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Woo your Valentine with London’s best jazz bars, including the top pianists, cocktails and cognacs
February 2, 2015 | By:

The London jazz scene is booming. Sudi Pigott shares where to find the best venues perfect for Valentines, from jazz duo Nicky & Kitty La Roar to Victorian cocktails and a folk music brunch

Culture Scarfes Bar with paintings 620x349, rosewood hotels gallery

Enjoy a gin-based cocktail while you listen to renowned jazz stars at Scarf’s Bar in Holborn

Sipping a London Gin-based cocktail infused with thyme out of a glass teapot from the fireside seat of Scarfe’s Bar at The Rosewood, while listening to jazz piano duo Nicky & Kitty La Roar, is a civilised way to slip into February.

Between the library, drawing room and Gentleman’s Club, it has original caricatures by Gerard Scarfe lining the walls and proper books worth browsing on the shelves. It feels very cosy indeed. 

Combining good music and great food used to be a huge challenge; but it’s getting easier. Especially when opting for the stylist bars often, but not always, within hotels.

Adjacent to Scarfe’s Bar is Holborn Dining Rooms, a grand brasserie with plenty of oak, antique mirrors and red leather banquettes. It’s the perfect warm up for either jazz or burlesque cabaret acts with enticing names like Lili La Scala and Vicky Butterfly.

Exceptional dishes include squid with anchovy mayo, cod with shellfish risotto and chicken pie with girolles.  

Treat your Valentine to top-notch jazz stars and Victorian mojitos

What makes Bassoon at The Corinthia Hotel truly unique is its bar, which segues into a Roland piano. Designed by the David Collins Studio with an Art Deco feel, Bassoon’s attention to detail is superb. Victorian mojitos are served out of hand-cut antique glasses, and the music is a mix of up-and-coming jazz stars and regulars led by pianist Dan Swana, who’s also head of music at Westminster School.

Sodas and tinctures are made in-house, and there’s an array of delicious snacks including baked tomatoes with goat’s cheese or couscous and roast vegetables. There’s also an indulgent toffee apple pavlova.

If you wanted to treat your date to a more fulsome dinner, head to the hotel’s Northall to enjoy wholly seasonal British classics with a modern edge.

Jazz nights and signature dishes at Le Caprice

Saturday afternoons (12.30-4pm) incorporate New Orleans-style jazz with Dom Pipkin, who’s played with Ray Davis and Paloma Faith at one of London’s most immutably stylish restaurants, Le Caprice. Choose from a short menu of signature highlights from Thai seabass to calf’s liver with onion.

On the last Sunday of each month, a Jazz night run is run in conjunction with Martell, one of Europe’s oldest cognac houses. Dinner is at 7pm and 9.15pm from a set menu, and comes with Martell cocktails. Performers include the likes of jazz/soul single Anoushka Lucas.

Cabaret and salt beef bagels at Le Crazy Coq

Le Crazy Coq is one of the best and most central music venues attached to Brasserie Zedel. Listen to an impressively varied programme of top-notch jazz from inside yet another beautiful Art Deco room.

Choose from the flamboyant Barb Jungr on Sunday evenings singing Nina Simone, to leading pianist Ian Shaw; as well as plenty of cabaret. Graze on mini salt beef bagels or pork belly with Dijon mustard.

culture the blues kitchen, gallery image 620x349

Enjoy some New Orleans gumbo or beef brisket with some world-class music at The Blue’s Kitchen

Blue’s bar in Shoreditch: The Blue’s Kitchen

For a rather different vibe, The Blues Kitchen‘s new Shoreditch venue plays homage to Bourbon Blues and Deep South food, with a menu encompassing beef brisket, burnt ends and New Orleans gumbo.

It attracts the very best names in blues, including Rolling Stones’ go-to guitar man, Gary Clark junior, legendary blues performer Seasick Steve, and Mud Morganfield, son of Muddy Waters. 

Farm-fresh bacon and folk music at The Shed

Country and folk music for Saturday brunch suits the rural ethos of the Gladwin Brothers’ The Shed restaurant in Notting Hill. Much of the produce comes from the family farm at Nutbourne in West Sussex, including memorable bacon from their Gloucester Old Spot/Tamworth cross pigs. 

Unsurprisingly, most brunch dishes feature bacon, whether with poached eggs and spinach or wrapping mallard breast served with corn fritters. Green tomato vodka based Bloody Mary’s are essential too.    

Ronnie Scott’s, for the biggest names in jazz

Booking well ahead is essential for Ronnie Scott’s, the quintessential Soho jazz club which attracts the biggest international names from Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval to drummer Billy Cobham.

Dining is much improved, though it’s best to stick to the grill menu of steaks and chops rather than the more ambitious dishes – and steer clear of the lacklustre cheeseboard. Sunday lunch jazz is a more recent addition and similarly popular.

A New York prohibition bar of our own

Hidden away beyond Lots Road antique market, 606 Club – like a true New York prohibition bar – is worth seeking out for its formidable lively programming, cosy ambiance and keen pricing.

Dining is essential for a seat in the main room. Get three small plates to share for £18.95 between Sunday-Thursday, such as crayfish Caesar salad, quinoa salad, chicken liver and chorizo. Mains including grilled tuna with sun-dried tomato and anchovy provide heartier sustenance. 

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