We made it! Nights out are back in a big way and YES, it’s mega exciting… but a lot of us are already feeling the fun fatigue.
We’ve got rather used to hanging out at home, our dressing gown and slippers being within easy reach. It’s all too easy to roll straight into bed, having accidentally had too many wines watching Love Island. Navigating a night out now seems like admin – but after the year and a half we’ve had, it’s got to be done (and in style).
Our solution? Support the hospitality industry twofold, by booking a couple of the coolest events in London’s summer calendar… then a swanky hotel to collapse in afterwards. Finally celebrate that hen do/wedding/birthday you missed in lockdown, knowing it’ll take 10 minutes to get home (and you can wake up and dial 9 for a bacon sarnie)…
If you’re the competitive type, chances are you’ve already dragged friends to be mercilessly beaten at the likes of Puttshack, Flight Club and Bounce. But you might not have tried their new sister venue Hijingo Bingo just yet – a high octane, 8,000 square foot bingo hall with bite.
Think casino-like, flashing walkways, bright lights, *EXTREMELY LOUD* music and huge screens projecting everything from Beyoncé at Glastonbury to Bruno Mars’ slickest dance moves. Surprisingly excellent food (Korean snacks like salted caramel miso chicken bites and veggie bao buns) help soak up the brilliantly mixed cocktails, as you complete two rounds of bingo.
There are amazing prizes to be won (players took home games consoles and even a drone on our visit) and the atmosphere is so intoxicating, it’s hard to leave without begging to book on for a third game. You’ll emerge bleary-eyed and wired, raring to move on to the next bar – the perfect ice breaker for a hen party or stag do where the group might not have seen each other in a year. Or you might want to unwind back at the hotel – that’s quite enough excitement for one day…
Stay: The Zetter Townhouse, Clerkenwell
Heart still thumping with adrenaline, you’re going to want a little sit down – that, or another cocktail (or two). Happily, the The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell is just five minutes away in a taxi, and it has a fabulous little secret – a seriously vibey bar beneath its brilliantly kitsch collection of bedrooms. Like going to visit an eccentric Great Aunt (the staff refer to this mythical hostess as Wilhelmina), the hotel combines East London cool and West London chic – so there’s really something for everyone.
After a hedonistic few hours in shouty Shoreditch, the area’s medieval city gates and cobbled streets bursting with artisanal producers are a balm for the soul. Enjoy a (half cut) afternoon tea next to a stuffed cat wearing a dress (yes, really) and simply waft about the place, running your hands along sumptuous fabrics put together by interiors genius Russell Sage. Your room will be equally fancy, decked out with REN products, a BOSE portable bluetooth speaker and even a hot water bottle in a hand-knitted cover.
Take a turn around neighbourhood, stopping for a drink here and there (Exmouth Market’s Morito isn’t far) or head back to your room to get ready for a night ‘out out’. One of the world’s best nightclubs, Fabric, is just up the road, so there’s really no excuse if you’re tired. Grab an Espresso Martini downstairs and get on with it – we’ve got freedom to celebrate.
Ain’t Nothin’ But… The Blues Bar, Soho
If you’re planning a serious foray back into clubland, there’s no better place to start than Soho, home to some of the very best bars and clubs in the capital. We love Ain’t Nothin’ But… The Blues Bar, London’s original live Blues venue offering great beers, nice people and an electric atmosphere nightly. A small and intimate space, they don’t take bookings, so turn up early to secure your spot. You might catch an impromptu jam session from musicians who happen to be passing through town, or a known hero tuning up in the corner just because they feel like it.
Ronnie Scott’s, Soho
Throughout August, Ronnie Scott’s jazz club is packed out with up to two main shows a night, each fully deserved of the oft-overused phrase ‘legendary’. First House is at 17:30, Second House starts at 20:30, and you can pre-order everything from Sunday lunch to A La Carte dishes to line the stomach (the booze flows, and it flows).
You might catch Bukky Leo & Black Egypt celebrating the Funk of Nigeria: Kuti, Allen and Onyeanor, or a sultry cabaret lunch. Monday through to Thursday, a programme of incredible singers and instrumentalists perform in the bar upstairs, from popular New Orleans fused singer/pianists such as TJ Johnson on Monday, through to samba and trumpet sets.
Stay: The Hoxton, Holborn
Good things about The Hoxton Holborn: it’s a stone’s throw from the West End, the beds are super comfy, the windows are double glazed and the coffee is excellent (your hangover will thank you). Bad things: nope, can’t think of any.
There are 220 bedrooms to choose from, ranging from Shoebox to Biggy. Choose a boutique little bolthole if you’re literally looking to rest your head, or a larger room to languorously stretch out in and order room service.
Buzzy neighbourhood restaurant Rondo serves as a great spot to start (or end) your night – get the Croissant French toast, banana, rum & raisin cream, no matter what time it is. Most impressive is the wine wall, showing off a large selection of Europe’s most exciting winemakers.
Knowing that your safe haven is literally steps away from your next stop off, you can really let your hair down – give in to that last round of tequilas, knowing you don’t have to catch the last train (or ‘vomit comet’ as we affectionately call it) just this once.
CRYSTAL PALACE/SARF LONDON
South Facing Festival
We still can’t quite believe it, but open air concerts are back with a bang. South Facing offers one of the capital’s most diverse open air line ups (and the leafy location will filter out *most* of the screamy young Shoreditch crowd).
Breathing life back into the previously defunct Crystal Palace Bowl, the festival makes use of a genuinely stunning natural amphitheatre facing a lake, the stage appearing to float in a fashion so innovative it’s won numerous awards.
You can bag tickets to see everything from the English National Opera to Corinne Bailey Rae, via The Cinematic Orchestra and The Streets, and the food’s gonna be banging, too – expect cheesy thick crust pies from Freewheelin’ Pizza, carby goodness from The Mac Factory and chicken as spicy as you can handle it from Only Jerkin’. Yay, festivals!
Stay: Bingham Riverhouse
I’m not going to lie to you, there’s a dearth of fabulous hotels South of the river – and this far South, the situation does not improve. To the West of your festival adventure, past Streatham, you’ll find Richmond Park – where one of our favourite (and most peaceful) hotels perches.
Bingham Riverhouse is a bit of a trot (you’re looking at 40 minutes in a taxi) but it’s ideal if you want to recover from the weekend’s excursions in the great outdoors. Waking up to a stonkingly good breakfast with stunning river views, you’re perfectly placed for a bucolic day at Kew Gardens, or cycling around Richmond Park.
The hotel sits directly on the bank of the Thames, a slice of urban serenity in between a smattering of excellent cafes and restaurants. Embark on a life-affirming jog along the river if you’re feeling perky (checking out dozens of beautiful dogs on the way) then grab a coffee and spend the afternoon leafing through the collection of Penguin classics lining the shelves.
Some bedrooms enjoy river views, and if you’re quick, you might snaffle the one with the copper bathtub overlooking the promenade – it’s got to be the best people watching spot in town. Sure, everyone looks smugly fresh. Like they *didn’t* spend their weekend necking warm beers in a field. But who cares when you’re splashing about happily, with incredibly memories to cherish.
You went Out Out. It was incredible. Life is full again. And a bacon sarnie is on its way to your bathtub. If this ain’t living, I don’t know what is…