London

 

Bars

Ku Bar – this bright and glossy bar might have steeper prices than G-A-Y, but you get what you pay for – a less crowded atmosphere and a downstairs club full of screens showing erotica. Ruby Tuesdays is its dedicated lesbian night at its Frith St branch, where pop, house and r&b is played to a crowd of students, vistiors and those willing to brave a hangover the next day.

 

30 Lisle St, Soho, WC2H 7BA. Open Mon-Sat noon-3am and Sunday noon-midnight

25 Frith St, Soho, WC1D 5LB. Open Mon-Thurs noon-11pm Fri-Sat noon-midnight and Sunday noon-10.30pm.

Nearest Station: Leicester Square


She Bar - after the closure of Candy Bar, came the much more subtle pre-drink venue She Bar. This cosy, glossy venue plays sultry R&B to a professional, 20-something crowd. It might be a bit swankier than its attendees, but ask politely and they'll let you put their 2-4-1 cocktails in a jug to better return to one of their secluded crypt rooms. Watch out if you're looking for a make-out session, the individual chairs can be a bit obstructive.

23a Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 5LB. Open 4pm-11.30pm Mon-Thur, 4pm-12.30am Fri-Sat. Closed Sundays.
Nearest Station: Leicester Square

 

G-A-Y - connoisseurs of taste, check your bags at the cloakroom. Seriously, check your bags, the £1.70 weeknight drinks deals means that they'll become sticky with spilled jagerbombs, sparklebombs, cider and all between. Pop videos can be requested via jukebox and the results of your campiest delectations will appear on screens tiled against the wall. Officially, the basement is the women-only section (Girls Go Down, it's called), but you'll still find some people to bump into on the other levels. Similar antics ensue at G-A-Y Late, just later and with more dancing.

Bar: 30, Old Compton Street, Soho W1D 4UR. Open every day noon until midnight.

Late: 5, Goslett Yard, soho WC2H 0EA. Open every day 11pm-3am.
Nearest Station: Leicester Square

 


Restaurants

Ivy's Mess Hall - Don't be fooled by the shabby-chic decor or the fact food comes served in ceramic pots or on wooden trays. This is robust, great quality food with punchy flavours. They might be cheeky and try to hawk you more of their own sourdough bread, but the prawn coconut casserole and the courgette salad's lemony-basil dressing are just there for the dunking.  Oh, they also do breakfasts, and the entire menu is run by, yep, a lesbian.

129, Kingsland High Street, Dalston, E8 2PB. Open Mon-Thurs 8am-10pm, Friday 8am-midnight, Saturday 9am-midnight and Sunday 9am-5pm.
Nearest Station: Dalston Kingsland


Rita's Bar and Dining - This gorgeous, pared down take on American dining mixes in far-eastern influences (kimchi, miso), game and perhaps a bit more offal than you'd expect. Still, the deep fried chicken roll and the crushed potatoes with sour cream are to die for. Also serves flavoured liqueurs and has some of the friendliest staff around.

175 Mare St, London Fields, E8 3RH. Open Mon 6pm-midnight, Tuesday-Friday noon-3pm, 6pm-midnight, Saturday 11am-3pm, 6pm-midnight and Sunday noon-9pm.
Nearest Station: London Fields

 

Maoz Falafel - To save yourself from the embarrassment of having to eat your Burger King or McDonalds on a heaving nightbus (central London fast-food joints don't let people eat indoors, afraid they'll get into fights over saucy dips or something), head to this well-located falafel joint, where the freshly made, crispy falafel comes with a DIY-salad from a buffet bar. Try to be sober enough to handle the serving spoons, and don't be that tourist getting in people's way - the process can be intense, but the end result is your mouth around the best falafel in London.

43 Old Compton St, Soho W1D 6HG. Open 11am-1am Mon-Thurs, 11am-2am Friday-Saturday, 11am-midnight Sunday.

 

Hoi Polloi - Gorgeous, slightly pricey takes on British classics underneath the Ace Hotel. If you’d prefer a bit of sunlight with your dinner, head to Bistrotheque or Shrimpy’s, owned by the same very gay-friendly company, the food is consistently gorgeous and each venue has a sense of occasion without being too prim.

 

100 Shoreditch High St London E1 6JQ. Open  Sun-Weds 7am-midnight, Thurs-Sat 7am-1am.



Clubs

Dalston Superstore - Welcome to people of all creeds, sexualities and ages (almost - it might be a bit too loud for a nice chat past 9pm) Superstore has a friendly, welcoming cafe-bar upstairs and a proper dark club downstairs. As well as making great comforting-yet-healthy grub upstairs, it's the birthplace of some of London's best lesbian nights.  edgy gay and lesbian nights. For lesbians, there's Club Lesley, Clam Jam and the occasional Twat Boutique, and T Bar is London's only dedicated night for trans men and their friends. It can become stiflingly busy at weekends, so head along early to avoid queues.

117 Kingsland High Street, Dalston, E8 2PB. Open Mon noon-1.30am, Tues-Thurs and Sunday noon-2.30am, Friday noon-3am and Saturday 10am-3am.


G-A-Y @ Heaven - This is London's biggest gay night and it adheres to the lowest common denominator for it. Go if you like pop. Yes there's a relaxed lounge with marginally comfortable beds to sit on, yes there's an R&B and Hip Hop room which smartly mixes up the decades of the genres, but the main draw is the big hall, where every Thursday, lucky punters get to take their clothes off as part of the horrific yet hilarious Porn Idol. Drinks not as cheap as G-A-Y bar or G-A-Y late, so make sure to start at one of the former and get a free wristband for access to Heaven.

The Arches, Villiers St, Charing Cross WC2N 6NG. Open Mon 11am-5am, Fri 11pm-4am and Saturday 10.30pm-5am.  Closed Tue-Thurs and Sunday.
Nearest Station: Charing Cross


Holla @ The Macbeth - This lusty-looking pub might not appear to be the best location for an R&B and hip hop night, but it really is. Old school tunes are mixed in with newer trap music, which makes for a bit of an erratic mix, but if you want to bump and grind with an array of London's lesbians, this is the occasionally too-hot-to-handle place to be.

70 Hoxton Street, Shoreditch, N1 6LP. Monthly, visit facebook.com/london.holla
Nearest Station: Hoxton

 


Cafes

Lerryn's - Situated in-between the fish-markets and cut-price phone stalls of Rye Lane, this coffee-shop-cum-bar has escaped the 'nasty gentrification' tag as it's way too unassuming to bother the locals. Local-staffed, this colourful venue also plays host to the Holla girls' fringe nights, and even has a little garden to enjoy/smoke with your coffee.

200 Rye Lane, Peckham, SE15 4NF. Open 8am-6pm Mon-Weds, 8am-late Thurs-Sun.

Nearest station: Peckham Rye



Neighbourhoods


Though east London used to be the clubbing venue of choice, London's high rents has pushed most young creatives either way up north to Haringay and Holloway Road, or south to Peckham, Brixton and Nunhead. Most lesbian nights do seem to be centred around Soho and East London, but this seems to be changing as the younger creative sorts begin to run their own clubnights in their own areas. It's not always lesbian-friendly, but anywhere young and trendy will probably be ok with lesbian PDAs, and not in the leering sense. Here are areas to watch out for:

Peckham - increasingly gentrified with shabby-chic cafes, art projects and increasingly enjoyable gastropubs. Also home to a beautiful park that doesn't get too touristy. Check out facebook.com/garconnelondon for info on its lesbian club nights.

 

Brixton – a beautiful food market, great semi-shabby cocktail bars and the perfectly-sized gig venue Brixton Academy leaves you with little wonder why it’s so popular. However, it’s sometimes a bit too popular for its own good. Try going mid-week for Brixton Village, and get the best food by avoiding all the chains (apart from Honest Burger)

Shoreditch – though its popularity amongst creative types has filtered down to bankers and people just visiting from the outskirts of London, making it too buzzy to approach on Friday and Saturday nights, there is a lot of fun to be had on Kingsland Road. From the Vietnamese cafes to gay-friendly drinking holds, cosy gay boozer The George and Dragon and infamous pub-cum-club The Joiner, stick to plaes off of Shoreditch High Street and you’ll have a great night.

Dalston/Hackney - going through a wave of gentrification Shoreditch did about 10 years ago. Broadway Market is stunning but cramped (get there early on a Saturday). Victoria Park is also lovely for a walk or a cycle - you can rent Barclay's Bikes (nicknamed Boris bikes, after the mayor, Boris Johnson) nearby.

Stoke Newington - allegedly home to the highest concentration of lesbians in Europe, this is an incredibly family-friendly pseudo-boho location. Go to see the longest queue for Whole Foods in your life, and also take a look in at Blush, a lesbian-owned bar with a mixed clientele.

Soho - full of film development companies, gorgeous places to eat and people watch (I really could recommend five restaurants for every road), it's the most gay-friendly part of town, with no end of things to do. At night people might hustle for you to go for happy hours, but don't accept flyers or wristbands from anyone but G-A-Y staff. Otherwise, the only people who might get in your way are other, older tourists, or people there to visit the 'model' parlours.

Waterloo - though the South Bank's various cultural centres - and not-so-cultural parts (avoid the Christmas Fayre like an aggressive ex girlfriend) - might attract all sorts of people, lesbians are particularly drawn to the South Bank's BFI. The film institute, which caters to a young, artsy audience, is an invaluable asset to not only London's lesbian community but to all the whole country's cultural credibility. Expect a comfortable, gay-friendly atmosphere of young people in scarves and brilliant food markets nearby.

 

Sophie Wilkinson is news editor of The Debrief. She lives and works in London, and considers herself very much part of its vibrant young and gay community. Regularly freelancing for other publications on everything from gender to food to music, she enjoys everything nice in life but also ironically enjoys some horrible things, too.