LOOS IN THE NEWS
It has no doubt been said of my love of fine wine that I’d go to the opening of a public convenience if they served a good enough champagne. I’d laugh this off but as it turns out it's true.
Annabel’s launches it’s new spectacular Martin Brudnizki-designed “Loos in the Mews” to its exclusive membership tomorrow. Artistic circles haven't been this excited about toilets since Marcel Duchamp.
It’s a testament to the coup that owner Richard Caring has achieved with the incredibly risky and, at £55M, incredibly expensive, relocation of Annabel’s to 46, Berkeley Square that the club can now make a grand press event out of the opening a latrine. The loos installed inside the renovation unveiled last year were already arguably the most instagrammable place in London. It’s a significant comment on our era, and the sheer quality of Annabel’s itself, that otherwise hedonistic members and their guests would resort to taking photos in that most private of spaces, whilst exercising instagram-abstinence throughout the more public areas of the opulent 26,000 square foot equivalent of Instagram Versailles. I’ve noticed at that at that other iconic Martin Brudnizki venue too, The Ivy West Street, that the taking of photos is similarly tantamount to barbarism. In Annabel’s it seems the interior is so overwhelming that even the grandest of grandees—and the membership list contains all of them—is dazzled enough by the venue to abide by the club’s age-old no photo traditions.
In the notorious article of the mid-50’s “The English Aristocracy” celebrated author, socialite and Bright Young Thing of her era Nancy Mitford set out the fashions for language, identifying the social class that British people belonged to by their speech. Mitford's own upper classes (U) would speak of the “loo” whilst the non-U bourgeoisie would use the term “toilet” instead. It is perhaps fitting then that "Posh" Spice Victoria Beckham herself was given a sneak preview inside Annabel's—unveiling a video from the “Loos in the Mews” on her own Instagram stories last week. Bourgeois Non-U types will know primarily of Victoria from the days of her Spice Girls pop-star persona. To today’s elite-U however this particular Spice is of a type so well-refined that it can only be found in Harrod’s Food Halls. I doubt that there is a figure so widely known outside of the British royal family whose good taste is so demonstrable: Her Victoria Beckham clothing brand last July partnered with auction house Christie's to exhibit exquisite Old Masters at the incredibly urbane interiors of Beckham’s Dover Street Mayfair store. Bastion of high-taste Vogue talks of the gracefully-exquisite clothing collections in such well regard that Victoria must surely be considered a clear heir to—ex-Celine Creative Director and fashion maven—Phoebe Philo. At this year’s London Fashion Week Victoria stole the event with a collection in the most decorous and chicest style before departing to Harry’s Bar—part of the same Birley Clubs group and once noted as "the finest dining room in Europe". When she isn’t posting from Annabel’s loos Victoria’s Instagram stories often feature the wines of a clearly well cultured palate—The Senior’s own-favourite Sassicaia is pictured often. For Husband David’s 40th birthday the pair chose world-leading chef Francis Mallman to cook for guests. David’s own Instagram too has been known to feature him reading a biography of the artist Basquiat. To top it all their home was designed by the artfully-composed Rose Uniacke.
I’m sure that in some corners Annabel’s toilets will attract dissent, falsely based on claims that the loos represent an absence of taste, as enclaves of the vulgar rich, with pop-star Posh Spice as an obvious poster child. Anyone of this view would do good to refer to their thesaurus, noting of course that a synonym of tasteless is actually “without spice”. The truth of this is that any such arrogance implies a lack of empathy as well as education. When you have the sensibility and the purse to afford the most impeccably serene Rose Uniacke interior decoration at home then why go out at all? Annabel’s, in it’s unashamed brilliantly bold, maximalist opulence, answers this. This is Disneyland for the glitterati, the ultimate escapist destination from day-to-day conservative taste and aesthetics. Indeed Annabel’s has always been an enclave for the most staunch conservatives (peppered of course with champagne socialists). Annabel's is like an exuberant version of the Carlton Club with a pulse made faster by an excellent cocktail list and dance music. Mark Birley, original owner of Annabel’s and arguably the most tasteful man to have ever walked the streets of Mayfair, was a fan of a spectacular loo too. Noted society interior designer Nicky Haslam himself said of the Birley’s loos that they were always the best in the world—in this sense Richard Caring is simply upholding the legacy.
Annabel’s is and always will be a place to be spoiled, to enjoy life, and in which to be entertained. The member list, the food, drink all work in perfect synergy to achieve this. Throughout its history too an incredible number notable acts have been employed to perform to its private audience. Lady Gaga gave the most intimately wonderful performance of her hit song Poker Face at Annabel’s at the height of her career (still viewable on YouTube) opening her act with the words “Hello rich people!” Perhaps no act however is more entertaining than Annabel’s own storied past. My own favourite anecdote involves Hollywood-legend John Wayne who embraced the hedonistic spirit of Annabel's as much as anyone. After an evidently entertaining evening Mr. Wayne was so drunk that he had to be escorted to the loo by staff. Finding his feet, and re-assuming his wide-legged, slantedly-upright stance whilst relieving himself at the urinal he turned his head to the gentleman urinating next to him, member in hand, and said in that inimitable accent of a Western sheriff “You can tell all your buddies, you got to hang out with John Wayne!”
Toilets, loos, ladie's, gents'; an Annabel's rose is still a Annabel's rose by any other name. Personally I’d like to christen the new Mews gent’s toilet, and the reported 500kg alabaster crocodile basin, inside it under my own favourite term “the John” in homage to Mr. Wayne. Unfortunately for Annabel’s members The Senior won’t be able to propagate this term myself inside Annabel's gilded bubble—as I am not a member. Like all those photographing themselves in the new loos, my own Instagram is largely an ideal construct differing from my normal life, I’m much more of a Non-U Charles Ryder figure at heart. I do have to admit to being tempted to smuggle myself into Annabel’s past the doorman under false pretense much like Richard Caring himself professed to doing in his early years. Perhaps next time I wander past, as I do often, I’ll pray to their kindness and sensibility “I’m terribly sorry, but I’ve just downed a bottle of Krug and really need to use the John.” I fear however they’re much too keen for this. Certainly of all the doorman one meets in Mayfair they’re the most sharp-suited.
If, like me, you're not a member and want to make use of Annabel's-esque facilities then the publicly accessible Sexy Fish, again owned by Richard Caring, is on the opposite side of the Square. If you can hang it out a little longer Caring’s new spin-off venture Le Caprice Cirque is also due to open shortly on incredibly fashionable North Audley Street. This, certainly from the hoarding alone, looks to be the most Annabel’s affair yet seen in London for the non-U rest of us. At a promise of free-flowing Krug I’ll meet my readers there where after a double-magnum I’ll no doubt be doing John Wayne impressions galore.