The best nights out in London like anywhere else: they tend to happen out of the blue. It isn’t until you wake up the next morning (more likely, the next afternoon) and have flashbacks from the night before that you start to put together the pieces that make up the fabric of this city’s vibrant, often unparalleled nightlife. When in Britain — not just in London: anywhere in Britain — join in with the Brits for what might as well be their unofficial pastime: drinking and partying. In fact, maybe it’s already official: 2012 British Olympic cycling champion Bradley Wiggins, a.k.a. ‘Wiggo,’ celebrated winning a gold medal by getting blind drunk… Here’s Part II of my nightlife guide to London; if you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to check out Part I, covering off East London and West London!
Central London — Soho, really — is where I work, and spend a fair amount of my weeknight time and dosh (money). While I wouldn’t necessarily head here at the weekend for a night out, I would thoroughly recommend some of these spots.
Many of my favourite haunts in Soho are a stone’s throw away from my office on Regent Street, starting with the one nearest and dearest to my heart: the John Snow pub, which is a “Sam Smith” pub (possibly Britain’s cheapest and most atmospheric chain). At the heart of every Sam Smith pub is the counter, where you can order ale, lager and cider all brewed by the Sam Smith brewery, which dates back to 1758; none of them will cost you more than a couple of quid (£2). You can, of course, also procure wine by the glass or spirits. Another nearby Sam Smith pub in Soho is the Red Lion, on Kingly Street, which features a working fireplace on the second floor, creating the feeling that you’re in someone’s living room from the moment you walk in.
Soho is also home to what has become a trend in London over the past couple of years: Prohibition Era–style speakeasies (at least, cleaned-up and modernized versions of what they once resembled). While not too many Brits are familiar with the term “speakeasy,” as the Prohibition Era did not extend across the Atlantic, they are warming to their exclusiveness and ability to transport you back to the golden age of Art Deco. One of my favourites in Soho is Milk and Honey, which is a private member’s club but does allow non-members to peruse its cocktail menu by reservation on certain nights (I recommend Monday to Wednesday, and no later than 10pm). Situated on Poland Street, in the heart of Soho, you could easily walk by Milk and Honey in the day, as its door is painted in the same dark purple as the exterior brick (pictured, above, via Eventseekr). Once your eyes adjust to the darkness (I could barely read the cocktail menu) the interior boasts cozy leather booths and dark wood floors, making it feel like a sanctuary away from the lively streets of Soho outside.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, there’s also Experimental Cocktail Club (pictured, top of post, via Food Republic), in nearby Chinatown. Located on Gerrard Street, it’s almost as easy to miss as Milk and Honey, but if you look closely, you’ll see a couple of doormen standing outside. Walk up to them casually (I’d recommend in a group no larger than three or four) and ask if they’ve got any tables free. If you’re in luck, then you’ll get the go-ahead. If you’d prefer to make a reservation, then you can do so online — but keep in mind that 50 per cent of the capacity is reserved for walk-ins (be nice to those doormen!). The cocktails are expertly made by very knowledgeable barmen and pack a hefty punch, so bring your drinking boots.
SOUTH LONDON: Elephant and Castle
Contrary to popular belief (at least, of many a North Londoner), the world doesn’t drop off when you cross the Thames to enter South London. While there are many haunts to visit this side of the river, if it’s a proper night out, look no further than Corsica Studios near Elephant and Castle tube. Located underneath the railway arches at the back of the shopping centre in Elephant and Castle, Corsica Studios is spread out over several areas, to accommodate a maximum crowd of 500. There’s a live music and bar area and a smaller studio, as well as a self-contained terrace and smoking area. Open until 6 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, if you’re up for seeing the night through ’till sunrise, Corsica Studios is a good bet. If drinking until sunrise isn’t your thing, the venue also serves as an art space, featuring exhibitions of contemporary artists as well as performance art.
SOUTH LONDON: Brixton
Clubbing in South London wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Brixton. The moment you step out of Brixton tube station, you feel a vibe about this place that doesn’t really compare to any other area in London. Brixton is a vibrant, multicultural community that is known for its famous streets such as Electric Avenue (immortalized in Eddy Grant’s eponymous 1982 single) to its infamous ones, such as Coldharbour Lane (close to where the 1981 Brixton riots occurred). The Dogstar (pictured, above, via Crafty Fox Market) has been on Coldharbour Lane since the days when people feared to go there and has become a Brixton club circuit institution. The club spans three levels of a corner street pub and often has an intense atmosphere that is vibrant as Brixton itself. Expect to hear anything from hip hop to drum ‘n’ bass to funk, well into the early hours of the morning. If you want to see Brixton in its true, raw form, this is the place to go.
What are your must-visit London nightlife destinations? Tell us in the Comments!
Sarah Lysecki is a freelance journalist based in London, UK, where she has written for Cosmetic News Weekly and Cosmetics International. She has also contributed to Economist Intelligence Unit, ITBusiness.ca, and Foodnetwork.ca. She is currently is in a very happy relationship with a dandy of an English gent.