Alternative nights out

London's nightlife scene is constantly throwing up new treats for nocturnal hedonists. From burlesque and cabaret to jive dancing or retro dress-up nights, Time Out presents our guide to the places that reliably offer something different

  • Alternative nights out

    Wam Bam regulars Brank and Branko, the Croatian Magic Sensation © Croatian Playboy

    • Photo for Volupté Volupte


      9 Norwich St, London, EC4A 1EJ

      Tucked away beneath the streets of the capital's legal and financial heartland, this basement bar serves up some of the best burlesque in town. Vintage-bedecked punters watch the action from tables set beneath writhing absinthe-inspired arabesques. The Cabaret Salon is every Wednesday night, Saturdays see the Afternoon Tease sessions (think nipple tassels, Champagne and freshly made scones) and once a month the Black Cotton Club turns back the clock to the 1920s. Read more

  • Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes

    Basement of Tavistock Hotel Bedford Way, WC1H 9EU

    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. Regular club nights, such as popular indie fest Shake, Rattle and Bowl, 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. Read more

  • Madame JoJo's

    8-10 Brewer St, W1F 0SE

    Looking a bit like a sleazy club, Madame JoJo's occupies one of Soho's most iconic locations. Originally a celebrated cabaret and burlesque joint, it enjoyed a new lease of life during the explosion of rave in the '90s and was soon hosting world-famous club nights such as Electrogogo, Deep Funk, Groove Sanctuary and White Heat. These days the programme is an eclectic mix of comedy, burlesque cabaret and club nights. Read more

  • Bistrotheque

    23-27 Wadeson St, London, E2 9DR

    Predominantly a modish bar and restaurant serving bistro food, Bistrotheque doubles up as the capital's most inspiring (if small) cabaret space, which punches above its weight and has become internationally renowned with alternative performance types. Jonny Woo's collective of drag stars works from here, gay burlesque bear troupe Bearlesque met in the back room and The Lipsinkers (miming drag queens) have become a favourite. Read more

  • CellarDoor

    Zero Aldwych, London, WC2E 7DN

    In spite of the futuristic, purple-lit stairs leading down from pavement level, it can be tricky to find this diminutive club in a converted Victorian loo; make the effort though and you'll be rewarded. Some staggeringly clever design means that although there's room for just 60, CellarDoor never feels claustrophobic. Cabaret crooners and drag queens are the order of the day, giving this sleek establishment a vintage feel. Read more

  • Café de Paris

    3-4 Coventry St, London, W1D 6BL

    Crushed velvet, theatrical ruched drapes, chi chi chandeliers: Café de Paris is knowingly louche with an unpretentious heart. Predominantly a weekend club - though the Moulin Rouge-style ballroom becomes a restaurant on Saturday nights - this iconic Piccadilly haunt hosts risqué entertainers, cabaret and live music as well as the crème of the annual London Burlesque Festival. Read more

  • The RVT

    372 Kennington Lane, London, SE11 5HY

    If you're seeking a very London gay experience, this is where to start. This pub-turned-legendary gay venue operates an anything-goes booking policy. The most famous fixture is Saturday's queer performance night Duckie with Amy Lamé hosting turns that range from strip cabaret to porn puppets; though recently the programme has expanded to include straight comedy events and variety nights. Read more

  • Bethnal Green Working Men's Club

    42-46 Pollard Row, E2 6NB

    This '50s working men's club is a retro haven. The sticky red carpet and broken lampshades perfectly suit the programme of quirky lounge, retro rock 'n' roll and fancy-dress burlesque parties. Door staff can be quite strict in enforcing the dress-up policy, so make an effort, and bear in mind the bar is cash only. Read more

  • The Pigalle Club

    215 Piccadilly, W1J 9HN

    This sleek, chic, basement supper club is part of nightlife impresario Vince Power's (formerly Mr Mean Fiddler) ever-expanding empire. The Pigalle Club is an upmarket version of the Jazz Café, a 1940s-styled (low-lighting, olive green carpets), 400-capacity venue where high prices imply a certain measure of sophistication. Acts are generally jazzy, with the occasional big-name soul, cabaret or pop singer thrown in for added appeal. Read more