Late Night Drinking

If you're craving an all-nighter then take a look at the hot-spots where you can still get served.

London is not a 24 hour city by any means. There are precious few places where you can grab a beer and a natter till the sun rises, even less where you may be able to satisfy a peckish appetite in the early hours.

When the licensing hours changed in 2005 to allow for round the clock drinking, Londoners breathed a sigh of relief; the night would no longer have to end at 11 pm and the days of last orders panic-induced buying would be over. But something rather curious happened. Rather than take to the newly relaxed laws like our European cousins have been doing for years, venue owners worried that the 24 hour licence would encourage acts of violence, despite the fact that other countries seem to manage it without having developed a particular trend for late night rioting. A 2008 government survey found that pubs were taking advantage of the new law by closing a whole 30 minutes later, so in a bizarre twist of fate, despite the government’s best efforts finding a spot to carry on when you’re not ready to go home is as tough now as it was before.

Hopefully these ideas will prevent you from roaming the streets aimlessly in search of the action. Food and drink

It’s a little distance from the West End, but there is food and wine round the clock at Vingt Quatre on the Fulham Road. Comfort food is the order of the day, washed down with your choice of cocktails, wines, beers, and hot or soft drinks, plus there are hangover-appeasing desserts like apple crumble, New York cheesecake and chocolate brownies. Although it’s a hop and a skip away from Boujis it’s not expensive, unless you opt for the scrambled eggs and caviar option for £55. You’ll find a similar menu at the two branches of Balans in Soho. The café is open 24 hours, while the restaurant serves food till 4 am during the week and 6 am at weekends, permitting you to soak up the night’s booze with Toulouse sausages, beer battered haddock or steak and chips, or carry on the carnage with a erm, Champagne cocktail.

Also in Soho is the now legendary Bar Italia (Jarvis Cocker wrote a song about it, so that’s illustrious enough for us), where night owls gather for pizza, paninis, cake, coffee and beer. It’s open 24 hours, making it an insomniac’s dream, and a table on the pavement has got to be the perfect spot from which to people watch.

Unlikely as it may seem, the Marathon Bar kebab shop has a lively upstairs which accommodates Camden’s punters long after the local pubs have kicked them out. Indian takeaway eatery Mosquito Bar performs a similar role in Clapham, with the added bonus of late night rowdiness (there have been reports of people dancing on tables). Curries, tandoori dishes and alcohol are served till 5 am during the week, 6 am at weekends.

If you’re at a loose end in the Dalston/Stoke Newington area head to the unpronounceable Istanbul Iskembecisi, a Turkish restaurant that takes food orders till 5 am. It’s better than a fast food joint thanks to grilled kebabs, meatballs, steaks and non-meat options like veggie moussaka, and the drinks include wines, beers and the infamous raki.
Not all night, but almost

The Alibi on Kingsland High Street is open till 2 am from Sunday to Wednesday and till 3 am from Thursday to Saturday, after which time you can nip 5 minutes up the road to the aforementioned Istanbul Iskembecisi for meatballs and cold beer. Entry is always free and the bar is owned by an arts collective so expect quirky installations and film screenings to take place. In Shoreditch you will find a plethora of night clubs that open till the early hours at weekends, but during the week the Russian Bar stays open till 3 am, 5 am if it’s a Thursday, Friday or Saturday. This dimly lit venue has regular DJs and dancing, but week nights offer more sedate drinking opportunities.

The Alleycat on Denmark Street opens till 3 am every night (with the exception of Sunday when it shuts at midnight) but expect live rock ‘n’ roll and blues, not the faint chatter of customers with muzak in the background. There’s more raucousness at the Late Bar, which true to its name opens 7 days a week till very late, playing 60s and 70s soul, ska, reggae and blues. Après Lounge, a few minutes’ walk from Bond Street tube station, offers a calmer experience. It’s uncertain why the bar has decided on a ski-inspired theme (however it was previously called The Moose) and the wintry décor is somewhat at odds with the Mediterranean tapas on the menu. Bear in mind that despite its 3 am closing time the kitchen closes at 9 pm.

Clapham locals can stay at Inigo Bar till 2 am during the week and 4 am at weekends. It may only be able to cope with 150 people at a time, but Inigo has DJs most nights, encouraging punters to make use of every bit of available space including having a boogie on the tables (perhaps it’s a Clapham thing). South Londoners have a further two late-opening venues to choose from, the Dogstar and Babalou, both in Brixton. As well as hosting DJs, live music and comedy the veteran Dogstar bar is somewhere to hang out till 2 am during the week and later at weekends, but note it’s shut on Mondays and closes at the earlier time of 11 pm on a Tuesday. Babalou is part club part bar, located in the crypt of a church and featuring atmospheric North African décor amidst its low arches, think ornate lanterns and velvet cushions. Club nights are at weekends, but from Sunday to Thursday the bar is open till 3 am.


Author: Leila Hawkins

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