It's ironic that the least cool word of all time is almost certainly 'trendy'. In fact, the word is so un-cool I suspect it has the power to instantly de-throne almost anywhere on the London scene however worthy it may have originally been until some idiot referred to it as that. Except I've used it. I've used it because I know that particular word attracts lots of people who search for such venues on Google.
But, then again, anyone who has to look for one of these places on Google aren't part of the demographic that these places want to attract anyway. So you're probably not getting in. Although, if you're here, you're obviously in Londonlaunch's inner circle and I'm always surprised at how far the Londonlaunch brand can get you up a tower. Recent results include the best table in the best restaurant in London (IMHO) under a magical indoor canopy of trees and an artificially starlit sky, and a table at Chiltern Firehouse, both with just a few days notice. And all I did was call up to say I was the CEO of Londonlaunch (do you know who I am?!)
Also, if a place becomes mainstream, it can no longer be cool. I experienced this in my PR days where one minute (as part of my job) I'd be taking Robbie Williams or Kate Moss to the Met Bar, Titanic, the Atlantic Bar, Rock, The 10 Room or even Tokyo Joes (which became Pangaea) and then the next..well...I bet most people reading this have never even heard of these places! Enough said. They come, they become cool, they die. It's a curse.
The only way to stand a chance of overcoming the cool curse is to be well located, beautifully designed and provide insatiable service with a dash of theatre (however subtle it may be). And, I hate to say it, remain selective. If beautiful cool people (mostly consisting of dicks and bitches) are the staple clientele, then somehow we all want to go too. It's ridiculous human nature but, make no mistake, it's very real. The Box is the perfect case in point as they have dedicated 'pickers' scouring the crowd who wait excitedly and expectedly to be rejected on the basis they aren't pretty enough...!
So, amalgamating all of the above, here are my Top 10 (plus a few) coolest venues for events, get-togethers or even the occasional secret tryst in London...
1. Novikov. This place is massive, ruthlessly sophisticated (in a Russian kinda way) and, as it happens, very expensive. I recently ordered a small pizza in here and it was covered in truffle shavings and therefore delicious. And £43. For a pizza! Dark, sultry, comfy, all with a dash of decadence and Novikov is somehow one of the coolest places in Mayfair. Start upstairs in their lofty, light and airy restaurant and then, if you're lucky, you'll end up in the bar downstairs...
2. The May Fair bar. Recently refurbished, this bar is still a great go-to place for a casual drink, a small meeting or even a corporate gathering. Their new bite sized bar menus is sensational too. With loads of great event spaces and a major screening room, the May Fair is a destination in itself.
3. Radio. This bar still has the best views in town as well as great internal and external event spaces. Perfect for summer soirées on their world class terrace, but equally good under the awnings and heat lamps in the winter, this bar with benefits (it's part of the ME London hotel so offers hotel service) benefits from all sorts of USPs.
4. Smiths. This cool, large, urban warehouse space is unmistakably New York style in a number of ways. It's in our own mini 'meat-packing' district, it's huge (eight floors over two venues), open plan and an eclectic mix of concrete, brick and metal mesh to make any urban advocate feel at home. And the meat is delicious, of course!
5. Berner's tavern. As one of the finest, most in demand restaurants in central London, Berner's Tavern in the revered Edition Hotel is a modern day marvel. What makes it even more special is that it looks like it's been there forever - like a Rules or Wiltons, yet it's almost brand new. There are loads of really cool event spaces in this hotel and their basement bar has the most sophisticated permanent lighting system I think I've ever seen in a hotel!
6. Bounce. Urban cool and loads of fun. Wherever there's a ping pong table, resistance is obviously futile. Everyone wants a go and here they're everywhere! They even have a black light room where the balls (and all sorts of graffiti) are iridescent. Such a cool place which combines the ultimate ice-breaker as part of its unique theme. If it's an awesome warehouse style venue you're looking for, then you've just found it...
7. Brewdog. In the land of the Shoreditch mustachio'd Hipsters (and in a few other lands too, of course) this famously crowdfunded brewery oozes authenticity and is, as such, effortlessly cool. With loads of craft beer, great food, lots of glass, wood and antique tiles all mashed up together, Brewdog is an eclectic mix of traditional and contemporary cool. And micro-breweries are definitely flavour of the month at the moment.
8. Oblix. The newest restaurant and bar in the Shard and I love it for a few reasons. Firstly it's in the Shard and that never gets boring (check out the viewing platform and associated event space if you haven't already - hold an event there and watch attendance rise to at least 90%). Secondly, the food is sensational and, thirdly, this venue is like an Egyptian pyramid in the sky. Complete with long Egyptian style corridors with flaming torches (a visit to the loo will confirm this) and jaw-dropping Shard views, Oblix is a great destination for soaring events.
9. Sexy Fish. Brand new and in Mayfair's own boutique Berkely Square, Sexy Fish is the latest and greatest offering from Caprice Holdings. Adorned with art by the likes of Frank Ghery and Damian Hurst, this world class eaterie will impress clients, however sophisticated they think they are. And they almost certainly won't have eaten here yet which is a sure fire way to ensure they'll be eager to check it out.
10. Far Rockaway. As if Shoreditch didn't have enough cool places already, Far Rockaway is probably the best American Themed bar in London. And that's because it's authentic and in your face! With an entire celling of skateboards, a DJ booth made of twin-tape-decked ghetto blasters (the kind you used to need to do proper mixtapes with high speed dubbing and everything) - it's big, brash, bright and brilliant. Check yourself before you wreck yourself! (That doesn't actually make sense but this place just made me want to say it as it kinda sums it up!)
11. Trapeze. Just like it says on the tin, this place reminds me of the circus. In a kind of old school romantic way. The booths are almost like upholstered Waltzers and the whole vibe is that of cool carousel horses and high wires. As Great Eastern Street's go to place for 'faded circus glamour' this bar, restaurant and club with a capacity of 480 guests has got to be one of London's most exciting and different destinations for events and otherwise...
12. Momo. This cosy little Moroccan joint on overtly hedonistic Heddon St. is cool and has a unique air of relaxed and effortless stylishness. Last time I was there I'd apparently just missed Harrison Ford (dammit!) and a veritable who's who of Hollyweird A-listers flock to this place whenever in London. But it's downstairs that makes it so great. A sort of sophisticated piano-bar cum Club makes Momo a great place to eat with a great place to retreat, directly beneath the souk-like ground floor. Memorable and a little bit magical too.
13. Chiltern Firehouse. This one has to be here because it's just so nice inside. As well as still being cool and quite difficult to get into. Homely yet glamorous, cool yet cosy, Chiltern Firehouse somehow feels like home (even though it's nothing like it. Obviously!) Food is a classical contemporary fusion with an emphasis on seasonality, provenance and healthy eating.