Bijou cocktail club for women

Bijou Bijou - Christa Holka
Posted: Mon Sep 19 2011

A new cocktail club for women claims to be the classy night you always wanted...

Uninspired by London's lesbian scene, promoters Robin Kendall and Lauren Pett decided to take matters into their own hands. They joined forces to form Elysion Events, creating 'a night where you could meet women and friends, and where you wouldn't have to shout to make yourself heard, take out a mortgage for a drink, deal with “attitudes” or queue all night for a toilet that has run out
of loo roll.'

It's a familiar story, but is the promise too good to be true? Can a company in its infancy possibly contend with longer-established Saturday-night names? At the Bijou launch, Kendall and Pett warmly welcome their guests into the airy venue and through wide-open concertina doors. The bar is bustling (but not quite brimming) with well-heeled ladies sipping on candy-pink martinis.

This is a sophisticated soirée, not another sweat-fest. Still, Tart Bar retains the den-like intimacy of other well-loved ladies' nights. A restored vestry room at the rear is softly lit by lamps and chandeliers, dripping with girly garlands. It is framed by plush leather seating, perfect for a chat with friends, a rest from the dancefloor or even some Bijou bisoux. A grand flower arrangement sits in one corner, while a marble bust of Henry Gardner occupies another, passively overlooking the revelry.

To begin with, the historic hideaway feels rather too sensible for a Saturday night out on the town. I can't quite imagine the huddles of well-behaved thirtysomethings letting loose in these lavish surroundings. Before long though, DJ Silverhook forces the best of us to our feet. His 'bent-out-of-shape' pop remixes invigorate the quaint surroundings and detonate inhibitions - though, to be fair, the extensive list of reasonably priced and speedily served cocktails may also have played a part. Hits from Goldfrapp and La Roux are interspersed with Snap and Cyndi Lauper - a perfectly refined ratio of credibility to cheese.

A few smokers spill outside into the quiet cul-de-sac, still basking in the cool beats that emanate from the dancefloor. Jamiroquai's 'Deeper Underground' is playing - an apt description for the airtight
boxes that traditionally house gay girls' clubnights, buried below London streets. For the two hosts, this was the bane of lesbian London. 'I had spent too many evenings in uncomfortable, cavernous venues,' Kendall tells me. 'So many lesbian events seem to be tucked away in dingy basements, where you often have to elbow through a crowd of gay boys or straight men on a night out.'

Pett notes that Bijou caters solely for women. She wanted the evening to be 'somewhere where women could relax and be themselves and not have to worry about whether the “men as guests” were gay or straight. There are enough “mixed” nights out there and I wanted ours to be different.'

Bijou is not only different, it's also a cut above many long-running ladies' nights. It's fresh, friendly, laidback and unpretentious. Bijou is a newly uncovered gem of lesbian London and we're sure it won't be such a well-kept secret for long.