Insider’s Guide to London Nightlife
London is full of secret, über-cool clubs hidden in the darkest of nooks and remotest of crannies. Super-trendy shisha bars and ultra-chic jazz clubs where the city’s hip young things sip on ultra-delicious cocktails, and engage in exceedingly interesting conversations. To gain entry into such establishments, you must be willing to explore dark alleys, descend creepy stairways, knock on unmarked doors and then, when you’re there, you must know the secret password.
Of course…this is all hearsay.
In all of our visits to London, we’ve never actually found one such club. To be honest, we’ve never even met anyone who’s been to one. Everyone has a friend of a friend who has, but we’ll be darned if we can find one first-hand account. We know these clubs exist, we’re sure they do. These secret bars with their secret locations are plastered all over the net; TimeOut keeps advertising the best ‘clandestine’ Candlelight Clubs in London, some even with 5* reviews! How on earth does an impossible-to-find club get a 5* review we’ll never know…
So it is with a deflated ego that we must admit that, perhaps, we’re just not cool enough.
Delving into the best of London’s nightlife proves to be a rather easy affair. Oh yes, we’ve still got a bone to pick with those secret clubs, but we’ve also discovered that The English capital is brimming with fantastic bars and clubs, scattered all over town. Like most large capitals, there are also many trends which come and go, doors open and close at a moment’s notice, and yesterday’s new becomes very much today’s old. But for the sake of actually guiding you through the best London has to offer, we’ll offer you a glimpse into the varied treats on offer.
From opulently furnished bars serving Michelin-starred snacks with their cherry and pistachio bellinis, to outlandish hubs of modern chic where the bubbly is delicious and the burlesque shows frivolous; and finally the round-the-corner pub, where the ale is strong, the chips piping hot and the atmosphere cheerful.
The utterly classy
London’s Bvlgari Hotel, in ever so popular Knightsbridge, as always been synonymous with class, so it’s no wonder the in-house bar ‘Il Bar’ (the coolest places don’t even need names) is a fine example of just how far London’s night-time scene has changed through the decades. From superlative aperitivi (that cherry and pistachio bellini really is Oscar-worthy) to designer-cocktails, all served in equally opulent surroundings. The Italian-designed bar features black marble, a titanium ceiling and a striking hammered silver bar top. Complete with dark mahogany furniture, this is a side of stylish London which should be experienced.
The entertaining night out
For a night of ‘sheer fun and frolics’, don’t walk past London’s most celebrated night-time activity: watching a burlesque show! While show-clubs abound in this crazy town, institutions like the Wam Bam Club have really built a stellar reputation and boast a healthy cult following in London. In this particular burlesque supper club, you can enjoy an extremely fun and saucy show as well as a delectable three-course meal. While the fare is actually top-notch, the cabaret show is what people come here to watch! Comedians, circus acts and voluptuous dancers take centre stage in an entertaining extravaganza which leaves most visitors in awe, and bursting with hysterics. For an unbelievably amusing night out, do what we did, and give in to temptations…
Partying with the Locals
It’s a curious fact of the capital that many Londoners actually rarely venture into the centre of town for nights out, preferring to stay ‘local’ to where they live. This has created many great places to party just a few tube stops down the line, including Camden and Clapham. However, our pick of the areas to get down with the locals is Shoreditch in the East End. Once a run down area, it now has a vibrant arts scene, and the action is centered round the bars and clubs of Shoreditch, Hoxton and Old Street. This is London at it’s coolest and most unpretentious. Get off at Old Street Tube and take you pick, or for a recommendation try Cargo for eating, dancing and drinking.
The good old pub
Sometimes, when visiting a busy and buzzy city like London, one just wants a ‘quiet night out’ to down a cold one (sorry, a pint), snack on some soul food and have a good old yarn with some mates. That’s where London’s pubs come in. They may be a dime a dozen in London, and finding a great joint close by to your hotel is certainly not going to be very difficult. If it’s packed with locals (a lack of backpacks, guide books, trainers and baseball caps is the cue) then don’t hesitate!
If you’d like to see what a super-popular local pub looks like, then head to The Craft Beer Co. a great find down Leather Lane. This is often referred to as a ‘beer haven’, one of those places where the choice of ales is so extensive you could come here every day for weeks and never drink the same liquid gold twice. The kitchen serves some rather wicked pork pies to go with your drinks and while the seated room is rather limited, there’s plenty of bar space and the after-work scene is blissfully social.
Kerstin Kellerkotter via Flickr
Martin SoulStealer via Flickr
Bernt Rostad via Flickr