The new Lonely Planet Guide to London has decreed that the capital is 'the place to be right now'. Well yes it is, says James Sherwood, but it's so cool that the trendsetters have already moved on. Here's where to find them...

In the same year that we voted Tony Blair into Number 10, Vanity Fair magazine pronounced London to be the epicentre of Cool Britannia. A cover shot of Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit luxuriating between the sheets of what looked like Tracey Emin's dirty bed did little to support our nation's cool credentials.

Calling a city cool is a cultural kiss of death and, like Harry Potter's Dementors, the Lonely Planet Guide 2004 has opened its yawning maw and declared that London is "the place to be right now". But a cool place doesn't need to be told. It knows. To be told that you're cool by Lonely Planet is rather like being told by Jordan that you're the only man for her. It's also a bit rich that, a mere two years ago, Lonely Planet dismissed London as a cross between Miss Havisham's wedding cake and Beirut, describing the city as "a joyless, decaying place where the locals are more likely to attack you than extend a welcome".

But now, it seems, London is a multicultural wonderland. Brixton by night is as sanitised as Disneyland Paris, and Hoxton is so Dickensian and quaint that you expect to run into Ron Moody and Shani Wallis at the White Cube gallery before joining in three rousing choruses of "Oom-Pa-Pa" down at the Bricklayer's Arms. And in the interim, all those mouldering landmarks have been transformed into "magnificent historical architecture".

Londoners do get rapped on the knuckles for "casually chucking rubbish out of car windows" and for the ghastly public transport service. But, quibbles aside, Lonely Planet did get one thing right: "London is not a place you can ever do: it's evolving too quickly even for its occupants to fully grasp." And as for guidebooks...

Celebrity-spotting restaurants

Lonely Planet says Gordon Ramsay Traditionalists may still favour Gordon Ramsay and his delectable prix fixe lunch menu, but fashion's gadflies have long since flitted to his dining room at Claridge's and Gordon Ramsay's Boxwood Café at the Berkeley Hotel.

We say Gordon Ramsay @ Claridge's Tastemakers want to tread on the Balenciaga trains of famous style icons such as the Duchess of Windsor, Vivien Leigh and Jackie O, so they dine in the splendour of Gordon Ramsay @ Claridge's. Claridge's Bar is seething nightly with beautiful people - Sophie Dahl, Jasper Conran, Gwyneth Paltrow and the like. Kate Moss, who is the litmus paper of cool, held her 30th birthday party in the penthouse suite.

Gordon Ramsay @ Claridge's, Brook Street, W1 (020-7499 0099)

Lonely Planet says Nobu Now more famous for Boris Becker romancing his dinner date in a broom cupboard than for its blackened cod, Nobu isn't as C-list as the Met bar below, but it's a slow-burner rather than the hottest restaurant in town right now.

We say The Ivy Only Madame Tussauds can boast more famous faces under one roof. Its pedigree is immaculate (Noël Coward, Taylor and Burton, Princess Margaret in her dancing days), and its superiority unchallenged. The Beckhams, Madonna, Liza, Elton and all the stars we're on first-name terms with eat at The Ivy.

The Ivy, 1 West Street, W1 (020-7836 4751)

Lonely Planet says Sketch Admittedly, this restaurant's Adam-meets-Barbarella interiors are fabulous, but seeing Lady Victoria Hervey - the deathwatch beetle of cool - dine there does rather put one off one's oysters.

We say The Wolseley Corbin and King, the artists formerly known for The Ivy and Le Caprice, have enchanted London with The Wolseley, their take on a Viennese tearoom, which is sited just a few yards away from The Ritz. Open from breakfast to late-night supper, The Wolseley has enticed Tom Ford, Burberry's Rose Marie Bravo and the ubiquitous Kate Moss.

The Wolseley, 160 Piccadilly, W1 (020-7499 6996)


Lonely Planet says Notting Hill Carnival It's the one day of the year when the multicultural community squeezed out by Trustafarians and Wiggers (white people pretending to be down with the hood) get to reclaim their old stomping ground.

We say DTPM @ Fabric If you want hot black, white and Hispanic marys stripped to the waist and shaking their booty to hard house in a sweatbox gay club, then this is your cultural melting pot. Or treat it as a spectator sport and simply ogle.

DTPM @ Fabric (Sundays 10pm-7am), 77A Charterhouse Street, EC1 (020-7336 8898)

Lonely Planet says Curry in Whitechapel Though Brick Lane houses the mighty 93 Feet East music venue and counts Tracey Emin and Gilbert & George as near neighbours, Whitechapel's Curry Lane is not a pretty sight for tourists after dark.

We say Burgers @ Lucky Seven in Notting Hill Tom Conran follows up his Notting Hill gastropub The Cow with the American diner Lucky Seven. Neighbourhoodies Stella McCartney, Celia Birtwell and Paul Smith are fans.

Lucky Seven, 127 Westbourne Park Road, W2 (020-7727 6771)

Lonely Planet says Hanging in Brixton Lonely Planet likes Brixton's "edgy and vibrant potpourri of cultures". Excuse me? There are streets where "hanging in Brixton" will be taken literally should you be rash enough to linger.

We say Hanging in Clerkenwell On the cusp of the West End, the City, Hoxton and Islington, Clerkenwell is London's hippest postcode. Cult restaurant St John is probably the coolest place to be seen tearing a pig's trotter. It even tempted Madonna into the East End.

St John, 26 St John Street, EC1 (020-7251 0848)

Lonely Planet says Gigging in Hackney OK, the Hackney Empire has been refurbished and it's gorgeous. But the West End needn't worry.

We say Gigging at the Royal Opera House Slumming it is increasingly uncool, and newly refurbished Coliseum (home of the English National Opera) and Royal Opera House are the places to see and be seen. Wouldn't you just die without Wagner?

The Royal Opera House, Drury Lane, W1 (020-7304 4000)

Romantic spots

Lonely Planet says London Eye What could be more romantic than plighting your troth in a glass pod shared with a coach party nibbling egg rolls and wondering if they'll get down before BHS on Oxford Street closes?

We say The Windows bar at the London Hilton If heights turn you on, book a table at the Windows bar atop the hotel. It's London's answer to New York's Rainbow Room, and it has a bird's-eye view of Buckingham Palace Gardens.

Windows on the World, London Hilton, 22 Park Lane, W1 (020-7208 4021)

Lonely Planet says Hampstead Heath If your idea of twilight romance is a retired accountant called Bernard wearing nipple clamps hiding behind a fern, this is indeed a veritable lover's leap.

We say Cecconi's By day Hampstead Heath is an Arcadian paradise, but Londoners seeking love after dark would be much better advised to book a table at Cecconi's. Designed by David Collins, the windows are shielded from Mayfair's prying eyes by fringe curtains.

Cecconi's, 5A Burlington Gardens, W1 (020-7434 1500)

Lonely Planet says Black cab You try whispering sweet nothings into your beloved's ear while a cabbie gives you his in-depth analysis of the Hutton report and the congestion charge and how Ken's fiddled with the traffic lights again.

We say Rickshaw It's much cuter to hop a rickshaw on Old Compton Street, pedalled by a Trustafarian called Giles sowing his bohemian oats before taking up his directorship at Morgan Stanley. Unlike black cabbies, they can navigate those shady back streets where you can canoodle unobserved.

Lonely Planet says Agent Provocateur Soho's naughty knicker shop, owned by Vivienne Westwood's son Joe Corre and his wife Serena, has a 1950s Diana Dors saucy, camp quality, and their pink-bottled perfume is stellar. But...

We say Myla It was to the Notting Hill boudoir Myla that the Sex and the City stylist Patricia Field went for Samantha's string-of-pearls thong (you can only imagine), and where sisters doing it for themselves go to buy their streamlined Tom Dixon-designed vibrators.

Myla, 77 Lonsdale Road, W11 (020-7221 9222)


Lonely Planet says Dennis Severs' House Dennis Severs? Who he?

We say Sir John Soane's House The eminent architect's house is a cabinet of curiosities, including the alabaster sarcophagus of Seti 1, Grecian marbles and Renaissance drawings that fold from false walls like an advent calendar. The candlelight tour on the first Tuesday of the month is magical.

Sir John Soane's Museum, 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, WC2 (020-7405 2107)

Lonely Planet says Old Operating Theatre Museum If you really want to scare your children witless, this is far more gruesome than the London Dungeon.

We say Design Museum Since its director, Alice Rawsthorne, was appointed in 2001, the museum has embraced the world of fashion and shown sharp retrospectives of Philip Treacy, Manolo Blahnik and John Galliano for Dior. Cool zones nearby include Borough Market, Bermondsey and Conran's Pont de la Tour.

The Design Museum, 28 Shad Thames, SE1 (020-7940 8790)

Lonely Planet says Tyburn Convent Hang it!

We say Alfie's Antique Market Tucked just off the Edgware Road, you do see some faces around Alfie's Antique Market who wouldn't have looked out of place round the gibbet at Tyburn in 1781. Try to ignore the clay pipes and - like Alexander McQueen, Björk and Anna Friel - concentrate on the rabbit warren of antique shops in Alfie's.

Alfie's, 13-25 Church Street, NW8 (020-7723 6066)


Lonely Planet says Tate Modern Tate Modern is a mighty achievement. It was a stroke of genius to showcase contemporary art in the converted Bankside power station.

We say Haunch of Venison Opened in Nelson's old townhouse off Bond Street, Haunch of Venison is London's most exciting young gallery. The godfather of London art, Anthony d'Offay, has blessed Haunch of Venison with his patronage.

Haunch of Venison, 6 Haunch of Venison Yard, W1 (020-7495 5050)

Lonely Planet says National Gallery One cannot criticise this as a venue to pick up a little culture or a Scandinavian tourist. But there are more discreet and less densely populated temples to high culture. For example...

We say Wallace Collection In a mansion house on Manchester Square, its collection of Rococo art is vast (including Fragonard's The Swing) and the gallery is invariably quiet. The glassed-over courtyard café is a very discreet meet.

Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, W1 (020-7563 9500)

Lonely Planet says Saatchi Gallery Like a temple to Mammon, the Saatchi Collection at County Hall is an attempt to elevate one collector's vision into a history of Brit Art in the 1990s.

We say White Cube Gallery The man responsible for flogging Saatchi all those Brits is the White Cube Gallery director Jay Jopling. His gallery sits in London's former epicentre of cool Hoxton Square. But, like all tastemakers, Jopling is migrating back to the West End imminently.

White Cube, 48 Hoxton Square, N1 (020-7930 5373)

Lonely Planet says Courtauld Gallery Somerset House, home of the Courtauld, is fun in winter when the fountain courtyard is turned into an ice-skating rink. The gallery is rich in post-impressionists. But many tourists miss the jewel in Somerset House's crown...

We say Hermitage Rooms These have been crafted to resemble the St Petersburg palace museum and host treasures loaned from the Hermitage.

The Hermitage Rooms, Somerset House, South Building, WC2 (020-7845 4630)

The 'Lonely Planet Guide to London' is published next month