There are so many bars and pubs to choose from, it can be hard to find the ones that truly ROCK . But they’re out there and we’ve found a few of them to bring to your attention. So here are a few London rock bars and pubs where the music gets turned up to 11. Let’s get moshing!
If they didn’t have one of the heaviest jukebox playlists this side of hell, the Devil would definitely be The Crobar’s in-house DJ. He does have the best tunes, after all.
At first glance, it might seem like the Crobar is in permanent lock-horned rivalry with the nearby 12-Bar Club, but they’re different beasts: Crobar is straight-up, low-down, dirty rock and metal all the way, while the other is more rockabilly and ska.
The bar itself, overlooked by a grinning horned bull’s skull, is chock-full of rock paraphernalia and serves the finely leathered fiends who make up the core clientele every whiskey known to man, along with beer and Jagermeister on tap. The back room hosts gigs to make your ears bleed and there’s an appropriately rocky-surfaced dancefloor. Said room can be quite chilly in the depths of a London winter, which is when you’ll want a warming Bulleit Bourbon and mixer – £2.00 all night, every night, Monday to Thursday. Happy Hour is every night, 4-9.
One piece of advice though – when heading for a session at the Crobar, you’d do well to book yourself a liver transplant in advance. It’s collateral damage for one hell of a night out.
The Ace Café
Row upon row of polished road bikes stand at the entrance to the retro roadhouse that is the Ace Café. With a long history as a rocker hang-out, the bar takes the place of church for the bikers, opening at 7am on Sundays.
The interior is reminiscent of an American burger joint, more family restaurant than bikie lair. The tables are usually packed with riders, but most will be silver topped gents studying newspapers and sipping coffee or nursing pints. Even the younger generation of “folk devils” are behaving themselves – perhaps conscious that modern day drink driving rules still apply to vintage bikes. The tasty cheeseburgers with extras and a pint of beer will set you back around £12.
There’s also a café shop with a comprehensive souvenir section – think shoulder spikes and branded hoodies and T-shirts. A great place to hang out, not just for rockers or those with a ride.
The Roadhouse is a very well hidden basement bar/club inside the Piazza at Covent Garden, with just a neon sign indicating there’s anything there at all. Inside, however, it’s a totally different story. A motorbike resides at the centre of the bar, which nicely sets the tone for this dark American-themed diner / bar.
Although the aesthetic is obviously trying to big-up the gritty ‘American Biker’ feel (and with a giant neon “Drugs” sign and bikes everywhere it could hardly be more explicitly implied), but rest assured that the staff and clientele are still pretty much what you’d expect to find in Covent Garden, and there’s no overburdening pressure to have a bar fight or beat anyone up with a pool cue.
A great place to start a night out at with their 2-4-1 food & cocktails on offer Mon – Fri between 5.30 and 7.30pm. Get there early!
The Retro Bar
A gem of a pub light years from Soho’s aspirational candy-coloured, pecs ‘n’ pop gay scene, the Retro bar remains the only alternative gay pub in London – as much a refuge for misfits of the gay scene as London is the refuge for the misfits of the provinces.
The Retro is down-to-earth in its ethos, laid-back in atmosphere and broad in its appeal. Though officially a gay pub, the clientele – from punks and goths to suits-without-ties – is not always so. All sorts come here and sling their shiny pounds into the jukebox (on which Dolly Parton’s Greatest Hits nestle side-by-side with Rude Boy Revival). All the popular lagers and ciders are on tap, plus an exhaustive array of bottled booze, all at the lowest prices that Central London will allow. Bar staff are friendly and something of a visual treat – on my last visit the barmaid and bar man looked like they’d been timewarped, respectively, from 1973 and 1981.
There’s a quiz night on Tuesday, plus rockabilly and Glam Rock nights. The upstairs bar is smaller and mellower, with booths. Probably the only pub – gay or straight – in the impersonal West End with a ‘local’ feel. Go Retro!
Some might say that Camden’s hey day has passed – but you’d have a case to argue against that claim after a night at the Barfly.
The Barfly is the quintessential Camden indie venue: sticky floors, skinny-jeaned acolytes chuffing away on Marlboros while perched on the benches outside, blacked-out windows and a typically compact upstairs gig space which means that you’re always in sweaty shoulder-to-shoulder camaraderie with your fellow music fans. More than a thousand bands take to the Barfly stage each year and the venue has played host to everyone from the Libertines and White Stripes, to Muse and Oasis to name but a few. It’s also a tried and trusted circuit venue for up-and-coming and unsigned bands.
Gigs take place seven nights a week and these are often followed by club nights, particularly at the weekend. Dollyrockers take to the decks every Tuesday and Carl Barat is resident DJ for Jubilee on Friday nights. Other nights include This is Not Revolution Rock, Between the Buttons and Nevermind the Bangers. Full listings are available on the venue’s website and ticket prices vary depending on the popularity of the act, but are normally around £5-6, going up to £13 for special events.
Described by Time Out as ‘London’s greatest rock pub,’ the Boogaloo may not seem like the most central of venues, but it’s really just an easy five-minute walk from Highgate tube on the Northern Line. There’s nothing coordinated about the interior of the Boogaloo and it has a very lived in feel that encourages much raucous drinking and pint spillage without consequences. The Boogaloo’s jukebox is a thing of legend – they only stock ‘great’ albums – although come sundown this is replaced by live bands and DJs, with tastes as broad as the bar. Expect everything from jazz, to rock, to country, to punk. Shane MacGowan used to live upstairs and still pops in on occasion for a pint, and when he’s not behind bars, Pete Doherty has been known to pop in and provide a soundtrack to the night.
Have we missed any of your favourites? Let us know!