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

  1. Central
  2. North
  3. South
  4. East
  5. West

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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Bounce

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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Experimental Cocktail Club

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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Lucky Pig

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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Purl

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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Zetter Townhouse

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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