Spontaneous Nights Out In South

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Inner city nightlife can be a bit of a beast to navigate. If you're not booking some minimal techno night weeks in advance on Resident Advisor then what are you even doing with your life, right?

But what if you've accidentally got a little juiced over a couple o' rums, one thing has led to another and now you've just gotta wiggle those hips. You're feeling far too happy go lucky for Ministry of Sound but you can't face a pub full of people chanting Drake lyrics (sorry Drizzy). That's when you need this lot, the kind of bars where you can just turn up and boogie to something a little more soulful.
The vibes are strong at this sunny little slice of Jamaican cool in the arches under Deptford rail station. It grew from one man’s dream to create a relaxed, inclusive bar that paid tribute to his own heritage and the neighbourhood’s Jamaican diaspora; now, local movers and shakers pack the place on a Saturday night, getting loose to R&B, soul, reggae, and the occasional live band.
The Chateau is a relative newbie to the Camberwell scene, providing an all-glamour LGBTQ+ bar and cultural space for SE London. Set under the Church Street Hotel, this subterranean gay speakeasy is filled to the brim with flamboyant events and queer folk getting social. Go for drag karaoke lip-synching battles, bingo nights or just general fabulousness. There's even a quiz night hosted by the proprietor of The Chateau herself, Miss Coco Patron. (Check the events page just in case.)
Tasty Bakery (aka Tasty Spice aka Tasties aka The Bakery) is very much the kind of place you end up. It's a very informal situation in what is by day a fully functioning Caribbean restaurant and bakery. Musical flavours range from dark garage, reggae roots and bass to hefty mixes of techno/disco/R&B - and all centre around a belter of a sound system made by one of the owner's family members. Go with an open mind and lose yourself in the sweat and smoke.
Hootananny is a legendary local boozer, a real live music pub. It attracts quite a crowd at the weekend but there's events here Wednesday through to Sunday. Feel-good sounds range from reggae and folk to ska and Afrobeat. And when you need a break from the heat of the dance floor, Hoot's huge beer garden provides the perfect refuge with plenty tables and the odd street food stall.
Effra Social wasn't always the tucked away nightspot of choice for many a Brixton local and pub raver. Once upon a time, it was a Conservative social club, where Tories gathered for more than 100 years to discuss right-wing politics over pints of beer and cocktails made from the tears of the poor... maybe. At any rate it's now a gloriously old fashioned-looking town-hall-type of knees up spot. Head down there on a weekend to find DJs spinning disco classics and guilty pleasures.
Situated on the high street near Rye Lane, and with entry for rarely more than a fiver (and often free), Tola is a great commitment-free option for a Friday or Saturday night. It's long and narrow so feels perpetually rammo and sweaty. It's kinda gross and the decor is weird but that's not why any one is here. With regular nights form Balamii , YAM Records and other SE party dons, music runs the gamut of dance floor jazz to hip hop and more electronic pursuits.
It might not be much to look at but if you fancy a cheap, cheerful and scruffy night out in Peckham, this is the place. There are regular house, disco and soul nights and the intimate dance floor gets packed full of shakers doing their thing. And if you get tired of the dancing, there's tables of the ping pong table and pool varieties to plunder. Bargain entry and pretty cheap drinks, it's a popular place on the weekends in particular.
Chip Shop may seem like a small fish but it’s a major player in these ends. By day it’s a fairly cosy street food purveyor, but by night this turns into a different animal altogether, with the bass turned up and a strong bill of live acts, DJs and MCs packing out the space. Ice T, KRS One and B Real are amongst the heads to have dropped by in previous times, earning this place a cult-like status. It's a real good-time bar, full of friendly sorts unafraid to really go in. One for hip hop geeks and newbies alike.
The preferred local for many a Goldsmiths student intent on getting drunker than Shane MacGowan on St. Patrick's Day, The Amersham Arms is home to many a best night you won't remember. Weekends here are all about live bands and DJs playing until the wee hours, spanning everything from mosh-pit-friendly punk shows to reggae roots until 3am. For cheap thrills and drink spills, Amersham is the one.
This is what Arabian nights are made of: part souk, part bohemian lounge, Cafe Cairo makes the perfect sanctuary from the high street drivel. A cosy den of dim lighting, snug seating and wayward musicians, it was started 20 years ago as a tent at Glasto. Some of the old regulars still come round, alongside shiny new patrons smoking shisha side by side. What else? Banging pizzas, cabaret nights, live music, free film screenings on Sundays, and unlimited free toast, that's what else.
In a sorta sexy, ramshackle setting, down under the railway arches of Herne Hill, you’ll find one of South London's finest live music establishments. The room in the front is filled with vintage sofas for you to chat politics and recline on, complete with over-priced beer and retro furnishings. Whilst the back room is set up with a decent sound system, welcoming in an eclectic roster of bands and DJs on a relatively daily basis. There are also film screenings, poetry readings, and dances on offer, so you can get comfy, get tipsy and get educated.
With an airy open-plan space decorated to the nines, this place has a wow factor that offers South London something a little different than your bog standard venue. Kitted out with chandeliers, a mezzanine and snug chill-out corners, this place makes for the ideal adults' playground to enjoy a wide variation of events ranging from burlesque shows to live bands/DJs and comedy acts. They also hold open mic nights every Tuesday with sign-up starting from 8.30pm - come show 'em what you got, or simply soak up the sounds.
Ghost Notes functions as both a bar and event space, with purple and pink lights illuminating a room with a real DIY, temporary aesthetic in keeping with the rest of the Peckham Levels sprawl. Jazz and funk are normally agwan, with anyone who’s anyone and even a few nobodies flexing their throats and twiddling their thumbs. The bill is plenty eclectic with improv and jam sessions joining free late-night DJ happenings, where a care-free dance can be easily obtained.
The White Horse has made a name for itself in these ends with raucous Saturday nights spitting drunk folk out onto Brixton Hill. Weekend DJs pump out all sorts of feel-good tracks: mainly 70s and 80s soul, funk, boogie and disco; and 90s R&B, hip-hop, and a touch of reggae and ska thrown in for good measure. It's hot, happening and happy stuff completely free of Calvin Harris. It may not be the coolest kid on the block, but if you're after a good boogie, and perhaps the odd flirt, the White Horse sure does deliver.
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