ost-lockdown, London’s dating scene is firmly, fabulously back – and nowhere is this renewed spirit more evident than on the capital’s dance floors.
From revamped institutions making a big comeback after years away, to new openings that were thwarted by the ‘rona but coming back even stronger a second time, the city’s nighttime playground is ready to be explored.
Here’s your guide to the coolest spots in London; it’s time to go out.
When it opens next week, it will be one with queues snaking down the main street with dancers, drinkers and everyone else besides clamoring to explore KOKO’s four floors of fun. When it closed for a long-planned renovation in March 2019, KOKO could not have expected the biblical misfortune heading its way – work halted by fire, water damage and plague – but now, three years and £70million later, Camden’s Great Hall is back and looking better than ever.
The main theater will remain the heart of its concert and DJ night operation, but the restoration has opened up a maze of new spaces: the famous dome-turned-cocktail bar, a jazz club named after actress Ellen Terry ( who opened the place at the time), a pizzeria, a recording studio, a DJ space and more. The ultimate party venue?
1A Camden High Street, NW1, koko.co.uk
In a past life, this Hackney Wick location was known as Mick’s Garage – but now it’s Color Factory. However, the change is more than just a name, with the launch of this black-owned club on a mission to only set up queues with “at least one person of color”. [and] always mixed” for its internal events.
This inclusive mindset has resulted in landmark events: he was involved in organizing Body Movements, East London’s first-ever queer electronic music festival, and was the scene of the explosive Yung Singh’s Boiler Room at the end of last summer, a major moment for South Asian representation in clubbing. . It’s proof that parties can be good in every sense of the word.
8 Queen’s Court, E9, colorfactory.com
On the walls of this new Covent Garden dive bar is the caption: ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’. Its entrance, a red neon arcade game strip, hints at the madness below, fueled by live DJs, rum-based cocktails and pints of Tennent lager (the band started in Scotland ). You have to have fun but talking about it is bad form; the other logo that shines here is “Loose Lips Sink Ships”. Says it all.
63 Neal Street, WC2, abandonshipbar.com
There’s something particularly special about nightclubs hiding under railway arches. For years, Corsica Studios has been a reliable evocator of the magic you get when loud music rocks the darkness beneath tracks. There is now a new location for a rave adjacent to the railroad: Space 289.
Although it opened before ‘rona, the Bethnal Green venue has only really established itself as a must-visit for London clubbers since it reopened last summer. Understated interiors, a small capacity of around 200 people and a sound system well above its weight mean this place feels like a hidden gem, especially with a program that seems determined to explore the nooks and crannies of the British dance music.
289 Cambridge Heath Road, E2, space289.com
When Bar Boulud closed, questions flew – how would Mandarin Oriental replicate Daniel Boulud’s much-loved spot, hailed as the dream neighborhood restaurant for the affluent? The hotel’s answer was: we won’t. Instead, they opened the Aubrey, a velvety version of a Japanese izakaya. It was a decision that mocked the idea of izakayas as analogs to pubs.
What’s here is a purring hideaway that draws Studio 54 crowds for nights that replicate David Mancuso’s famous Loft parties that captivated New York in the 70s and 80s. skillfully prepared sandos, but on weekends the cocktail shakers start ringing, the music plays and the dancing begins. The ground floor bar of the new St Martin’s House in Covent Garden (WC2, stmartinshouselondon.co.uk) does something similar.
66 Knightsbridge, SW1, mandarinoriental.com
It’s pretty rare to find a real nightclub in the heart of London these days – you can thank rents for that – but at Orange Yard we have one. Landing in Soho in 2019, it feels new thanks to a renovation. It’s a slightly fancier affair than what you’ll find in Zone 2 and beyond; you can count on sleek interiors that set this one apart from warehouse fashion. With a capacity limit of 300 people, it retains the intimacy that is sometimes taken away in larger spaces. The music is dedicated to all styles of house, from old school Chicago classics to modern thumpers.
Rue Manette, W1, orangeyardsoho.com
After the Terribly Serious post-pandemic phase — when every TikTok-accredited mixologist went to places demanding drinks with tinctures — there was a cry for bars that only laugh. The act brings the West End to West London, and while other places try to hide the fact that their bartenders are also actors, this place celebrates it. There’s an Indian-inspired cocktail menu, but the real draw is the staff, all professional entertainers who rock the crowds as they sing along to the hits. It’s boozy and, according to initial reports, a riot.
126-128 Notting Hill Gate, W11, @theactnottinghill
Star of Lord Napier
This boozer has a history as colorful as its graffiti-splattered facade. Starting as a watering hole for factory workers in the 1860s, it remained a reliable East End pub until it closed in 1995, and quickly the building took on a new guise as a hotspot for illegal raves. These were eventually drowned out by the council, but its artsy exterior became an attraction in its own right, although some of the graffiti wasn’t too suitable for Insta feeds. Since late last summer, it’s been relaunched as an all-purpose pub, backed by good-time DJs, offering everything from a sunny rooftop terrace to Thai-inspired grub from the kitchen. Come for lunch, stay all night.
25 White Post Lane, E9, lordnapierstar.co.uk
This spot is not technically new, but it shows. After holding its own during the pandemic, it has since reopened with all the raw, crackling energy of a reborn place. The industrial-style space, which can accommodate up to 300 revelers, is versatile – it’s one of the venues involved in the Brick Lane Jazz Festival later this month (April 22-24, bricklanejazzfestival.com) – but it comes into play its own intimate and intense club.
There’s a punchy audio system courtesy of Funktion One (for the uninitiated, that’s synonymous with top-notch quality) and a wide range of newcomers shaping the sound of what’s to come. The best piece? Brick Lane’s location means it’s perfectly placed for a post-rave bagel.
91, brick alley, E1, werkhauslondon.com
Until the onset of the pandemic, Fabric had remained more or less the same since it opened in 1999: a massive underground dance music haunt known for high-profile DJs and sprawling parties that often went on all weekend long. . But now it is no longer the fabric of old. Coming out of the Covid-enforced hiatus, things changed.
The club has had its first room-wide renovation in 22 years: expect everything from a new sound system and DJ booth in room 2, to the swing-chain seats where the beds were in the Sunken Bar. They have also implemented a strict no-camera policy in the club, eliminating any mood-breaking smartphone intrusion. This means that, of the many places to get lost for the evening, Fabric is always among the best.
77a Charterhouse Street, EC1, fabriclondon.com