Where to Smoke: Mayfair's Luxurious Annabel's
The elegant cigar room at Annabel's private members' club in Mayfair
ENDURING HISTORY. EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE. WORLD RENOWNED
This is the beginning of our spotlight series on the most opulent and refined rooms, lounges and terraces to light up a cigar and smoke. We start with arguably the world's most luxurious, the cigar room at Annabel's. The acclaimed private members' club has moved two doors down from its original home, and has encountered a glorious makeover. We took a look inside, and marvelled at what we saw.
Outside, the street was quiet. A murmur of taxis could be heard rolling by. The sound gave no indication to the excitement waiting ahead inside the private doors of Mayfair's Annabel’s. The décor resembles a sense of Gianni Versace – bold colours and prints, elegantly presented, with such fine, intricate detail. Your eyes gaze upon design so beautiful, it's equal to timeless art. Speaking of which, a famous Piccasso hangs on the wall. Martin Brudnizki Design Studio brought in many bespoke furnishings and hand-made pieces. Inside the cigar room, the walls are all leather lined. This cleverly stops smoke from sticking, and allows the area to air itself overnight. We sat on the plush chairs and interviewed one of our cigar idols – Darius Namdar, who won the Habanosommelier 2018 contest in Cuba. We spoke about exquisite Cuban cigars, in addition to discussing why Annabel’s is the most luxurious place to smoke.
THE OPULENCE OF ANNABEL'S - “I think Annabel’s is the most exclusive club in the world”, he remarks, in his charming and pleasant tone. Namdar is the director of London’s Mark’s Club, group cigar sommelier at Annabel’s, and looks after cigar procurement for the remaining Birley Clubs. He is in the rare group of Masters of Havana Cigars – a certificate only 35 people or so in the whole of the UK can claim. In 1963, a basement at 44 Berkeley Square became the biggest known club, welcoming royalty, celebrity and history’s most fascinating faces. Earlier this year, Annabel’s opened the doors to its new home – two doors down from the previous 44. A Grade I listed Georgian mansion at 46 Berkeley Square which spans across 26,000 square feet. “I think being able to sit on Berkeley Square within Annabel’s in a room like this, I think is pretty special. Most of the outdoor cigar lounges and terraces, are good for a majority of the year, but sometimes in the year they are not so great – to be inside, is quite a nice luxury to have”. The weather was on our side to back-up the point Darius made – rain cascaded down. Inside the cigar room, an ornate chandelier with fig leaves catches your attention - an ingenious link to tobacco which is of course made from tobacco leaves. “There’s a nice synergy between what’s happening on the walls and the ceiling, and to what’s in the cabinet”.
"always put something interesting in the cabinet"
THE HUMIDOR - The cabinet was made by Massimo de Munari who is recognised as one of the greatest cabinet makers for the cigar business, as well as wine. Built in Italy and shipped over, the humidor is temperature and humidity controlled. Darius explained how Massimo treats all his work as art. Glancing at the cabinet and the cigars contained inside, you can imagine a cigar smoker feeling like Charlie at Willy Wonka’s factory – astonished in wonder and eager to sample. “What I try to do, is always put something interesting in the cabinet. Whether it’s regionals from other countries, whether it’s limited editions from bygone years which are difficult to find and now considered vintage – it looks good to have a variety”. This variety includes Grand Reserva shapes – considerably popular, such as a Romeo y Julieta Wide Churchills Gran Reserva Cosecha 2009 Cigar. “It just draws beautifully, a nice draw on the cigar which means there’s a lot of smoke, there’s a nice balance of flavour, it’s not too sharp”. Additionally, Darius mentioned a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No.2 Reserva Cosecha 2012 Cigar, calling it an all time classic for any cigar smoker. “I mean, you could be one of the biggest collectors in the world and you would still say that the Epicure No.2 is one of the best cigars ever”. The 124mm and 50 ring gauge cigar is greatly admired, and we advise you to try if you are inexperienced with this fine habano.
With the best of everything, a cigar smoked at Annabel's, can be accompanied by a recommended drink pairing - everything from a selection of tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages
"incomparable to anything else remotely similar"
ANNABEL'S WORLD-CLASS SERVICE - With four cigar sommeliers at Annabel’s – including Darius, the team is strong and importantly, eager to share a collective wealth of cigar knowledge. “There’s a lot of interaction, there’s a lot of conversation that go around cigars – the soms [sommeliers] are very happy to discuss their knowledge and what they know about them if a member wants to or if a guest wants to.” Being in a club which houses an array of incredible restaurants, rooms and services, there’s a remarkable benefit to having the best of everything in one vicinity. The experience you can have at Annabel’s is incomparable to anything else remotely similar. Not only can a cigar smoker converse with the greatest cigar sommeliers, they can talk to the top drink sommeliers and enjoy the most appetising cuisine. “We see a lot of first time smokers who want to engage with the club”. Members who are wanting to become involved in all aspects of Annabel’s, find themselves in the cigar room wanting to immerse themselves with the culture. Often however, “the majority of people who use the cigar room are here for a quiet hour to themselves; get some work done, smoke a cigar and just switch off”.
CIGAR ROOM ATMOSPHERE - Switching off in the cigar room, must be as peaceful as a sunrise awakening or a baby in the midst of a fairy-tale dream. We imagine the calm atmosphere and awe-inspiring scenery, helps cast-aside all stress and mundane routine. And when you light a cigar and settle down to smoke, that tranquillity the cigar room evokes, resembles exactly how you would want to feel. The whole interior of Annabel’s, is created as a form of escape. You forget you’re in London, you forget the dismal British weather – you feel like Holly Golightly at Tiffany’s, you’re in a place you never want to leave. Perhaps that has underlined the decades of Annabel’s success. We cannot picture a more luxurious place to smoke or buy Cuban Cigars, and as Darius said, “a club with that much history”.