Christmas party venues in London

Whether you're hosting an office Christmas party or getting some friends together, here are our tips on the best and quirkiest venues in London

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Photo: Dan Cunningham

Finding a venue is the first big step in organising a party, but it can be a logistical nightmare at the best of times – and even more so when it comes to Christmas time in London. Don’t stress, though: here to help is our handy list of some of London’s most memorable, unknown and unusual venues, to sort a wide range of budgets and capacity requirements.

Perfect places for your office Christmas party

606 Club

Tucked away at the wrong end of Chelsea, this intimate jazz club is a badly kept secret. Catering to a diverse crowd of serious jazz types and partygoers in search of late-night nibbles and sounds, the 606 Club has been part of London's musical landscape since 1976. One of the busiest jazz clubs in Europe it has live music seven nights a week. The 606 Club's stage is almost exclusively limited to British jazz musicians, which might sound like a recipe for commercial suicide, but the longevity of this 150-capacity club speaks volumes. There's no stand-alone entry fee: instead, the bands are funded from a music charge that's added to your bill at the end of the night. Alcohol can only be served with food.

  1. 90 Lots Road, SW10 0QD
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The Amadeus Centre

This duck-egg blue, nineteenth-century former Welsh Presbyterian chapel may look odd next to a west London housing estate, but once inside it’s delightful, with a wood-panelled gallery, complete with its own pipe organ. It’s a dramatic setting for a sit-down wedding meal or buffet, and also one that can be dressed up and themed – Caribbean, gothic and sci-fi have all been done here. You can also hire the Lower Hall – the former church crypt has a low ceiling and solid soundproofing, so live bands sound amazing here. The Centre regularly hosts conferences, concerts, parties, seminars, rehearsals and anything else that needs plenty of space.

The Upper Hall has a capacity of 250 standing or 180 seated, while the Lower Hall holds 100 or 60-80. Contact info@amadeuscentre.co.uk or 0207 286 1686.

  1. 50 Shirland Rd, W9 2JA
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Apples & Pears

This slick little bar at the unfashionable end of Brick Lane hosts club nights, live acoustic music, comedy, film screenings and variety events. Serving wine, beer and cocktails plus food, it's also available for private hire.

Four spaces are available to hire: the whole venue (capacity 160), the lounge bar (90-100), the basement (80) and the beer garden (40). Contact enquiries@applesandpearsbar.com or 0207 247 7717.

  1. 26 Osborn St, E1 6TD
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Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes

The 1950s Americana-themed Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes come complete with reclaimed furniture, a sleek retro bar and a shabby-chic diner that all stand up gallantly to the far more sterile chain, All Star Lanes. East End kids can be found hanging out in this central venue, but don’t let that put you off. Pop in to practice your swing in one of their eight bowling lanes, nibble on some tasty ‘Lane Snacks’ (burgers, fries, grilled chicken), sip a speciality beer, have a boogie or play a little pool. Bloomsbury’s regular club nights, such as popular hip hop/funk night We, LIke You, live bands and a free cinema screen rolling vintage flicks means this is as much a venue for hanging out as it is for bowling.

  1. Tavistock Square, Bedford Way, WC1H 9EU
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The Book Club

A popular laidback, lived-in basement bar that originally helped Hoxton earn its hip title. In intervening years little has changed down in the basement, which remains plain and comfortable. It's kitted out with low-level furniture and a small bar stocks bottled beers, classic cocktails and champagne, while upstairs is a modern Brit menu for the hungry (their sharing platters are worth a punt). Disco-ing down is common on the weekends, TBC really specialise in unique and unusual nights out – including lunchtime discos, ping pong, film dance-a-longs, alternative dating nights and many more.

  1. 100 Leonard St, EC2A 4RH
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Bounce

  • Price band: 1/4

Allegedly located on the very spot that the game was invented, Bounce is a ping-pong bar that serves up a night of competitive fun in an edgy industrial-chic space. The restaurant, safely out of reach of wayward ping-pong balls, is raised on a platform overlooking the drama unfolding on the 16 tables below. A selection of antipasti and pizzas (straight from the wood-burning oven) provides players with ample sustenance.  

  1. 121 Holborn, EC1N 2TD
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BYOC

  • Rated as: 2/5

This is probably the closest you’ll get to a proper speakeasy in London. You have to book in advance (by email) for a two-hour slot at this tiny candlelit space beneath a juice bar in Covent Garden (there's also a second branch opening in Camden in late Septemner). The concept is ‘Bring Your Own Cocktail’ – or rather, bring your own bottle of spirits, and the bartender will create bespoke cocktails for you with the syrups, fresh juices, bitters, own-made cordials and other concoctions from his old-fashioned drinks trolley. It costs £20 per person.

Private hire for BYOC Covent Garden is £500 for three hours, £650 for four hours and £800 for five hours.

  1. Basement, 28 Bedfordbury, WC2N 4BJ
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Dead Dolls House

The name sounds pretty creepy, right? But while there is a certain subtle Addams Family-do-Hoxton air to The Dead Dolls Club, the vibe of this classy restaurant and bar is definitely more cool than creepy. The aesthetic comes from the artfully created marker pen drawings that cover most of the walls of the former textile factory, giving a kooky-yet-upmarket DIY feel, which is balanced by the ornate, vintage-style furniture inside. The restaurant at the top of the building, The Pearl, serves tapas-style plates and there's further dining space in the downstairs levels, which plays host to various pop-up dining projects and parties. There's also a bar (and a roof terrace on which to sup your cocktail), but while dining is open to anyone, you'll need to sign up for membership if you just want to do some drinking.

  1. 35 Hoxton Square, N1 6NN
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Doodle Bar

The artistically inclined may take a liking to this Battersea bar overlooking Ransome's Dock, where visitors are invited to scribble and doodle to their heart's content all over the place. Beers and wines are reasonably priced at £2.50 and £10 respectively. The people behind it all hope to run the bar at least throughout the summer; though, landlord permitting, they may be able continue to operate indefinitely.

  1. 33 Parkgate Rd, SW11 4NP
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Experimental Cocktail Club

  • Rated as: 4/5

As bar after bar opens using the rather tired ‘Brooklyn Prohibition’ template, Experimental Cocktail Club seems ever more original – it’s hard to find, sure, perhaps more so than any other ‘speakeasy’ in London, but inside remains opulent and elegantly aloof to trends. It’s arranged over three floors of an old Chinatown townhouse, flatteringly lit and expensively decorated. Booking isn’t essential (half of the capacity is kept back for walk-ins), but it is recommended and worth the hassle (email booking only, between noon and 5pm). Cocktails are among the best in town, accessibly priced and not too show-offy in terms of ingredient and preparation – ‘experimental’ isn’t perhaps accurate. However, they’re all sophisticated, complex, strong and persuasive; see, for example, the Havana (cigar-infused bourbon, marsala wine, Bruichladdich Octomore single malt ‘wash’). Immaculately attired bar staff are clearly knowledgeable about their subject, although floor staff could be friendlier and, when it gets busy, a bit sharper. A range of vintage spirits (1950s gin martini, £150) indulges those with money to flaunt, but in the main, and despite its initially daunting demeanour, ECC is just a great place for an evening of rarely surpassed cocktails.

  1. 13A Gerrard Street, W1D 5PS
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Greenwich Yacht Club

Located roughly around half way between The O2 and the Thames Barrier, Greenwich Yacht Club stands above the river on stilts. The largely glass building is large enough to cater for all kinds of meetings and dinners and even has its own moorings, what with it being a yacht club and all.

Four spaces are available to hire: The River Rooms (capacity 250), The Clubhouse (150), The Committee Room (30) and the Boat Yard with a marquee provided (500). Contact venuehire@greenwichyachtclub.co.uk or 020 7952 2410.

  1. Peartree Wharf, 1 Peartree Way, SE10 0BW
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Life

Split over two floors, Life is a bit of an 'all-under-one-roof' kind of place, with a restaurant on the ground floor and a bar in the basement. You can have a Japanese dinner here, grab a drink (plenty of Japanese liquers – sake, sochu, plum wine) or bust a move. The motto of Life, is 'enjoy life'.

Life has a capacity of 250. Contact lifeoldst@hotmail.com or 0208 767 0278.

  1. 2-4 Old St, EC1V 9AA
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London Canal Museum

The people, vessels, trade and wildlife of the capital’s canals are explored in the London Canal Museum. The museum is housed in a former nineteenth-century ice warehouse, used by Carlo Gatti for his ice cream, and includes an exhibit on the little-known trade in ice imported from Norway and once stored in two huge wells beneath the museum. This is perhaps the most interesting part of the London Canal Museum; the collection looking at the history of the waterways and those who worked in them is rather sparse by comparison. The canalside walk from here to Camden Town is most enjoyable too.

The museum's event space has a capacity of 200 and is available for hire until 11pm, or until 1am on Fri, Sat, or bank holiday Sun. A smaller space with a capacity of 20 is also available. Contact hire@canalmuseum.org.uk.

  1. 12-13 New Wharf Rd, N1 9RT
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Lucky Pig

  • Rated as: 3/5

Lucky indeed are those who manage to find this underground drinking den. It’s hidden away in the basement of an unassuming Fitzrovia backstreet, and the only apparent indicator is a set of fairy lights. Strung around the building’s bannister, they lead drinkers down into the underbelly of a speakeasy-themed cocktail bar. Lucky Pig taps into the current London fad of Prohibition-style hideaways. The decor is typical of such good-time establishments: worn and torn-looking walls, old-school posters, art deco lampshades and vintage mix-and-match furniture. Drinkers can hide away in intimate arched alcoves, and veil their secret consumption behind red velvet curtains. It’s really all about the cocktails – mixed by braces-clad barmen. The menu covers the typical spectrum of evergreen classics, but there’s also a page dedicated to 'experimental' cocktails.

  1. 5 Clipstone St, W1W 6BB
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Number 90

There's a real buzz along the west bank of the Lea, with Hackney Wick's Yard theatre and numerous galleries supported by a growing number of café-restaurants. On a hot day, the spaces outside Crate Brewery and, south of the Hertford Union canal, the Counter Café are rarely underused. But we're taken with the 2014 newcomer Number 90, which is a higgledy-piggledy mix of gig space, bar and restaurant – with a cracking Lea-side terrace, where you can even lounge in a moored narrowboat, at least until that afternoon's alt-folk combo appears to perform from it. The food options include changing pop-ups (including a concession outside), but one wall is permanently occupied by a decent bar (we murdered a thyme-infused gin, grapefruit, mint and cider syrup cocktail) and Brazilian kitchen, serving the likes of farofa-crusted chicken heart skewers from the grill, or a brisket burger with bone marrow and chips. The food is competent rather than thrilling, but from an oversized deck chair outside you might wonder if there's a better spot in east London.

  1. 90, Main Yard, Wallis Road, E9 5LN
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Paradise by Way of Kensal Green

  • Offer

Paradise makes decorative use of its name, taken from GK Chesterton’s poem ‘The Rolling English Road’, by filling its high-ceilinged interior with religious icons, angels, cherubs and flowery chandeliers, even extending the effect to two huge stone vases of flowers on the bar counter. When you reach it, you’ll find prices to be more than reasonable for the quality of mixing (very good) and service (ditto). Beers include Guinness, plus standard lagers at standard prices; there are also plenty of wines. With its banquet-sized dining hall, courtyard garden and roof terrace, Paradise does a roaring trade in private dining, and bar snacks here are a notch above the norm: Poole harbour rock oysters and shallot dressing, for instance. The rest of the time the Paradise, whilst frequented by more DJs than you can throw a bootleg at, and with the odd band and comedy event, is more friendly boozer and restaurant than DJ bar.

Paradise is available to hire, with a capacity of 150 standing or 50 seating. Contact 0208 969 0098.

  1. 19 Kilburn Lane, W10 4AE
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The Pickle Factory

This industrial-ish space in Tower Hamlets is owned by the same team that run Oval Space. Sitting directly opposite that venue, TPF did indeed used to operate as a working pickle factory, but is now used primarily for one off parties and private events. It's a big space with plenty of room to create and decorate, allowing those with a vision for a party a blank canvas.

  1. 13-14 The Oval, E2 9DU
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Purl

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

We’ve long been fans of Purl, one of London’s first speakeasy-type bars and begetter of both VOC and the Worship Street Whistling Shop. It’s become extremely popular, which means that booking is advisable – though walk-ins will be seated if there’s space. The layout of the bar, over a number of smallish spaces in a vaulted basement, gives the opportunity for genuine seclusion if that’s what you’re looking for. And if you’re interested in cutting-edge cocktail making, you’re also in luck. Novel methods and unusual ingredients are used in many of their unique drinks, but they’re also unfailingly sound in the classics. We experienced slow service because they were understaffed that evening, but usually service is very efficient and always very friendly. The selection of spirits is both extensive, and outstanding. And the music is chosen by someone who has very good taste in jazz.

  1. 50 Blandford Street, W1U 7HX
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Simon Drake's House of Magic

Tucked away down a residential street, Simon Drake's House of Magic lies in wait. It looks like a disused pub, and it is in a sense, but inside, it's a veritable lair of magic. Simon Drake – star of Channel 4's 'The Secret Cabaret' – has decked the place out in red velvet curtains, mismatched wallpaper and mood lighting. Creepy props sit among decadent furnishings, where you can sit and get your fortune told, try out the 'whispering chair' and tour the Haunted Cellar, as well as, of course, witnessing Drake's 45-minute 'Magical Extravaganza'.

The House of Magic has a capacity of 150. Contact houseofmagicuk@gmail.com or 0207 735 4777.

  1. SE17 3WW
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Stage 3

Attached to the long-standing Hackney Empire theatre, Stage 3 is a multi-functional bar restaurant and performance venue. It's an airy, slightly industrial but also comfortable space that lends itself well to a range of functions. These include its numerous pop-up food events that showcase food from around the globe, and the various live bands and DJs that stop by to play a set to the hip, relaxed crowd.

Hire costs are based on a minimum revenue (bar and food) guarantee, depending on day of the week. Minimum revenue to hire exclusively Thursday-Saturday is £2500 and £1500 for Sunday-Wednesday (£500 deposit paid in advance). The team offer services as event designers to help with food and drink, and have access to musicians, artists, designers, photographers, etc, if needed.

  1. Hackney Empire,, 291 Mare St,, E8 1EJ
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Tamesis Dock

A beautiful 1930s green and yellow Dutch barge moored between Lambeth and Vauxhall bridge. It's a modest space – only room for 150 max – and most of the time their events are free, so entrance is on a first-come-first-served basis. Visitors here can enjoy a social drink, a gig or hire it out for a personal party.

With a capacity of 150 (including 80 on deck), the Tamesis costs between free and £100 Mon-Thu, with a minimum spend applicable, or £195 Fri and Sat (minimum 80 people). Contact ahoy@tdock.co.uk or 0207 582 1066.

  1. Albert Embankment, SE1 7TP
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Tanner & Co

A new bar-restaurant offering all-day dining, a lengthy cocktail list and decor inspired by an old-fashioned gymnasium. Food is described as 'a contemporary take on comfort food', with typical dishes including crispy spam fritter and piccalilli, and liver, bubble and squeak croquettes and onion gravy. Breakfast and brunch menus are promised too. The restaurant's name and the leather aprons worn by staff are a nod to the area's past as the location of many of London's tanneries. The premises formerly housed Modern European restaurant Delfina.

  1. 50 Bermondsey St, SE1 3UD
Book online

Tooting Tram & Social

Hard to spot but impressive once you find it, this converted tram shed incorporates a cavernous, chandelier-lit main bar and a smaller mezzanine, filled with decorative quirks and televisions for football viewing. Don’t expect a too laddish crowd, though: the offbeat tone is set by a pair of winkle-pickers displayed under glass as you walk in, while Lionel Ritchie beams a Lionel Ritchie smile from an album cover mounted on the back bar. It’s a laid-back bunch that mingles here, either parked on turquoise-topped bar stools or lounging on the banquettes and antique armchairs. Drinks may include draught Purity Mad Goose, Doom Bar and Grolsch, with 10 wines by the glass among the 20-strong selection.

Tooting Tram & Social can cater for parties of 140 to 440 people. Contact tootingtram@anticlondon.com or 0208 767 0278.

  1. 46-48 Mitcham Road, SW17 9NA
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The Troxy

A striking art deco building from the outside that doesn't let up once you're on the inside either – even the carpet has an art deco fan pattern running through it. This a stunning place to get married in (and many people do), but it's also just a fantastic, Grade II listed building that is used constantly for live music and sporting events, as well as parties.

The Grand Hall ground floor has a capacity of 2000 (standing), 1240 (theatre seating) or 800 (table seating). The Circle has a capacity of 669 (theatre seating) or 192 (table seating). The White Room has a capacity of 150. Contact enquiries@troxy.co.uk or 0207 790 9000.

  1. 490 Commercial Rd, E1 0HX
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Wilton's Music Hall

Walking down Graces Alley towards Wilton's Music Hall is a bit like stepping into another world – or rather back in time to the mid-19th century, when John Wilton opened his concert hall behind the Mahogany Bar pub. Thanks in part to the Methodist Church and John Betjeman, this lovely old building has survived the intervening century and a half more or less intact.

The exterior – cobbled together from five Victorian house fronts – is chicly shabby, with peeling paint in mismatched colours, and long-extinguished gas lamps hanging along the walls beside flower baskets (brimming in the summer). Step inside, and you'll find the bar, entrance hall and side-room known as the 'Study' are very much in the same condition: apart from the exposed brickwork (originally covered by plaster), there's not much here that would have been out of place in Wilton's day.

The gem here is the hall itself: church-like, with a high ceiling, a gallery on three sides and a proscenium arch stage on the fourth. It's been recently refurbished and strengthened thanks to a long-running fundraising campaign, and now has modern lighting, heating and ventilation, but most of the period features are still in place, albeit faded: the 'barley sugar' cast iron pillars, the sloping wooden floor, the carved balcony and the classical arches around the upper walls. One of the world's oldest surviving music halls and an architectural gem, it remains a choice hang-out for the post-work crowd and regularly hosts theatre, concerts and variety acts.

Wilton's Music Hall has various rooms for hire. The main Auditorium has a capacity of 400, is available 10am-10pm (subject to availability) with a three-hour minimum hire, and costs £250 per hour plus a £500 deposit. Other spaces include the Study, the Green Room, the Library, the Cocktail Bar and the Mezzanine, each with a capacity of about £30 and hourly hire rates of £100-£250 – these are generally available until 11pm. Contact info@wiltons.org.uk.

  1. 1-4 Graces Alley, off Ensign St, E1 8JB
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Worship Street Whistling Shop

  • Rated as: 4/5

From the same group as Purl and VOC, this cellar bar is decked out in what seems to be a speakeasy/Victorian mash-up (dark wood and lots of eccentric decorative touches). It makes much of its experimental techniques; if your curiosity is tickled by the sound of ‘enzymes, acids, proteins and hydrocolloids’, you’re all set. The list is mercifully short, and classics are well handled. When we asked for a drink made with the delicious Chase Marmalade vodka, we got their take on it: tall lemonade on the rocks, vodka served separately for either sipping or mixing in. There’s an extensive selection of spirits, including their own barrel-aged ones. Staff are skilled, friendly and eager to please. While there was plenty of space in the front room (there’s another at the back), staff reported that both are usually packed. Not hard to see why.

  1. 63 Worship Street, EC2A 2DU
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Zetter Townhouse

  • Rated as: 5/5

The decor at Townhouse embodies a ‘more is more’ philosophy. Every square inch of surface area is occupied by something lovely, as if a couple of eccentric collectors moved from a country manse and felt compelled to fit all their possessions into two rooms. The result: one of the most beautiful bars in London, and certainly the most unusual-looking. We’d come here for that alone, but the cocktail list is of fittingly high quality – not surprising, since it was devised by Tony Conigliaro (of 69 Colebrooke Row). Even though Conigliaro is known as a techno-wizard, the original drinks here are fairly simple and restrained. And wonderful. Among the house cocktails, check out the Köln martini, the Somerset sour, and the jasmine tea gimlet. Service is friendly and helpful. For four to six people, the table to the right of the front door (two comfortable, mismatched sofas) is heaven on earth.  

  1. 49-50 St John's Square, EC1V 4JJ
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