Hanging out at The Book Club. Photo by author. Feature photo: boutrosmeister

Art and drinking. Seems like a natural fit.
Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes

Named after a bag and shoe shop that once resided in this East London space, Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes is a bar, cafe, and exhibition area. The upstairs area with sky lights, high ceilings, and glass shop front is ideal for displaying art while the basement is a welcoming, candle-lit brick grotto with a fireplace and sofas.

The venue is a blank canvas whose appearance changes completely every six to eight weeks when a new exhibition takes over. Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes is just one outlet of the Jaguar Shoes creative collective who are behind the free magazine Poster Paper, record label BigDirtyEngine, the fashion store no-one and the cafe/bar The Old Shoreditch Station (both just across the road).

I went to the latest exhibition’s opening night recently without realizing it. The crowds of people and numerous photographers should have been a sure give-away, but I was oblivious until a girl came towards me with a tray full of sugary, dark rum cocktails – for free! Try to get there on the opening night of a new exhibition.

32-36 Kingsland Road
E2 8DA Shoreditch

The Book Club

The Book Club in Shoreditch has it all. I know because I’m there all the time. In the morning you can cure your hangover as you slouch in one of the comfy chairs eating buttermilk pancakes with bananas and strawberries. You can play ping-pong (weekly tournament on Tuesday), pool, and board games while sipping on custom-made cocktails. Or go there for your afternoon tea and dessert. Carefully selected, ever-changing photography exhibitions decorate the place.

As chilled out as it is during the day, The Book Club completely changes on weekend nights when the downstairs area opens and both floors are packed with people drinking and dancing.

100 Leonard Street
EC2A 4RH

Bar Story

Bar Story. Photo by author.

I recently went to Bar Story for the first time. I arrived at a beer garden surrounded by palm trees and furnished with concrete slabs and old railway sleepers as tables. The floor is uneven and paved, the ceiling has a tiny leak, and the toilet walls are made out of metal slabs.

This bar, in a railway arch, has pizza, snacks, and cocktails (happy hour everyday from 6pm-8pm), but I opted for a pint as I sat down at the bar. The bartender had to go outside to pour it which he said gets pretty annoying in the winter. The gallery (a Sassoon Gallery space) is out back in another railway arch showcasing a wide range of visual art of local upcoming artists.

213 Blenheim Grove
SE15 4QL

New Gallery

New Gallery, in Camberwell, is a much more contemporary space than Bar Story. The walls are a squeaky white, red and gray metal pillars prop up the ceiling, and small, light wooden tables adorned with tiny plants fill up the room. They serve hot drinks, pizza, and a good selection of ales and bottled beers.

The gallery is in the same room but wasn’t accessible at the time of visit as it was still being built. The first exhibition opened at the end of January and the gallery will also host lectures, debates, screenings, ping pong nights, and jumble sales. I can see this place becoming one of the area’s main meeting spots for artists/students.

94-96 Peckham Road
SE15 5PY

Proud Galleries in Camden

One of the individual booths covered in old gig posters.
Photo: raindog.

For over a decade, Proud Galleries has brought behind the scenes, insightful, and sometimes controversial photography to the public through their privately funded exhibitions, usually focusing on music. Past exhibitions include photographs of Bob Dylan, The Libertines, and Bob Marley.

The venue is a mix I see often in London: grime and glamour combined. Proud Galleries is an old horse hospital so the individual booths for drinking, dancing, and chilling in are original horse stables with dancing poles on the tables. Each booth has its own TV for watching sports and playing PS3. The newly refurbished, glass-clad outdoor area was once a courtyard and all the old brick floors have remained intact.

There are two gallery rooms — both turn into dance floors once the club nights kick off. Come in the early evening for dinner to watch the transition from gallery to club.

The Horse Hospital, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road
NW1 8AH

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