London's best cabaret clubs
The Time Out cabaret editor rounds up the top venues in the capital
There’s more to cabaret than lounge-singing crooners. With niches ranging from retro-style burlesque to drag queens, satirical wordsmiths to avant-garde situationists and polished character comedians to spine-stretching circus acts, no two shows are quite the same. Such diversity within the cabaret scene begs one question: where can you find the good stuff?
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Top ten cabaret clubs in London
42-44 Pollard Row, London, E2 6NB
The sticky red carpet and broken lampshades perfectly suit the quirky dress-up parties, cabaret line-ups and prop-themed nights at this cradle of the retro boom. Dancetastic troupe Sink the Pink host off-the-wall shindigs and the club is home to adventurous nights such as the all-female Blue Stocking Society and David Lynch-themed Double R Club. The mood is friendly, the playlist upbeat and the air full of arty playful mischief.
See what's on at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club
11-12 Walker's Court, W1F 0BD
The scandalously successful New York nightspot established a London branch in early 2011. You won't get in unless you have deep pockets (we’re talking thousands) or know someone but they've remodelled the iconic former Raymond Revue Bar site a treat, if you like decadence. The skills-based turns are very strong; others lean toward the titillating or prioritise production values over originality. Stand-out is the extraordinary transgendered performer Rose Wood.
See more details on The Box
Zero Aldwych, London, WC2E 7DN
Some staggeringly clever design means that although there’s room for just 60 in this subterranean converted Victorian loo, CellarDoor never feels claustrophobic. Musical-theatre cabaret crooners, drag queens and snuff parties (as in taking snuff) are the order of the day, giving this sleek establishment a vintage feel. Nearly all shows are free and often great fun – EastEnd Cabaret regularly appear and Champagne Charlie’s Tuesday open-mic night is an institution.
See what's on at CellarDoor
8-10 Brewer Street, London, W1F 0SD
This late-night cabaret-burlesque-drag-DJ club and live music venue is a Soho institution with a long and colourful history. As well as showcasing emerging British or international music acts, it's home to superior cabaret showcase Bête Noire (every Thursday), hosted by the dependably saucy Ophelia Bitz. Look out too for the terrific fortnightly Magic Night.
See what's on at Madame JoJo's
152-154 King's Rd, London, London, SW3 4UT
The successor to the institution that was Pizza on the Park, this jazz and cabaret venue is also part of the Pizza Express stable. The bright, spacious basement space has something of a cruise-ship feel (where does that staircase actually go?) and sight-lines aren't always great but it's the city's premier platform for New York-style jazz-singing and musical-theatre-influenced cabaret work, often attracting big names from the West End and across the pond.
See what's on at The Pheasantry
1 Mark Lane, Corner of Dunster Court and Mark Lane, London, EC3R 7AH
Tucked away in a corner of the City, this cabaret outpost from the Proud stable is one of the lushest dinner-cabaret spaces in town, with a well-positioned thrust stage nestling below plush, cosy booths. The modern British menu is good too, particularly at special-offer rates, though the shows aim for spectacle rather than substance: often high on technical skills, they tend to be low on character or provocation. A popular choice for hen parties.
See what's on at Proud Cabaret
372 Kennington Lane, London, SE11 5HY
This legendary queer performance pub has a star-studded past (the gay Kray used to drink here, Regina Fong held court and Lily Savage got her start behind the bar) and insistently eclectic line-up. On Saturday there’s seminal club night Duckie, with Amy Lamé hosting turns that range from live art to porn puppets; other staples include the raucous Sunday show from the DE Experience and regular runs from the legendary David Hoyle. It's also home to the Hot August Fringe festival.
See what's on at The RVT
21 Dean Street, London, W1D 3NE
A major 2011 refurbishment of this bastion of new theatre included the launch of Downstairs, a dedicated comedy and cabaret space. Its hard lines, low stage and packed table seating arguably favour the former over the latter but it consistently books outstanding talent from the international cabaret circuit, from Justin Vivian Bond, Meow Meow and Caroline Nin to our own David Hoyle, Bourgeois & Maurice and the Tiger Lillies.
See what's on at Soho Theatre
7 - 9 Norwich Street, London, EC4A 1EJ
This louche, intimate basement venue serves up some of the best burlesque in town beneath writhing absinthe-inspired arabesques. The focus is on glam, accessible nights hosted by the likes of Ivy Paige and Agent Lynch, with regular rounds of afternoon tea – what could be better than nipple tassels, Champagne and freshly made scones? Killer cocktails and late-night dancing too.
See what's on at Volupté
Best of the rest
Nine Elms Lane, London, SW8 5BP
This nautical stalwart is home to musical-theatre favourites like Paul L Martin’s up-and-comers night Cheese ’n’ Crackers and notorious Christmas panto.
See what's on at The Battersea Barge
The Old Truman Brewery, 152c Brick Lane, London, E1 6RU
The ranged balconies of this high-ceilinged supper club are great for the aerial work in its long-running floorshows.
See what's on at The Brickhouse
3-4 Coventry St, London, W1D 6BL
This sumptuous London institution is home to top-notch variety nights La Rève (Friday) and the Wam Bam Club (Saturdays).
See what's on at Café de Paris
3 The Arches, Villiers St, London, WC2N 6NG
This intimate theatre regularly offers cabaret-style shows from vintage music hall to New York burlesque.
See what's on at Charing Cross Theatre
269a Archway Rd, London, N6 5AA
One of the city’s premier venues for contemporary circus and performance work.
See what's on at Jacksons Lane
6 Leicester Place, WC2H 7BX
The main stage and particularly the basement space here are regularly home to cabaret work.
See what's on at Leicester Square Theatre
Graces Alley, off Ensign Street, London, E1 8JB
The oldest functioning music hall in the world is one of London’s most beautiful venues and home to occasional magic and cabaret shows.
See what's on at Wilton's Music Hall