Think jazz and images of dark, smoky 1940s New York style basements bars immediately spring to mind. Venues reminiscent of this are hard to come by in London – mainly owing to the pesky smoking ban; and the fact that London isn’t in New York; and that the year is in fact 2010 and not 1940. But fear not, London still offers an incredible array of venues to get your jazz fix – ranging from refined restaurants in Belgravia to venues frequented by the cool cats of Camden. Sophie Atkinson dusts off her pork pie hat, grabs her finest pack of Cubans and orders herself a Scotch on the rocks to show us the swishiest, sweatiest and sexiest places to enjoy jazz in London.
Boisdale of Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Scottish
Live jazz music in Canary Wharf - Not only does Boisdale restaurant serve up some of the most divine food in London (and possibly the best haggis this side of Gretna Green) but it also serves up superb jazz, blues and soul in this resplendent restaurant for you to enjoy. There's even a cigar library where you can sample Havana's finest, indoors (a very rare treat!). This place certainly has the old fashioned charm of a gentlemen's club and I personally have struggled to find a better all-encompassing, decadent yet amazingly affordable, night out in London.
Le QuecumBar & Brasserie
Battersea / Bar / Restaurant / Club / Cuisine: Brasserie
Parisian 1930s cafe-society setting with stylish authentic ambience meets hot gypsy swing and jazz music. Soak up the nightly live music, enjoy delicate French cuisine and sample fine (as well as inexpensive) world wines - all in this funky yet laid back club on Battersea High Street. A real treat of a night.
Hackney / Bar / Cuisine: Bar
Kansas Smitty's - a jazz and julep bar on Broadway Market is named after its resident house band, an eight-piece jazz band of young and hungry virtuosos, Kansas Smitty's mission is to turn the genre's exclusive reputation on its head, making jazz approachable to the younger generation. Situated in an intimate basement bar, Kansas Smitty's is the band's clubhouse: an unpretentious, fun and approachable space bringing original swing music, real people and great cocktails to East London.
Camden / Bar / Cuisine: European
This funky little venue situated slap-bang on Parkway feels like a genuine New York hip-hop venue. Everyone who is anyone has played here - from the legendary Chuck Berry to Martha Wainwright (who came from her hospital bed to perform here recently). Cool, chilled with awesome tunes; this place is quintessential Camden.
Jazz @ Pizza Express
Soho / Restaurant / Club /
Don't let the name fool you, this restaurant and bar serves up some of the best jazz acts in London along with your favourite thin-crust pizzas and garlic dough balls. This illustrious, intimate and ultimately relaxed venue, right in the heart of Soho, attracts local and international jazz stars alike. Be sure to book ahead.
Bermondsey Arts Club
London Bridge & Bermondsey / Bar /
Hey cool cat, check out Bermondsey Arts Club, an intimate cocktail bar set in the former public conveniences not far from Tower Bridge. Closed for years, this former loo is now a beautiful art deco bar of black marble, brass and back-lit amber glass. A cocktail menu consisting of signature drinks such as the Colias (a house version of the classic martini with a Sake twist) and Koriannon (a fresh coriander vodka infused drink with a spicy kick) are just some of the magical things happening within this almost secret underground layer. You'll find live jazz happening some evenings. Your task is to discover which.
Vortex Jazz Club
Dalston / Bar / Club /
Ronnie Scotts and the Jazz Café may head up the jazz establishment in London, but this Dalston dive is the scene's beating heart. With a diverse programme of artists, running from Mercury nominated jazzers Acoustic Ladyland to the very best nu-folk and no-wave has to offer, even the most discerning pair of ears can be sure to find something to their taste.
The Bull's Head
Barnes & Sheen / Bar / Cuisine: Pub
The laid back and effortlessly cool Bull's Head has been a jazz institution for over 50 years and still hosts live jazz and swing acts almost every night of the week. Due to the location, you are more likely to find locals and genuine lovers of jazz here than your Nathan Barley types and tourists. In the converted stables at the back of the venue, you'll find the cute little Nuay's Thai Bistro, which serves up authentic Thai fare at very reasonable prices.
The Lucky Pig Fulham
Fulham / Restaurant / Cuisine: European
Expect irresistible modern European dishes - from breakfast through to dinner created using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients - at this gorgeous art-deco inspired restaurant. Live music is on offer every evening, and afternoons on weekends, including jazz, blues, rag time, honky tonk and electro swing. Meanwhile the sophisticated bar offers everything from its wickedly renowned cocktails to bubbles on tap, an extensive wine and champagne list plus a selection of locally produced craft beers.
Waterloo / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: British
Located on London's South Bank and set in the stunningly converted Victorian railway arches that are just steps from Waterloo Station, this place is constantly packed with arty types and tourists alike. Live jazz fills this place from Monday to Saturday and the delicate modern European dishes pull punters in aplenty.
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