An honest review of every smoking area in Southampton
After all, picking your club based on how comfortably you can kill yourself is a great idea
You don’t need to be a smoker to appreciate a good smoking area. When the dance floor gets a little too sweaty, when you lose your friends and that bloke in the leather trenchcoat won’t stop trying to grind on you, or when you’ve finally pulled a fitty and can’t hear their name over the sound of the bass, the smoking area beckons: oasises of calm in the chaotic sea of British nightlife. My friend George Mathers and I have risked liver and lung touring our fair city’s most popular clubs, trying to rank each smoking area from both a smoker and a non-smokers’ perspective. From best to worst, here were our favourites:
1) The Edge
Top spot goes to The Edge, Southampton’s biggest and best gay club. It nails all the criteria, hosting an outside barbecue, a fully stocked bar, and a vending machine full of drinks, cameras, and assorted sexual objects. There’s plenty of cover to keep out the rain, and heaters dotted about to keep you toasty. Top marks from us. Plus someone once told me I had nice cheekbones in there.
2) Cafe Parfait
The club that the Soton Tab loves to hate (or at least hate their promo team), Cafe Parfait’s smoking area comes joint second with Sobar. It boasts a cracking little bar in the corner that serves drinks and shisha pipes almost up until closing time, and usually with a tenth of the queue time at comparable bars. It’s also rather pretty, with blue fairy lights running overhead, ankle high spotlights and an attractive wooden terrace style.
It is, however, a little on the small side, and the place can feel particularly cramped on the busy Thursday student nights; and when the weather turns, the fold out canopies don’t keep out much rain. So if it starts to pour, you’ll almost certainly know about it. Heaters dotted all the way around the area help to alleviate this issue though.
The University of Southampton’s second most popular watering hole, Sobar earns its’ place as joint second on our list. Much like The Edge and Cafe Parfait, Sobar’s smoking area come with its’ own outside bar, although this is usually absolutely rammed and sometimes even slower than heading upstairs. Plus, you get an eyeful of the odd cock if you aren’t careful while sat across from the boys toilets.
Otherwise, it’s a decent size, and the gigantic marquee in the middle lend a carnival atmosphere to the nights proceedings; there’s plenty of seating, people mingle in droves, and it’s even large enough for DJ events in the summer. Thanks to the layout you can immediately nip to the loo or the dance floor without having to push past loads of people, and when you add some heaters into the mix it’s a great effort all round.
The Palace of Dreams. The hidden jewel in the slightly grubby crown of Southampton. How does the smoking area of Jesters rank? Well… it’s pretty passable, I suppose. It’s got a photo booth, and there’s usually enough cover to keep you out the rain on a quieter night, although on Mondays you’ll struggle to even breathe for the throngs of rugby players. Cross your fingers the staff will open up the upstairs balcony instead; you feel like a member of the royalty, surveying the unwashed masses below. Much like Sobar, the layout makes it pretty easy to join the bar or the dance floor without having to push through the whole club, a tidy little bonus.
Although it has several different smoking areas, one for each dance floor, they all tend to be uncovered with few heaters, and as soon as it gets busy it gets cramped as all hell. It is still the best place to meet up with your friends when you’ve inevitably lost them… if you have a phone signal.
6) Revs, 90s, Popworld, and The Social
These clubs that back onto Bedford often offer their own smallish smoking areas. They rarely provide much more than a set of tables and chairs – they aren’t large, but neither are the clubs themselves, so they never feel particularly crowded. Perfectly serviceable, but nothing special.
7) A throwback to Voodoo
That pit of sin. Anyone else remember these? Although they had two different areas for two dance floors, they were just waist height steel barriers that you’d fall over three times a night when everyone streamed out to beg for a fag between remixes of 50 Cent.
Just a gated off section of pavement. Nothing but a metre long strip of overhanging roof to keep you dry, and that’s your lot.
Thanks to a lack of planning permission to do anything with the alleyway next to it, one of the best clubs in Southampton has simply nothing going for its’ smoking area. You’re shoved into a small alleyway with nothing of note, hemmed in by high steel fences; the only object of amusement being the locals stumbling out of Subway. It’s like being in a zoo, but you’re the one in a cage. They even take away your drinks.
10) Bedford Place
Less of a smoking area and more of a large square between several smaller clubs, Bedford Place is very spacious, at least. There’s an interesting community vibe as groups from Orange Rooms, Tokyo and Buddha all mix together, especially on big events like BNO – but you’ll have to handle the constant harassment from promoters looking to justify their invites to staff parties. Stick around near the actual clubs for warmth, because Bedford is one of the best places to be sociable on a night out. Just keep a couple of coins for the homeless people wandering nearby, and face the fact you’ll have to maraud all the way to Subway to get some food.
Special Mention –The Hobbit
It’s a bloody amphitheatre, with enough space to hold a miniature festival! They do barbecues when it gets busier, and it’s by far one of the prettiest smoking areas, with an almost garden-like feel. Plus it’s one of those hallowed areas that don’t require you to wander around inside to break the seal. Small parts of it are uncovered, but if you stick to the benches you could weather a storm the likes of which haven’t been seen since the fall of Númenor. Top marks, even if it’s not a club.
Agree with our list? Did we miss out on somewhere special? Give us a shout in the comments!