There’s plenty of experience behind London’s newest private member’s club Albert’s in new South Kensington, but will it really revolutionise this area’s clubbing scene?
Words: Mark Kebble
I have no idea how the boys behind Albert’s do it. It’s the day after the night before, when Albert’s opened its doors to the Kensington & Chelsea public for the first time, and they have had three hours sleep. And workmen – still aiming to achieve perfection – are hammering away in the background. And yet the team is positively buzzing.
‘We were thrown right into the deep end and were fully booked,’ Carello says on Albert’s launch party. ‘It was madness, but exciting and thrilling.’
It’s little surprise there is so much hype bubbling away under the surface. There are four founding partners: Piers Adam, Jake Parkinson-Smith, Carlo Carello and Fraser Carruthers who have launched the new venue on Old Brompton Road. Their combined experience takes in such illustrious (and, at times, infamous) clubs as Boujis, Mahiki and Raffles, to name just a few.
‘There’s 60 years of experience between us,’ Carello adds. ‘Piers is like the Godfather looking out for us, Fraser is the marketing guru, and Jake and I are the ones who like to throw the parties.’
Before if people wanted a kiss or meet someone they would go to a club on a Friday or Saturday night. Now you can just slide right
So what inspired these giants of the west London clubbing scene to do something new? ‘We are all growing up,’ he reasons. ‘The traditional nightclub model is dying a death across the country. There are many reasons for that. Dating apps are one – before if people wanted a kiss or meet someone they would go to a club on a Friday or Saturday night. Now you can just slide right.
‘People’s habits have changed, too, they don’t want to travel as far and they want everything under one roof. Six or seven years ago you’d find people having dinner around 7pm – tonight most of our tables are booked at 9.30pm for dinner. To give you an idea, 80% of Boujis’ trade was 12-3am. Last night 80% of our trade was 6pm-midnight. So it’s all about keeping people under one roof.’
The food certainly looks the part – ‘No foams, no powders, all the classics,’ Carello insists – and there are two bars on offer, which helps to get the night started. ‘We are competing against the likes of Annabel’s, 5 Hertford Street and the West End, and where I think we have the edge is the nightclub side,’ Carello continues. ‘The main dining room seats 90 people. You come in and have an amazing dinner, with a great wine list, and then the tablecloths are put away and the ice bucket comes out, the lights go down and the music goes up.’
Carello accentuates point that he sees Albert’s as a place for Kensington & Chelsea locals to kick back in. ‘We wanted something here. A lot of people don’t like trekking to Mayfair anymore. Why Albert’s?’ he beats me to the question. ‘This whole area used to be called the Albertopolis, gifted from Queen Victoria to her husband Prince Albert. I wanted somewhere in the vicinity of South Kensington, I was brought up down the road, so I know the area well – we know most of the residents and businesses.’
It’s been a breathless half an hour in Carello’s company, so we take a breather and both sip on some sparkling water. It’s a reminder of how working in the industry has taken a toll on Carello. ‘For sure,’ he says when I ask if he’s had any regrets to date. ‘Listen, it’s been unbelievable. I can speak for all my partners here – we have done things most people haven’t done in a lifetime over a very short period of time. We have all travelled the world – Moscow, Hong Kong, Vegas, Barcelona , Dubai, LA – all for work. For myself, for sure there have been some dark moments, hence why I don’t drink any more today.
Part of that fun is dealing with membership enquiries. To be a part of Albert’s crowd, you will need to pay a £250 joining fee and a £500 annual subscription, with a few local souls (or 250) being able to become life members at a cost of £2,500. ‘The first week the news went out we had 2,500 membership applications through the door,’ Carello smiles. ‘The partners see every membership application. After this interview I am seeing 12 people. The reason we charge membership is so we can offer a much more personal service.
‘The attention to detail is key. That’s from the look – the Norman Parkinson photographer (Jake’s grandfather, the worldly celebrated fashion photographer) on the walls is a big thing for us – but goes through to the service as well. Compared to other clubs we have three times as many staff. We will be the first member’s club to have a Rolls Royce chauffeur driven service.
‘We all get stuck in here,’ he says of the founding partners. ‘If we see something on the floor, we will clean it up. We are very hands on.’ And if that means three hours of sleep a night to ensure Albert’s hits the spot, so be it.