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Kensington Roof Gardens to be reborn as private members' club (but the flamingos have flown)

The Alhambra-inspired Spanish Garden and Tudor Garden are being restored (ES Composite)
The Alhambra-inspired Spanish Garden and Tudor Garden are being restored (ES Composite)

One of London’s most glamorous and exotic night-spots, the Kensington Roof Gardens, is to reopen as a private members’ club in May after a six-year closure.

The grade II-listed former nightclub, famed for hosting lavish parties attended by A-listers such as Madonna, Kate Moss, Diana, Princess of Wales and Freddie Mercury, as well as for its trademark resident flamingos, is in the late stages of a multi-million-pound refurbishment aimed at restoring it to its opulent former glory.

The work is being funded by owner Stephen Fitzpatrick, the billionaire founder of Ovo Energy, who bought the 65,000 sq ft site from Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition in 2021.

The gardens were laid out between 1936 and 1938 by landscape architect Ralph Hancock at a cost of £25,000 on top of the building that then housed the Derry & Toms department store and was also known as the address for the iconic Biba fashion store.

In its heyday the Kensington Roof Gardens also hosted the annual pre-Wimbledon party attended by stars such as Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

The new club, called The Roof Gardens, is already signing up founder members who will pay £1,000 a year. Under-32s will pay £500 and full membership will be £2,000 once the founder list has reached 1,500.

The management hopes to have signed 3,000 members by the end of the year.

Kate Moss is among the stars to have attended lavish parties at the venue (Dave Benett)
Kate Moss is among the stars to have attended lavish parties at the venue (Dave Benett)

Documents submitted for a Kensington and Chelsea licensing committee meeting on Thursday described the creation of the club as stemming “from a desire to restore the buildings and the gardens and fill them with a community of interesting, inspiring and intelligent individuals...The space will have a cultural approach and will be the antithesis of an ostentatious Mayfair private members’ club.”

Chief executive Sue Walter, who previously ran the Hospital Club in Covent Garden and the Maggie & Rose family members’ club in Notting Hill, said the venue’s unofficial motto would be “head in the clouds, feet on the dance floor”.

The work will restore the famed themed open spaces, the Alhambra-inspired Spanish Garden, the Tudor Garden, the Woodland Garden with a “meandering stream” and the Tudor Walk linking the Spanish and Tudor Gardens.

There will be four food and drink outlets, a club room restaurant on the sixth floor, an Asian-inspired dining room on the seventh level, a North African and southern European-inspired grill in the Spanish Garden, and an al fresco Italian restaurant in the Tudor Garden.

The licensing committee will hear likely objections from residents in Kensington Square who say they are worried about late-night noise from a venue that will have a licence to open until 3am.

However, Ms Walter said disturbance would be minimised by closing the outdoor areas closest to the square at 11.30pm, and requiring Ubers and taxis to wait in Kensington High Street rather than outside the main entrance in Derry Street. But she said there were “no plans” to bring back the flamingos, which went to the Pensthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk.