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24 Hour Party People: London's Best Lifestyle Concierges

In the age of Siri, StubHub and various nightlife planning websites, the concept of a lifestyle concierge may seem somewhat archaic. But, following the arrival of the Night Tube and the appointment of London’s first Night Tsar, the capital’s night-time economy has received a much-needed shot of adrenaline. With a host of high-profile openings planned for 2017, when it comes to partying like a VIP, it’s all about who you know

‘Mate, you get paid to get sloshed all the time. Where’d be good to take the boys for my birthday?’ Delete as appropriate and replace with ‘clients for lunch’ or ‘the missus for our anniversary’, and you get the gist of the email / text message / voicemail that regularly lands in my inbox.  

Work for a magazine like The City Magazine, and you automatically become a personal lifestyle concierge. Friends and family expect you to have at least one finger on London’s party pulse; to know which openings have slithered and which ones have shouted their way to the top of the capital’s social scene. And who to chat up in order to blag a table there. 

In situations like these, I turn to my good friend Tim Badham, a man who measures the palpitations of London’s heartbeat with a stethoscope. Tim, you see, is in the party business, and here it pays to keep abreast of where’s hot and where’s scorching. 

Tim founded luxury concierge service Innerplace in 2004. Having worked as an investment banker for Merrill Lynch, Tim believed the capital was lacking a service that provided City-types direct access to the exclusive restaurants, bars and nightclubs. His mission statement was simple: “We intended to upgrade the social life of our members.”

Insider knowledge is the cornerstone of any good concierge. Firms like Innerplace trade off the fact that they are better connected and more in-the-know than you. Surely, though, in the information age, where the contact details of hosts and maître d’s are available online, and reservations can be made with a click of a button, the basic business plan of a concierge company begins to unravel? 

Lifestyle concierge and luxury travel company Bon Vivant was set up by Emyr Thomas in 2009. It charges £200 a month for membership and while Emyr concedes that the internet has made London’s social scene far more accessible, he says that it’s his little black book for which his clients are paying.

“Sure, you could spend hours researching a night out, but getting a table at a hot new London restaurant is almost impossible unless you know someone who works there. That’s where we come in. We provide clients access through our connections.”

At Innerplace, basic ‘Resident’ membership costs £50 per month, plus a £75 joining fee. Top tier ‘Red’ membership will set you back £3,000 annually, with a £400 signing-on fee. So, what are you getting for your money? 

“Free entry to most London clubs,” says Tim. “Plus complimentary welcome Champagne at over 100 top restaurants. We host our own members’ parties every three months, enabling our members to meet and mingle with like-minded people in cool, usually recently launched venues. We deal with some very exclusive places who simply wouldn’t accept people that weren’t their own members.”

Cynical about forking out for anything I could conceivably have a half-decent crack at myself, I recently put Innerplace to the test. The brief was simple: 10 blokes, two milestone birthdays, and one suitably salubrious night out, please. Innerplace suggested Project, a nightclub tucked away in Fitzrovia, set up, says its website, to cater for ‘London’s Elite’ – whoever they are.  

True to Tim’s word, when we arrived, we bypassed the considerable queue, passed door policy, even as a large, male-only group, and were subsequently shown to two tables directly opposite the DJ. Innerplace had even persuaded Project to waiver its usual minimum spend per table policy, softening the financial hangover considerably. The night was as a banger. 

Of course, the 21st-century concierge does a lot more than organise the sort of nights out where your Champagne comes served with a side of fireworks. Ben Elliot co-founded what is now London’s best-known concierge, Quintessentially Lifestyle, in Soho in the year 2000. Today, his company has five global hubs and offices in more than 60 international cities. Here, representatives are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Quintessentially prides itself on ‘specialising in extreme service, from the elite to the impossible’. Ben elaborates: “We’ve organised lunch on an iceberg; We’ve closed the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a member to propose at the top of it; we secured Elton John to sing at a wedding; we’ve sourced 20 Pierrot-style artworks for one member’s wife within one week – the list goes on.”

In terms of frequency, restaurant reservations remain Quintessentially’s number one request, accounting for around 40 per cent of enquiries – but business is changing. “In the early days, we were renowned for our nightlife and event access. While we remain as strong as ever in these areas, our membership base has grown up, and so have we. We’re now able to help with experiential travel, introductions to influential people, philanthropy and education – the important things in life as well as the fun things.”

For Emyr, too, requests are moving away from traditional reservations towards other areas of members’ lifestyles, particularly travel. “Our luxury travel services are becoming increasingly popular with people realising the benefit of having their own personal travel advisor to help with holidays and business trips,” he says. 

“We travel the world to scope out the best – whether it’s location, room product, or service. And, yes, while you could book travel arrangements yourself, you wouldn’t be able to secure benefits such as upgrades, free breakfast and £75 to spend on food and drink or spa services – which we offer with every room we book, at over 1,300 hotels across the globe.”

All well and good, but let’s face it, the truest test of a concierge is delivering on the ludicrous requests of billionaire playboys. Tim has been asked to fly someone’s favourite burger from London to LA; Emyr’s been charged with arranging afternoon tea with Prince Albert from Monaco; but Ben just about pips it: 

“Within the space of three weeks, we had to assist with the setting up of a home in Tangier with all the luxury trimmings a UHNWI would want – Arabian tents, musicians, security, a personal trainer, chef, staff, hosts, everything all the way down to uniforms. It was a mammoth task, with a few hair-raising moments, but we delivered, and with time to spare.”

And therein lies the true value of London’s leading Mr Fix-its. 

We’ve organised lunch on an iceberg; We’ve closed the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a member to propose at the top of it; we secured Elton John to sing at a wedding; we’ve sourced 20 Pierrot-style artworks for one member’s wife within one week – the list goes on

London’s most well–connected men

Ben Elliot
Founding director of Quintessentially Lifestyle
Membership: from £1,500 per year, www.quintessentially.com

“We deal with lots of different types of people from CEO’s, royalty to students and housewives. We also work with a wide range of brands which currently include Facebook, HSBC and Aston Martin. Their requirements range from brand activations, intimate dinners and large scale launches all around the world.”

“Our dedicated private events team work with non-members on their private parties and weddings throughout the year. Requests can range from a small housewarming party to a wedding abroad – all of our clients receive the same level of care.”

London Uncovered 

Best Bar? 
The bar at The Connaught

Best Restaurant? 
The Wolseley and The Delaunay

Best Club?
Annabel’s, an old-school favourite – perfect for after dinner drinks 

Best Hotel? 
The Beaumont in Mayfair

What’s London’s best kept secret? 
5 Hertford Street

Which openings should we be most excited about in 2017? 
The New Annabel’s on Berkeley Square will be a big one.


Emyr Thomas
Founder of Bon Vivant 

Membership: £200 per month / £2,000 per year, www.bonvivant.co.uk

“All of our clients receive their own personal concierge to contact directly via email, phone or text, for all requests.”

“We take care of every aspect of their lives – booking travel with access to upgrades and complimentary benefits at over 1,300 luxury hotels globally; access to the best restaurants that others wouldn’t be able to secure; access to VIP or sold out events; and help with a multitude of other services, all designed to save our clients time and improve the quality of their lives.”

London Uncovered  

Best Bar? 
The Coburg Bar at The Connaught, Mayfair

Best Restaurant? 
The Wolseley, Cecconi’s and Scott’s. I also love the buzz of Dean Street Townhouse

Best Club? 
I’m more of a restaurant, late-night bar and members’ club kind of guy!

Best Hotel? 
The Connaught 

What’s London’s best kept secret? 
The Champagne Room. Not strictly a full bar, but a secret spot for a clandestine meeting with some seriously good Champagne with a capacity of only 25.

Which openings should we be most excited about in 2017? 
Shoreditch is getting a Nobu hotel and restaurant; The Ned from the Soho House group will be a big draw in the City.

 

Tim Badham
Founder of Innerplace
Membership: from £50 per month, www.innerplace.co.uk

“The London scene is in a state of perpetual flux, so it’s our job to keep members in the know about what’s hot and what isn’t and, more importantly, what will suit a particular person, client or occasion.”

“We arrange large events particularly for our corporate clients but can also organise events for our other members, too – parties, receptions, large dinners, Christmas parties. Last year we even organised a private Star Wars screening, the week The Force Awakens came out, at a top hotel for one of our banking clients. We had Darth Vader, Stormtroopers and the Droids in attendance. The client loved experiencing something so different.”

London Uncovered 

Best Bar? 
MNKY HSE

Best Restaurant? 
The Ledbury

Best Nightclub?
Tramp

Best Hotel? 
The London Edition 

What’s London’s best kept secret? 
Blacks in Soho

Which openings should we be most excited about in 2017? 
The Ned... coming to the City Q1 next year.