The Designer's Guide to London


London's nightlife really does have it all. From star-studded theatre in the West End and decadent cocktail bars in Hoxton to traditional English pubs everywhere, there's a venue to suit all tastes. And here are some of the city's finest...

The Alibi

  • Location: 91 Kingsland High Street, Dalston, London E8 2PB (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Sun-Wed: 17:00 - 02:00, Thur-Sat: 17:00 - 03:00
  • Music: Multifaceted mix of DJ-driven alternative, '90s indie, hip-hop, metal, and grunge
  • Entry: Free

The Alibi opened in March 2010 after being set up by DJ-founded creative collective Real Gold. The bar is divided into sections, each worth investigating, including the small dancefloor area. The music is eclectic, drinks are cheap and entry is always free. And that's not all, every Monday the bar hosts The Alibi Film Club and Karaoke night.

Designer view

James Kirkup

"Sticky and loud, The Alibi is one of my favourite bars in Dalston. With bags of character and a ton of great people running the show calls for an all round good time everywhere. Just ignore the Agwa!" - James Kirkup, graphic designer at Poke

Bobby's Bar

  • Location: 1 Upper James Street, London W1F 9DF (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Wed-Sat: 17:30 - 00:00 (last entry at 23:00)
  • Music: No
  • Entry: Free

Set in a gleaming brass, pre-Revolution Russian railway carriage compartment, Bobby's Bar is part of London's luxury restaurant Bob Bob Ricard. It offers luxury English cocktails, including the 'must have' Pink Rhubarb Gin & Tonic. Bar guests also have access to Bob Bob Ricard's wine cellar with the UK's best value famous wines and champagnes.

Designer view

Tom Muller

"Bob Bob Ricard is the place to be if you fancy a bit of Russian Oligarch bling. Apart from the restuarant, Bobby's Bar downstairs serves some great cocktails. And you can't fault a a bar where the tables have champagne call buttons!" - Tom Muller, freelance graphic designer and art director

Bradley's Spanish Bar

  • Location: 42-44 Hanway Street, London W1T 1UT (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Mon-Thurs: 12:00 - 23:30, Fri-Sat: 12:00 - 00:00, Sun 15:00 - 22:30
  • Music: Yes
  • Entry: Free

Hidden away on a narrow street just off Tottenham Court Road is Bradley's Spanish Bar. This small venue attracts a regular crowd, although with almost nowhere to stand or sit, punters normally spill out onto the road. There's a bar up and downstairs, with an old vinyl jukebox as a centrepiece, which busts out rock and pop tunes.

Designer view


"This is my favourite bar in the world. It's tiny, gets rammed but has a great jukebox. It's Spanish themed and has been redecorated for years. A man once drew my portrait in the basement. I was touched, until I realised he'd given me an adam's apple!" - Agnes, designer at Grub Street Publishing

The Comedy Store

  • Location: 1a Oxendon Street, London SW1Y 4EE (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Mon-Thurs: 18:30 - 22:30, Fri-Sat: 18:00 - 01:15, Sun: 18:00 - 21:30
  • Entry: Ticket prices start at £20pp

The world famous Comedy Store in London's Soho is one of the capital's most popular attractions. The club, which first opened in 1979, has featured many famous UK comedians, including Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson, Ben Elton and Simon Pegg. The club offers the best in alternative stand-up, topical and improvised comedy almost every day of the year.

Designer view

Darren Walsh

"London is the best place in the world for live comedy. And The Comedy Store never disappoints!" - Darren Walsh, digital designer at Digital Annexe

Jaguar Shoes

  • Location: 32-36 Kingsland Rd, Shoreditch E2 8DA (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Mon-Sun: 12:00 - 01:00
  • Music: A strong eclectic music policy with a calendar including monthly parties with a roster of East London’s best DJ’s/musicians.
  • Entry: Free

Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes is a bar, café and exhibition space in East London’s Shoreditch. The venue's name comes from the 1980’s Bag and Shoe wholesalers that once occupied the building, whose signage still adorns the shop front. On a six to eight week timetable, the two-storey venue acts a blank canvas for for regular exhibitions curated by JaguarShoes Collective.

Designer views

Mike Lythgoe

"If you fancy a beer and soaking up some good art at the same time, then Jaguar Shoes is the best place to head. The bar is refurbished every couple of months by a chosen designer or collective. Previous exhibitons have been done by Chrissie Abbot, Carnovsky and Mc Bess." - Mike Lythgoe, designer at Studio Output

Rob Freemantle

"A small venue always filled with London's hip and trendy youth. It can get really busy so best to get there early." - Rob Freemantle, lead designer at Digital Annexe

The Electric Cinema

  • Location: 191 Portobello Road, London W11 2ED (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Mon-Wed: 09:00 - 00:00, Thurs-Sat: 09:00 - 01:00, Sun: 10:00 - 23:00
  • Entry: Prices range from £8 - £22.50pp

For a true movie experience, head to The Electric Cinema - one of the first buildings in Britain to be designed specifically for motion picture exhibition. The cinema opened in 1910 and has remained in almost continual use until the present day. The interior features 65 leather armchairs with footstools and side tables, three two-seater sofas and six double beds, providing a unique cinema experience.

Designer view

Ash Joseph

"The Electric Cinema on Portobello Road is, quite frankly, the greatest cinema ever built by man. It has a single screen room with huge chandeliers, gilded drinks tables and red velvet everywhere. It's like stepping into a vaudeville show. It even has a beautiful art deco toilet, a bar inside the theatre, armchairs with footrests and cashmere blankets, two-seater sofas at the back and beds at the front. They show mainstream features and indie shorts." - Ash Joseph, marketing creative at The Foundry

Evans & Peel Detective Agency

  • Location: 310c Earls Court Rd, London SW5 9BA (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Tue-Thur: 17:00 - 00:00, Fri-Sat: 17:00 - 00:30
  • Entry: Free

Evans & Peel Detective Agency brings a slice of mystery and the sexy and illicit to West London. If you've made an appointment (ideally a week in advance), you'll be led down to a softly-lit agency office, where The Detective will be waiting. Constrcuted from old church pews, the bar serves up seasonal cocktails and spirit infusions like maple bacon/ tobacco-infused bourbon.

Designer view

Ali Vermillo

"By appointment only. You go to these guys with a case you need solving, then are led through a secret bookcase door into a speakeasy bar. It's authentic, fun and the cocktails are great!" - Ali Vermillo, junior creative at Uniform

The French House

  • Location: 49 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 5BG (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Mon-Sat: 12:00 - 23:00 Sun: 12:00 - 22:30
  • Music: No
  • Entry: Free

The French House offers something different to the many traditional London pubs in town, plus a bit of history and a reasonable chance of spotting some of the rich and famous. This Soho watering hole is popular among actors, writers and artists, with its no music, machines, television or mobile phones, it's a haven for conversationalists.

Designer view

Neil McFarland

"An interesting fact about The French House in Soho is that during WWII, the French resistance met here. I've had many a Cidre Breton-fuelled highbrow design chin-wag inside its snug interior. A massive plus is that mobile phone use is totally banned, so you won't be interrupted mid-eulogy by a trifling request from your audiences' friends and relations." - Neil McFarland, lead visual designer at ustwo

The Mayflower

The oldest pub on the River Thames, The Mayflower dates back to 1620. Set along the Thames path, this traditional English pub's white and black timbered frontage and diamond-leaded windows make it hard to miss. Inside is a small main bar area, which leads to a waterfront terrace outside overlooking the River Thames.

Designer view

Rebecca Barker

"The oldest pub on the River Thames, and probably one of the nicer, proper old London pubs. Go in the winter and snuggle up under the heaters and blankets in its beer garden overlooking the river." - Rebecca Barker, design director at Studio Output

Voodoo Ray's

  • Location: 95 Kingsland High Street, E8 2PB (map)
  • URL:
  • Opening times: Mon-Thurs: 18:00 - 01:00, Fri-Sat: 16:00 - 03:00, Sun: 16:00 - 01:00
  • Music: Yes
  • Entry: Free

Voodoo Ray's is a bar and late night pizza joint in Dalston. Chefs bake giant 22in pizzas in an American bakers oven, which you can have whole or by the slice. And to accompany it, they serve beer and cocktails - a refreshing frozen margarita being the venue's signature drink. Oh, and there’s also rumours of a downstairs basement called Dance Tunnel…

Designer view

Carl Addy

"Late night NY-style pizza by the slice. They serve quirky cocktails (Jäger and Dr Pepper amongst the favourites) as well as their massive reedeming feature being the Full Moon Pizza - only served after midnight. It has bacon dust! BACON DUST!" - Carl Addy, creative director at The Mill

We'll be updating this post regularly, so let us know if we've missed anywhere out - and tell us about your London experiences in the comments below!

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