London’s plubs are the best thing about UK nightlife right now

(It’s a pub and a club mixed together)


The only thing longer than the queue at a night club in London is the night bus home as the sun comes up. They’re expensive, predictable and mostly packed with wankers. Pubs are slightly cheaper but full of bankers.

But a growing phenomenon offers an alternative: welcome to the plub.

A plub is – you’ve guessed it – a cross between a pub and a club. The boundaries between plubs and other establishments are messy and unclear, but a few crucial differences emerge. By day they serve pints of Doombar and roast dinners, but at night transform into oases of unbridled hedonism. Unlike bars, however, plubs almost always have a pool table and dance floor. Miss out on either and you’re back at a standard ‘Spoons or overpriced club. And no-one wants that.

Plubs, in contrast, occupy the inclusive golden middle-ground in the venn diagram of London’s nightlife. They exist in that beautiful liminal space between a quiet one down the local and a full blown night out and, in many ways, combine the best of both worlds.

Efes in Dalston, Dolphin in Hackney, Canavans in Peckham, the Grand Union and the White Horse in Brixton – all these places might celebrate their idiosyncrasies, but are all committed to carving out an original niche in London’s nightlife.

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Plubs leave their airs and pretences at the door, and encourage you to do the same. All the stressful precursors to conventional nights out – meticulous planning, dressing up, time-consuming journeys, long queues and extortionate admission prices – are bypassed. Everything you need is already there.

You don’t have to commit yourself to a club where there’s no going back from the loud music and less chance to chat. But, unlike a normal pub, you’re afforded the chance to get up and dance when that irresistible three pint feeling flows. A few amicable games of pool over a pint of ale might be fine to start with but, when the mood switches, you’re able turn 180 degrees, hit the dance floor and sing along to Nelly’s “Hot in Here” without judgement. Even when the temperature gets too much, you can slip away to the quiz machine and play Deal or No Deal.

And Noel Edmunds isn’t the only random character who turns up at plubs. Here you’ll find every type of person in London – from bemused international students to trendy hipsters by way of weekend warriors called Gary who wear bootleg jeans with pinstriped blazers and smell like Brylcreem. High college kids try to pull members of Michelle’s hen party while the Slazenger-wearing local slumps over his seventh pint of Guinness since the 5:15 kick off between Sunderland and West Brom. And rather than pay £5 for a can of Red Stripe, you pay pub prices but get pub value.

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All this amounts to a messy, contradictory cocktail that serves as a welcome tonic to all the peacocking and posturing characteristic of so many London clubs. Plubs might be ugly Frankensteinian formulations, but they don’t care. Any shortcomings are all part of the plub’s charm. They’re genuine, and that means a lot.

Even if you’re having a bad night, you can head home for an early night without pangs of regret because, after all, you’ve only had a couple of beers down the plub. Get the vibe right, however, and the plub will propel you into a strange, harmonious utopia where everyone is welcome and everything seems possible.