Luke Blackall: When the new thing in clubland is an old thing

Man About Town: Morton's is putting itself back on the party scene, by trying to create the coolest boutique club in town in its basement

The ground beneath Berkeley Square was shaking as the bass reverberated from underneath the giant tent, seemingly drawing party goers like moths to a flame.

But there were no moth-holes in these party-goers' outfits. They had all booked their £110 tickets to the launch of the new nightclub 2&8, in advance. Some had gone further, spending £3,000 to book a table in the VIP area (raised, so you could look over the party, and the non-VIPs).

The new thing in London clubs is, it turns out, actually an old thing. (Not, before the anti-ageists write in, that there's anything wrong with old things.) But the new club, 2&8 (Cockney rhyming slang for "state", as in, "he had to be put into a taxi because he was in a right two and eight") is actually part of Morton's club, an older, more established venue.

And Morton's is putting itself back on the party scene, by trying to create the coolest boutique club in town in its basement.

Others nearby are doing similar things. The Arts Club in Mayfair has gone from a charmingly shabby hangout for artists to a lively townhouse restaurant and bar, which while open for reading the papers during the day, also hosts late night parties and players as diverse as Prince Harry and Simon Cowell.

The new club at nearby 5 Hertford Street, has its own nightclub, Loulou's. From both the outside and the inside, it looks like these places are trying to achieve (or take away) some of the success of Annabel's, the society nightspot which since 1963, has maintained its reputation as one of the most popular places for the well-heeled to mix with royalty and celebrity in London.

In the case of Loulou's, the link is even closer. Its proprietor, Robin Birley, is the son of Mark Birley who created Annabel's, with its successful formula of popping out for dinner with friends (usually carefully selected members) or to go dancing until 2am. The members all the while feel that their club within a club is more exclusive than those places which attract open shirts and fake tans (from both sexes).

And while the thumping dance music shows that some things have changed since the early days, the excitement and camera flash when socialites and royal in-laws arrived at 2&8 on Thursday, showed that the party crowd still love to be seen in the right scene.

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