Expectations that London could finally stake a claim as truly a 24-hour city thanks to the recent granting of an all night liquor licence to so-so superclub Ministry of Sound were dashed when it was revealed that the club would not be extending its opening hours. Instead, the bar would simply remain open until the clubs regular closing time of 7am, leaving Ministry’s customers high and dry until the pubs open at 12pm.
There is of course more to creating a 24-hour culture than simply allowing a city’s citizens to get blitzed at any time of the day or night, but it does help.
So while we eagerly await this golden era, what are those of us who keep odd hours and want Chinese at 4am and clubs at 4pm to do?
Kiss the future
If you’re reading this in an internet cafe and the staff are putting on their coats and saying things along the lines of: “Why can’t some people take a hint?” Or the less subtle: “I’m sorry, we’re closing. You’ll have to leave now”, fret not. Simply gather your dignity, stand up, walk away and never look back. Turn your back on those who believe they have the right to disconnect you from the wonder of cyberspace, and embrace the beauty of the all night internet caf?.
Netstream, St Anne’s Court (just off Wardour St), Soho, W1FOAX
This is, for my money, probably the best internet cafe in the city. Big, comfy office chairs. Your choice of either Mac or PC and a desk of your very own – no cubicles. Friendly staff and some pretty fine tunes. It’s also conveniently close to a lot of other 24-hour action in the area.
A1 Internet Cafe, 19 Leinster Terrace, W2 3ET
I’ve only been here once. The lights were dazzlingly bright and the monitor kept swimming in and out of focus. I had been drinking for 12 hours straight, so that may have had something to do with it. The single member of staff was very helpful though, and I managed to get that all important 3am e-mail off.
Internet City, 11 Charing Cross Road, WC2H OEP
A short walk from Leicester Square, Internet city is the same bog standard pack ’em in tight internet cafe you’ll find anywhere on the planet. There are two 24 hour shops in the same road and a late night coffee joint on Leicester Square.
Fill yer tank
There are times when a soggy sandwich and a bag of stale crisps from a filling station just won’t do to satisfy the 4am munchies. Most, if not all, the round the clock eateries are situated either in Soho or the City, so if you’re nowhere close to here you’d best get your skates on, or learn to live with limp lettuce and old bread.
Bar Italia, 22 Frith, St Soho, W1D4RP
A place so good Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker was moved to write a song about it. Don’t let that put me off though, I still think it’s great (Bar Italia that is, not Jarvis or his song). The passing parade at 4 on a Saturday morning is unbeatable, and may very well inspire you to write songs of your own. Good coffee, fresh juices, cakes and pastries round the clock every day except Monday, when they close at 4am.
1997, 19 Wardour St, Soho, W1
Passable sit down or take always in the heart of Chinatown, open 24-7. There’s also a 24-hour shop two doors down for any late night shopping needs.
Tinsletown Diner, 44-46 St John St, EC1M4DF
Just ’round the corner from Fabric, this vaguely American-themed 200 hundred seater diner serves up full English breakfasts, burgers, curries and pasta round the clock. Most importantly, they have an impressive selection of shakes in flavours including Mars Bar, Twix and Maltesers.
Brick Lane Beigel Bake, 159 Brick Lane, E1 65B
Before it became synonymous with the city’s Bangladeshi community Brick Lane was home to countless thriving immigrant communities over the years, including London’s Jewish community. The bakery is a reminder of this disappearing element of the area’s cultural mix, and attracts a curious combo of young scencesters and Jewish old timers. Cheap, cheerful and kosher. L’Chaim!
Cut a rug
Let’s face it. If you’re a real 24 hour person you may not be in the market for a Soya Chai Latte and a slice of gluten free Victorian sponge cake at some ungodly hour on a Saturday morning. Maybe what you want to do – to paraphrase Primal Scream – is you want to get loaded…and you want to have a good time! Lord knows, I sure do….
George IV, 144 Brixton Hill, SW2
Former old man’s boozer most of the finishing ripped out and replaced by a few old couches rescued from a skip. The George is the premier place in Sarf London for those who just don’t know when to call it a night. If you absolutely insist on it, you could probably arrive on Friday afternoon and not leave until kick out time at 6am on a Sunday. Sunday morning policy is however just a cruel practical joke on the uninitiated. No sooner will your pupils have adjusted to the novelty of white light than you’ll be told that for a small charge you can step back inside and keep on rocking.
Fire, 39-41 Parry St, Vauxhall, SW81RT
Punters from various club nights get bussed here for after parties and you’ll find a formidable queue most Sunday mornings, and they keep queuing until early afternoonish. If they’re hosting a big enough event the proceedings get underway on a Saturday night and show no sign of abatement till around five on Sunday evening. The long queues and snotty door staff have kept me from entering its hollowed halls, but my mate Lyndon swears by it, so maybe there’s something to it.
Factory, 65 Goding St, Vauxhall, SW8
If long queues and stuck up door staff aren’t your bag, then stumble on over to Factory, a few arches over from Fire. Like just about anyplace that’s still playing repetitive beat music come Sunday lunchtime, the music also tends to be on the harder end of the house spectrum. There is however a smaller funky house floor just off the main dance floor. Factory is open on Fridays from 10pm to 4am, then reopens at 10pm and goes through to at least 12pm on Sunday. They close for a few hours of prefunctionary clean and then reopen at 4pm and go through until 4am on Monday.
Pick up sticks
Centrepoint Snooker Club, 103 New Oxford St, WC1 1DD
A cavernous space situated under the fountain on the corner of Tottenham Court Road and New Oxford Street. With its entrance situated in a subway leading to a tube station, you’d be forgiven for expecting the regulars here to look like the cast from Trainspotting. The weird part is that it’s actually quite pleasant and not one of the customers looked like a smackhead. Non members have to pay ?5 to play, on top of the fairly extortionate table charges. I don’t know if they’d like me telling you this, but i’m sure they didn’t hesitate to serve me pints of Kronenberg at 3am, even though I’m not a member and I wasn’t playing any pool. They’re open 24 hours a day every day except Sunday.
London Snooker runs eight, count ’em eight, 24 hour pool and snooker clubs within the greater London area. They’re big, they’re plush, they’re bags of fun. You need to be a guest of a member to play, but membership only costs ?10 per year. A game of snooker on a full size table will set you back ?3.50 per hour and pool costs ?1 per hour, although rates vary slightly from club to club. All the clubs have fully licensed bars and serve food and snacks all day.
Because you just never know
Zafash Pharmacy 233 Old Brompton Road SW 5.
London’s only 24 hour pharmacy. While you’re in the area you may want to do the monthly shop at Tesco’s 24-hour superstore on nearby Warwick Road.