London nightlife: The good, the bad, and the ugly

Hey you silly fresher, read this


Let’s face it…we were all lured to London by the culture, nightlife and Boris Johnson’s funny hair.

But once you’ve been crowned a Londoner you’ll understand that West End tickets cost an arm and a leg and Boris is too busy getting his Machiavelli on to waste time making us laugh.

So that leaves us with the nightlife.

London's only redeeming feature

London’s only redeeming feature

But what use is it going out if it leaves you with the more permanent hangover of a spent overdraft?

Why should you bother going out again if it’s to the same bloody club you’ve been going to since some half decent fresher event, no matter how good the “chicken” is on the way back home?

Going out in London isn’t the euphoric revelation you’re expecting, and your night will go something like this: pushed down the same shitty stairs to the same shitty dance floor where the same shitty music plays only to discover the same shitty scene.

You’d rather stay home and watch Bake Off. Honestly.

Takin’ it sleazy

If you’re considering clubs like Piccadilly Institute, the Penthouse, or Mayfair for the night, then you might as well start tomorrow morning’s regretful mourning early.

The Piccadilly Institute is a labyrinthine tourist trap, and most of its clientele is middle-aged, greying, and creepy.

Once this becomes clear, it’s not really surprising that many of its female visitors complain of unwanted and unexpected groping.

It's like the heart of darkness in here

This place goes beyond fun and actually gets really, really nasty

Clubs in Mayfair are more hard work than they’re worth – getting in requires hours of preening, and that you nail the perfect blazer/shoes combo.

The grim likelihood is that it won’t be worth it anyway…the infamous “girls go free but boys pay £20” rule means a stale atmosphere, and a club heaving with rich old Arab men (no chance of a Gatsby!).

Similarly, a pricey night out in Leicester Square can only go down one way: crying yourself home on the night-bus with your Happy Meal.

But the place that will make you bawl and buy a Big Mac meal is Penthouse – pumped full of wide-eyed clubbers and Top 40 blandness.

The picture postcard view of London from its cushy seventh floor spec sends even the most optimistic into a spiral of depression when they realise that it’s the highlight of their night.

Penthouse is literally the worst place in the world

Penthouse, ladies and gentlemen

Love-hate paradox

There are some clubs you know to be awful but you and your friends keep returning to them because you have a blast.

At the top of this list would have been Moonies, known for its sticky carpets, tiny dancefloor…and being a strip club by day.

RIP Moonies decor

RIP Moonies’ sick decor

Following its sad closure and the passing of Moonie Mondays, however, The Roxy now holds the crown of UCL students’ shame cavern of choice. The lethal mix of cheap cocktail pitchers, leather sofas and a cheesy playlist means that a night there can only end horrendously.

Another offender is Loop Bar, just off Oxford Street, which hosts Sportsnite on a Wednesday. Be warned that it’s more a watering hole for UCL’s breathless Average Joes than pretty netballers or chiselled rugby players, though…

Which sports do we play? Oh all of them, any of them

Which sports do we play? Oh all of them, any of them

With its three floors, the further you climb down, the hotter, and more crowded and sweatier it becomes.

Although not the most gracious of clubs, it’s an interesting way to meet new people in your uni whilst holding back your friend’s hair as she chunders.

Famous names and big nights

Egg and Koko both appear at the top of many best club lists, but they’re very different from each other.

You can expect a classic rave feel from Egg – a dark, smokey atmosphere with amateur pharmacists lurking round the bar – and with a relatively cheap entry price of £10, it’s nothing but a good time.

Unless you’re willing to part with half your loan at once, vigorous predrinking or controlled substances are advised.

Pass the MKAT

Pass me the MKAT

Koko on the other hand, has an altogether different feel – it’s one of the few clubs that still attracts big names for gigs…including Prince.

The balcony looks pretty glitzy from Camden High Street, but once you’re up there you’ll find the view doesn’t stretch much further than Chicken Cottage and the drunk and disorderly…

Friday’s weekly dose of Regression Sessions at Islington Metal Works is a Freshers staple, and a must-do.

You’re guaranteed a why-did-I-befriend-strangers-and-take a-million-selfies-with-them night.

In fact, they’ve tried so hard to give you the childhood experience that you can find actual high schoolers k-holing in the ball pit and dry-humping on the bouncy castle.

My jaw's in Aberystwyth mate

Balls deep

It’s worth buying tickets for the popular events in advance… but beware of those young teens hitting on you – first year Law can only take you so far.

Cool kid business

Most people think of Shoreditch when they want to expand their horizons beyond inner London clubbing, but it’s just like Alton Towers – sweaty and overrated.

Clubs like XOYO are laid out in the most counterintuitive way possible – the awkward location of its bar means that you don’t know whether you’re dancing, getting a drink or having a drink spilt on you, making for an infuriating night out. Plastic People isn’t any better. Shoreditch’s only redeeming feature is its top-drawer food offerings – which includes the legendary Beigel Bake.

Only disposables allowed

They’re still using film in Dalston

Further East, the Nest in Dalston is another place not to be missed. Your Mum’s House on a Thursday is always a fun crowd – the mix of Hackney locals and trendy students making for a lively atmosphere that’s a world away from the dank moodiness of XOYO.

If you’re willing to venture over the river, Peckham’s Bussey Building is a diamond in the rough, sandwiched between shops advertising overseas SIM cards and four turnips for £1.

Nearby, Elephant & Castle’s Corsica Studios is a cheap, grimy paradise. Depending on how romantic (wasted) you’re feeling at the end of the night, you can head back up north to more familiar surroundings and climb Primrose Hill to watch the sunrise.

A quiet night with friends

We’ve all been in clubs and wished that we were in Central Perk with Joey and Gunther instead…except with more booze.

Though Beatrice Bar in Camden looks a bit dingy and unwelcoming, it’s ideal for an evening out with close friends or heated debate about sex, politics or religion over a few hoppy ales. Its vibezy dance floor offers a welcome change from Avicii and Nicki Minaj, too…more reggae and old school dance then your club classics. You’re in for a good night if one local old man (soul of the party) is busting his dance moves in your midst.

Down it fresher

Down it you microbrewed twat

Amanda & Salvador in Covent Garden, Camden’s Barfly, and Troy 22 just off the TCR offer decent music and cheapish booze in cosier settings for a night with the people you actually like.

With Amanda & Salvador’s food offerings and £10 jugs of Sangria, you can even keep up the pretence of dressing up and partying with class within a budget…

Chateau neuf de twat

Chateau neuf de twat

Hopefully this helps you overcome your disappointment of still not running into Binky Felstead.

Maybe this was just a waste of your time and you’re actually the real deal – the Rizla-twiddling Calvin Harris of every party. But you’re probably just a dweeb with shit trainers like the rest of us.

Whatever you gather from this, obey these laws and secrets, then go out and avoid the generic expensive shit and find your scene.

Stay safe and party hard folks.