Cool Hunter

Here’s an article from TimesOnline by James Collard that we liked and thought we’d share. Discreet, laid back bars are where it’s at…

carlyle gentry style‘There comes a point in nearly every life when being comfy becomes more important than trying to be cool. Of course, some people instinctively have their priorities right from the get-go; they’re born in their carpet slippers. For the rest of us, the comfy factor hits us late, and like an epiphany. From teenage years onwards, the herd instinct has exerted a mightily powerful pull, dragging us to dodgy dive bars simply because they’re fashionable, and making us queue up for some big club night (or suck up shamelessly to the gorgon on the door). Then once inside, we get drenched in sweat and spilled drinks and deafened by whatever din happens to be the sound-du-jour.

The realisation that it doesn’t need to be that way is bliss. Perhaps we’ve got older, wiser, more jaded. Perhaps we’re married with kids (kids who doubtless will shortly be embarking on the whole nightlife malarkey themselves). Perhaps, like yours truly, you know it’s time to quit the club scene when you realise that Eighties synth-pop is in again, only this time round you’ve got a paunch and no hair.

But whatever the reason, and whenever that gear change comes, it’s lovely when you ease off and stop trying to keep up. You feel the benefit immediately, for a start. No more queuing up for sweaty basements. No more jostling to get the barman’s attention. No more tiptoeing through pools of urine in some dodgy karzi. Instead you enter a world of cosy booths and banquette seats: the grown-up world of the “grey bar”, where martinis are brought to your table and where the background music seldom rises much above the quiet hum of the aircon. Grey bars can be cool, in both senses of the word, but they’re never frantic, as they’re peopled by punters who’ve realised that running with the pack – whether you’re setting the pace in an edgy, ahead-of-the-curve kind of way, or straggling and trying to catch up – isn’t much fun any more.

Far better to let those lissom-limbed youngsters lap us, surely, while we settle into the nightlife equivalent of an evening stroll: a quiet tipple, a cosy gossip, a giggle over a stiff drink (or several). In New York cru restaurant gentry style(where the term grey bar was coined), that means eschewing flash Schrager joints and heading instead to Bemelmans at the Carlyle or the Bar Room at MoMA – old-school hotels and high-culture temples both being pretty safe-bets for grey-bar-action. In London, stroll a few yards past the dressed-to-the-nines Hoxtonites lining up to get into BoomBox and drop into Cru for a glass of albariño and a nibble; swap Mahiki for the bar at Blakes; say “bugger to Boujis” and head to the seventh-floor bar of the Tate. Indeed, wherever you are, there’s a nice comfy drink winking at us, if only we have the sense to heed it.’


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