Brighton BN1

01273 727371

Membership: £200 a year

BABINGTON HOUSE

Atmosphere: Countryside escapism with luxurious bedrooms, a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, bicycles, tennis courts and football and cricket pitches, all set in peaceful grounds.

Who goes there: Linked with Soho House in London, it attracts many of the same people, including Steve Coogan (right); Lorraine Candy of Elle (far right); Marcus Rich, managing director of Emap Performance; Jonathan Webb, channel controller of Trouble and Challenge; Rimi Atwal, also of Emap; Julia Hobsbawm of HMC; Harriet Scott of Heart 106.2; and Johnny Hornby, chief executive of CHI.

Peter York's verdict: The genius of Nick Jones is to reinterpret the world for us with a metropolitan, modernist take on country life. The designer Ilse Crawford is a clever girl, inspiring a mass of new country makeovers.

Babington, near Frome,

Somerset BA11

01373 812 266

Membership: £700, plus £150 fee.

GROUCHO

Atmosphere: Inspired by Groucho Marx's musings that he wouldn't "care to belong to any club that would accept me as a member". Joel Cadbury, Matthew Freud and Rupert Hambro own the club, which hosts sober business meetings in the day and long lunches giving way to decadence after nightfall.

Who goes there: Bill Clinton and Mick Jagger have visited, Damien Hirst once set fire to Mark Borkowski's chest hair, and Rowland Rivron cycled down the main stairs. The editor of The Independent, Simon Kelner, Trevor Phillips of the Commission for Racial Equality, the actor Keith Allen (far right), the cartoonist Tony Husband, the editor of GQ magazine Dylan Jones and the broadcaster Melvyn Bragg (right) are all familiar faces.

Peter York's verdict: "Its warren-like qualities mean that it could only be in London. It is not just newspaper hacks, but thespians, artists and people in advertising. It has members right across the generations; the oldest I know is in their 80s, the youngest in their 20s."

45 Dean Street, W1D 4QB

020-7439 4685

Membership: For London-based members: £550 per year, £550 joining fee; £415 (£415 joining fee) if under 35; £300 (£300 joining fee) if under 28.

HOME HOUSE

Atmosphere: Built as a palace of entertainment for the Countess of Home in the 18th century by Robert Adam, it has retained many Neoclassical features, and is decorated with antique chandeliers and oriental rugs. Madonna lived here while her house around the corner was being built.

Who goes there: Abigail Chisman (the editor of Tatler), Geordie Grieg, Peter Mandelson and Madonna, as well as Brad Pitt (below), Pierce Brosnan and Sharon Stone (below) when they are in town. The bar is full of City and media types and it has a lot of book-launch and music-industry parties.

Peter York's verdict:

A staggeringly beautiful building, Adam's finest townhouse, and grade-1 triple listed. Food above normal gent's club standards and bedrooms gorgeous and expensive - unlike most clubs.

20 Portman Square,

London W1H

020-7670 2000

Membership: From £1,500.

43 SOUTH MOLTON STREET

Atmosphere: Air of an old-style gentleman's club. Eccentric, eclectic chic, armchairs, antiques and ancient copies of Punch. Relaxed and unpretentious, like a convivial house party. Organises events that reflect London life, so the club will become an alternative West End green room this week for London Fashion Week.

Who goes there: Zadie Smith (below), Peter Florence, Alexander McQueen (right), Toby Young and Derek Draper - a haven for creative and media types.

Peter York's verdict: "Convenient for the shops."

43 South Molton Street,

London W1K

020-7647 4343

Membership: £425 per year

CENTURY

Atmosphere: Despite being in the West End, the Century overlooks the sheltered St Anne's square, making the roof terrace surprisingly relaxing. It will be celebrating its fifth birthday in March - expect a party. Pierre Condeau, partner in Century and former owner of Bistro Bruno and L'Odeon restaurants, said: "I have a restaurant background, so food is important to me. But the space in Century is open, airy, and overlooks St Anne's square."

Who goes there: Robbie Williams (far right) is a shareholder and frequent visitor; Martha Lane Fox (right) helped found the club. Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, actor Alexander Armstrong, television presenter Jamie Theakston, architects and academics, as well as media types.

Peter York's verdict: A club sandwich; feels like a different club on every floor.

61- 63 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D

020-7534 3080

Membership: £500 per year.

THE REFORM CLUB

Atmosphere: Convivial, relaxed and comfortable club in a beautiful building designed by Sir Charles Barry. Founded by Liberal parliamentarians at the time of the Reform Bill. One of the most progressive Pall Mall clubs (it takes women); steeped in political history.

Who goes there: Total cross-section; people who work in law, politics, architecture and media. A large number of journalist members have made up a media group. Robert Thomson, Times editor (right); Catherine Pepinster, editor of The Tablet; Chris Blackhurst of the Evening Standard; and Patrick Cockburn of The Independent are members.

Peter York's verdict: Marvellous high-Victorian architecture; could be called the Institute of High-minded Folk.

104-105 Pall Mall, London SW1Y

020-7930 9374

Membership: Full member, £960 a year.

SOHO HOUSE

Atmosphere: Wood panelling, leather sofas, modern traditional style with excellent food. The cinema hosts private screenings.

Who goes there: It is owned by Nick Jones, who is married to Kirsty Young (below) of Five. Gavyn Davies, Peter Fincham, Graham Norton (below), Jeff Ford - most members are successful in media and film. Madonna and Sarah Jessica Parker have visited, and the premiere of A Cock and Bull Story was held here. Scarlett Johansson and Uma Thurman are regulars at the New York branch; Anna Wintour held her party for Posh and Becks here.

Peter York's verdict: This is the club of New Soho and New Labour.

40 Greek Street, London W1D

020-7734 5188

Membership: £500 a year, plus £150 registration. Waiting list is 18 months.

COBDEN CLUB

Atmosphere: The Club was built in the 1870s as a working men's arts and entertainment club. While the three floors have been modernised, the ethos remains.

Who goes there: Jeremy Paxman held his 50th birthday party here; Lenny Henry sang. Martin Amis chose to launch The Information here. Music industry and media mix with the Notting Hill Gate set.

Peter York's verdict: The spirit of trustafarianism lives on. In a rather rough district.

170-172 Kensal Road, London W10

020-8960 4222

Membership: £250 a year, plus £100 joining fee.

THE CHELSEA ARTS CLUB

Atmosphere: Smart, but relaxed, bohemian atmosphere. Cosy dining room, and bedrooms upstairs to which members can retire at the end of a heavy evening. It also has a large garden. Members put their work on show, so the artwork changes regularly.

Who goes there: Madonna (right) and Guy Ritchie, television chef Loyd Grossman, comedian Rory Bremner (right), the BBC's Rosie Millard and Richard O'Brien of Rocky Horror fame.

Peter York's verdict: Good, simple food at modest prices. Very South-west, as opposed to Soho.

143 Old Church Street, London SW3

020-7376 3311

Membership: £428 per year.

FRONTLINE CLUB

Atmosphere: It feels like an underground club for those who still believe in the good of journalism. Established in 2003 to support those who risk their lives for their work and swaps the air-kissing of many media clubs for a programme of debates, talk and screenings highlighting the role of frontline journalists.

Who goes there: John Simpson, Maggie O'Kane (right), Jon Snow (right), Yosri Fouda and Sue Phillips of Al-Jazeera, Ginanne Brownell of Newsweek, Anthony Haden-Guest, and a large number of BBC journalists

Peter York's verdict: Small, funky, very focused but rather cool. Let's hear it for Paddington.

13 Norfolk Place, London W2

020-7479 8959

Membership: Full membership £250 plus a £50 joining fee.

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