While Rishi Sunak won plaudits for using taxpayers’ cash to hand out £10-per-head restaurant discounts, London’s beau monde is being offered something altogether more generous.
I can reveal that ‘king of clubs’ Robin Birley has taken the extraordinary step of spending millions of his own money to lure members back to his fashionable Mayfair nightspots.
He is giving every member of 5 Hertford Street and Oswald’s a free meal up to the value of £500 — that’s more than the net weekly salary of the average Briton.
Robin, the son of Lady Annabel Goldsmith and late club owner Mark Birley, opened 5 Hertford Street (pictured) in 2012 and it soon became London’s most exclusive watering hole
‘Robin thinks the members have been so wonderfully loyal to the club over the past few months that he wants to show just how much he values their support,’ one of his friends tells me.
Quote of the Week
‘Listeners were blissfully unaware that I was chatting to them in my pyjamas.’
Jonathan Agnew reveals his dress code for England’s first Test against the West Indies.
There are understood to be at least 3,000 members of the two clubs so it could set Birley back more than £1.5 million.
Members can bring as many guests as they like and, while Sunak’s offer is only for August, Birley’s lasts until Christmas.
It’s an astonishing gesture but reflects how London has been devastated by lockdown.
Many of the clubs’ members moved to their country homes during the crisis and do not seem to be returning in a hurry.
Robin, the son of Lady Annabel Goldsmith and late club owner Mark Birley, opened 5 Hertford Street in 2012 and it soon became London’s most exclusive watering hole.
Based in a labyrinthine townhouse, it’s decorated like a bohemian stately home and members are charged fees of about £2,500 a year. Among the countless famous faces to have visited are George and Amal Clooney and billionaire Bill Gates.
I suspect Birley may secretly hope many of his well-heeled members are too proud to take him up on his offer. But even the rich love a freebie.
‘King of clubs’ Robin Birley (pictured) has taken the extraordinary step of spending millions of his own money to lure members back to his fashionable Mayfair nightspots
Lady Kitty Spencer (left) and Lady Violet Manners at 5 Hertford Street on March 14, 2017
She became Country Life magazine’s first ‘girl in pearls’ to appear in a wheelchair last year, and now former royal bridesmaid Sophie Elwes is celebrating another milestone.
The great-niece of the Duchess of Kent has got engaged to her boyfriend, Abdullah Mukesh.
Sophie, 31, who declines to disclose details about her fiance, was a bridesmaid to Lady Helen Windsor.
She was paralysed in a tragic accident eight years ago when she fell 26ft from a balcony and crushed her spinal cord. But she has said: ‘I’m happier than I was, even though I’m in a wheelchair.’
The smart set’s talking about… Baby joy for Sam Cam’s flamboyant brother Robert
David Cameron’s colourful brother-in-law, Robert Sheffield, pictured below with pals, has always enjoyed shocking friends with his love of cross-dressing, and once cavorted around London in a sparkly Union Jack mini dress and stilettos.
Now the 35-year-old son and heir of Samantha Cameron’s baronet father Sir Reginald Sheffield is taking on a more serious role.
I can reveal that he is to become a father and has informed friends that his model girlfriend, Ellen Francis Gibbons, 28, is 18 weeks pregnant.
David Cameron’s colourful brother-in-law, Robert Sheffield, pictured right with pals Tessa Packard and Mark Francis Vandelli, has always enjoyed shocking friends with his love of cross-dressing
Robert Sheffield is to become a father and has informed friends that his model girlfriend, Ellen Francis Gibbons (pictured), 28, is 18 weeks pregnant
‘We are both very happy and excited,’ he tells me.
Robert, who worked at Christie’s auctioneers before establishing his own art agency, shared this picture from their holiday in Sweden.
Ellen can be lady of the manor as he took over the running of his family’s Georgian country house, Sutton Park in North Yorkshire, last year.
Happily, she seems to embrace his penchant for cross-dressing: not only did she attend a drag party with Robert at Loulou’s in Mayfair this year, but she applied his bright red lipstick, too.
Samantha Cameron and David Cameron at the Serpentine Gallery Summer Party in Kensington Gardens in Jun 2018
When designer Dame Vivienne Westwood emerges from 16 weeks’ isolation, she will be suspended in a giant birdcage 10ft in the air outside the Old Bailey.
Next Tuesday’s spectacle is a protest against the extradition to the U.S. of her friend Julian Assange. Dame Viv will be dressed in a yellow trouser suit to look like a canary in a coal mine.
It’s a metaphor, apparently, for Assange’s plight.
With restaurants in crisis, you might think there’d be solidarity among our leading chefs, but Gordon Ramsay is determined to stir up trouble.
The cook, whose eponymous Chelsea restaurant boasts three Michelin stars, declares he’s pleased the economic downturn will lead to closures among his rivals’ dining rooms.
‘What’s going to happen now with this industry is the good are going to survive and the below average are going to fall to the wayside,’ Ramsay claims. ‘I think it’s exciting times because it’s flushed away the unwanted.’
Westminster Abbey will not ring its bells for Meghan Markle’s birthday next month (but will for Princess Anne 11 days later)
OH, NO! Will this give the Duke and Duchess of Sussex yet another reason to be resentful?
I hear that Westminster Abbey will not ring its bells for Meghan’s birthday next month.
To add insult to injury, it did ring them for the birthday of beleaguered Prince Andrew in February, even though he’d stepped down from royal duties.
They are due to ring for Princess Anne’s birthday, 11 days after Meghan’s. And they will chime again to celebrate the Duchess of Cambridge turning 39 in January.
Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex visits the University of Johannesburg on October 1, 2019, in South Africa. Westminster Abbey will not ring its bells for Meghan’s birthday
They are due to ring for Princess Anne’s birthday, 11 days after Meghan’s. And they will chime again to celebrate the Duchess of Cambridge turning 39 in January. The Abbey is pictured
The bells rang for the birthday of beleaguered Prince Andrew (pictured on July 15) in February, even though he’d stepped down from royal duties
A spokesman for the Abbey, where Prince William and Kate were married in 2011, tells me: ‘The bells are usually rung to mark the birthdays of senior members of the Royal Family, and through the line of succession to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children.’
However, Harry is sixth in line to the throne, two places ahead of Andrew.
(Very) modern manners
It’s this country’s most exclusive sports centre, with a Georgian clubhouse set in 42 acres next to the Thames in Fulham, but the Hurlingham Club is apparently not immune from the economic crisis.
The Hurlingham, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s children have tennis lessons, has started serving members food on the turn.
‘The Napier Deli has implemented a 50 per cent reduction scheme on food that would otherwise go to waste if not sold on its sell-by date,’ it informs members.
‘From 5pm each day the selected food will be available to purchase at the lower rate.’
Look out for our future king and queen scouring the bargain bucket!
Maitlis goes to the top of the class for sales wheeze
Newsnight star Emily Maitlis has found a cunning wheeze to boost sales of her memoirs, Airhead.
Newsnight star Emily Maitlis has found a cunning wheeze to boost sales
Every student starting at Kingston University this autumn has been sent a copy of the book, accompanied by a ‘welcome’ letter from Maitlis.
‘It’s a real honour,’ she says. ‘I wrote the book partly because I wanted to share my mistakes.
‘That seems to be particularly important when you’re starting out — to know that everyone’s done it and we’ve done it wrong so many times before it’s gone right.
‘It becomes the stuff you end up laughing with your mates about at the end.’
One student tells me: ‘It seems like a very odd use of the university’s money.’
Professor of publishing Alison Baverstock tells me: ‘A shared book creates a sense of community, which seems even more crucial during a time when we are all separated.’
Ain’t nothing like a dame (hood) for Woman’s Hour Jane
Are there simmering strains among the sisterhood on Woman’s Hour?
One of the presenters of the Radio 4 programme, Jane Garvey, is keen to note that she has failed to be handed an honour by the Queen, even though her co-host, Jenni Murray, was awarded a damehood in 2011.
‘I haven’t actually received official national recognition from Her Majesty and that is something I’ve gotta … it still lingers … Because I work with a lady who has been made a dame.’ Garvey adds, jokingly: ‘All the Radio Academy Awards in the world can’t make up for the fact there are still no letters after my name, at all.’
Depp warning to warring Wags
It’s being billed as the showbiz trial of the decade. And, according to one report, people are even trying to book a seat to be in court when Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy lock horns.
Coleen Rooney and Becky Vardy’s row was dubbed Wagatha Christie. Pictured in 2016
But I can reveal that pressure is increasing on the pair of England footballers’ wives to try harder to settle the matter privately.
‘It is becoming increasingly clear that apart from the lawyers there will be no winners if this case comes to court,’ a source familiar with that case tells me.
‘Both Coleen and Becky have been warned they risk having parts of their past dug out and put on show.
‘Friends have compared the situation to the Johnny Depp trial, which has seen day after day of appalling publicity. But although Coleen appears open-minded to trying to find some sort of resolution, Becky won’t budge.’
Coleen and Becky’s row, dubbed Wagatha Christie, exploded into life last year. Coleen accused her former pal of leaking three stories about her.
Becky denies this and is suing her for libel. Becky is determined to have her moment in court and get an apology from Coleen. The source says: ‘The apology is a red line she won’t move from.’