London's Top DJ Bars
An evolution of the clubbing concept, the capital is full of stylish and sexy DJ bars. For a chilled-out alternative to the full-on clubbing experience, try one of our Top 10 recommendations.
93 Feet takes a simple DJ bar formula and applies it perfectly. The garden is enormous, the vibe deeply laid back and the music policy sheer eclectic excellence. It may be looking a little rough around the edges these days, but money saved on decor has been well spent on securing top line-ups. Everything always seems a bit half-hearted in the early part of the evening, but stick it out until the afternoon crowd have gone home, and it all kicks off. Two spartan rooms provide ample space for dancing, which is what everyone will be doing once the evening gets into gear.
36 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 7ER
Concealed in a particularly squalid and touristy corner of Piccadilly Circus is the bar that has kept the UK's Urban scene alive in the West End since the early 1990s. Thursday night's Movement has been the West End's biggest drum 'n' bass weekly for a full decade, and Tuesdays offer authentic reggaeton sounds straight off the plane from the barrio. The big boys come out on Friday and Saturday, and there are few major names in UK Urban who haven't played here, while live PAs from US stars are also a regular feature. In an area filled with cheap imitations, Bar Rumba is the genuine article.
257-259 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9NL
From the outside, the building looks spectacular, a floodlit white townhouse that puts the grimy environs of King's Cross to shame. The interior is equally shiny, with three floors of New York-ish glamour - lots of cosy nooks, low benches and a cream and grey colour scheme. Odd bits and pieces from the Big Chill Festival add a quirkiness that sets it apart from the run-of-the-mill style bars. It's also far enough away from Old Street that it has a certain identity of its own, attracting dedicated Big Chillers rather than passing trade. A comfy terrace adds to the summery vibe. The soundsystem is excellent, the cocktails are delicious, and (as you'd expect from owners who started out running festivals) the music policy is entertainingly quirky.
312 Archway Road, London, N6 5AT
The Boogaloo has succeeded in breaking the all pervasive contemporary pub blueprint, fashioning a popular alternative with a great atmosphere - and not an inch of light pine to be seen! Inside it looks aged and comfortable with an inviting slightly living-room feel about it. Bar staff peer out from behind the rickety wooden bar over a mishmash of sofas, chandeliers and convenient pint-resting shelves. The centrepiece of the pub is its magnificent jukebox, home to over a hundred albums. Boogaloo has a strict policy of only stocking the machine with albums over ten years old (to make fully sure they stand the test of time). It's terrific to see the punters picking out their own soundtrack to the evening, rather than a set by yet another DJ Nobody. If you need a little guidance on what to put on, there's always the celebrity choice list, nominated by a different musical luminary each month. Shane McGowan, Bobby Gillespie and Badly Drawn Boy have all selected playlists in the past. In the evenings live bands and DJs take over, with different nights featuring jazz, rockabilly, country and folk, and punk. The best time for celebrity-spotting is their eye-wateringly difficult music quiz, which attracts a huge crowd of geeky indie band-members.
83 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY
Cargo were the pioneers of the multi-tasking MDF concept (that's Music-Dance-Food, not cheap fibreboard) and boast one of the most imaginative live music line-ups in the capital. Fuel up with some of their lovely street food, wile away a summer afternoon in their courtyard and groove till the small hours under the refitted railway arches. The music policy covers the full spectrum of London's underground, with a focus on hip-hop, breakbeat and world music. There are also live tunes followed by top DJs most nights of the week.
89 Great Eastern Street, EC2A 3HX
Opened in 2007 by DJ/promoter Stuart Patterson, East Village reverses the Shoreditch trend towards drinking and socialising; by midnight, pretty much everyone in the club is on their feet and dancing. There's not really much choice, since the sound-system is stunning, and there's no corner of the club where you can get away from it. It's a smart space, with an underlit bar that stretches the length of the top floor, and a dressed-up crowd. Patterson is part of the Faith crew, who've been putting successful nights in other people's venues for the best part of a decade, and the music in his club is as good as you'd expect, with big name DJs almost every weekend.
For the London incarnation of Favela (whose sister bar has been energising the Oberkampf district of Paris for a decade) they've stripped everything down to the bare boards to recreate the spirit of Brazil's shanty towns. Scarred discarded timber, battered old doors, scrawled graffiti and tatty religious icons have been slung together by someone with an eye for design. The soundtrack includes some great live bands and DJs who throw out the odd Brazilian-tinged remix or a classic samba record. Caiparinhas and Caiparoskas rule the roost, but they find space for other Latin blends like the Mojito and some supremely drinkable Argentine plonk. The overall effect leans far more towards Shoreditch than Sao Paulo, especially once you factor in the laughably fashion-concious crowd, but huge queues testify to the great party atmosphere inside.
1 Shepherds Bush Green, London, W12 8PH
Ginglik is a club nestling under Shepherd's Bush Green, in a former public toilet. Supernaturally friendly staff, and the hard-to-spot entrance have given it a real local feel - and cheap membership ensures that many of the good-looking crowd are in every night, know each other, the musicians and the staff. It has a defiantly old skool appearance, with lots of UV art to remind people of the heyday of rave, but the entertainment is bang up to date. Ginglik plays host to comedy, live music, kung-fu and science fiction movie nights, and lots of excellent DJs.
418 Brixton Road, London, SW9 7AY
What really makes Plan B stand out as a party venue is the crowd. Brixton is the capital of South London's nightlife, and this is its best DJ bar, with a friendly, open atmosphere and a hugely diverse set of regulars. The decor is DJ bar by numbers, all exposed pipework and polished woods, but it's a well-designed space, with seating round a cool sunken dancefloor and a great sound-system. Friday nights are hip-hop, soul, funk or reggae, while Saturdays offer harder dance sounds. There's something going on most nights of the week, as well, and entry is often free if you arrive early.
147 - 149 Curtain Road, EC2A 3QE
Plastic People boasts the best sound-system in Shoreditch. This friendly space serves up seriously fresh music to a loyal crowd. Their no-frills clubbing formula has won them a legion of devotees and provides a welcome contrast with many of the overly slick ditchland bars. This is one of the most musically diverse venues in town, and you'll hear any or all types of jazz, funk, house, latin, electro, Afro beats and hip-hop - depending on the night. The musical standards are consistently high, and the people often scarily fashionable, but there is nothing pretentious about the place and the crowd have come to get down.
The Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ
This swaggeringly cool dance music space is housed in a former tea warehouse, with no attempt made to disguise the space's industrial origins. A long bar has been set up (offering surprisingly good cocktails), and there are a few sofas and low tables by the walls, but mostly T Bar offers grimy bleak chic - something that helps it to be a bit less infested with suits from the City than other venues in the area. Free entry and an absolutely phenomenal music policy, focused on techno, and cutting-edge house ensure long queues on Friday and Saturday nights. It's a particular favourite with Sunday ravers as well.
Occupying former theatres, railway arches, factories and warehouses, many of London's major clubs started out as illegal part...London's Top Clubs