London is a leather city, and there's quite a bit of crossover between the fetish and mainstream scenes. You'll see "off duty" leathermen at clubs like Crash, and in harder West End bars like Compton's and Bar Code. Bars with backrooms -- generally in North, East and South London -- also attract a harder crowd. London's most famous leather bar is The Coleherne (261 Old Brompton Rd., SW5; +44-20-7244-5951), still going strong after a million-pound refit a couple of years back. Most strict fetish venues are a little out from central London.
Once a month, London's leather and rubber crowd heads south of the river to Fist (Imperial Gardens, 299 Camberwell New Rd, SE5; entrance Medlar Street; www.fist.co.uk; ?11-13) a truly unique dance, cruise and raunch night for a mixed lesbian and gay crowd. The door policy is very strict about what you wear; if you're not in rubber, leather or boots you won't get in -- or they'll make you strip at the door. The Hoist (Railway Arch 47b and c South Lambeth Rd, SW8, just behind Vauxhall Station; +44-20-7735-9972) is a slick leather bar with an industrial lookthat's popular with a 30 -and 40-something crowd. Strict dress code. Open Fridays and Saturdays, on Saturdays, there's dancing in the second arch. Once a month it plays host to SM Gays, when the dress code is more relaxed but there are demonstrations of leather, bondage and SM skills. You'll need to be in leather or rubber to get into The Backstreet (Wentworth Mews, behind Benjys, E3; +44-20-8980-8557) a dark and intimate bar with boots dangling from the roof.
WOMEN'S BARS The Candy Bar (4 Carlisle St; +44-20-7494-4041) is London's seven-nights-a-week, full-time women's bar, a stylish, intimate place. It has modern d?cor and furnishings spread out over two floors and attracts a wide cross section of women; men are welcome only when accompanied by a woman. Lunch is served from midday, and live DJs play several nights a week. At G-A-Y (see above), there's a crowd of good time girls at the women's bar downstairs, Girls Go Down.
Drill Hall (16 Chenies St., WC1; +44-20-7307-5060; pub hours) is also a good centrally located alternative to smoky bars and discos, with a small performance space and cafe attached.
A comfortable haven for singletons of any age is the Glass Bar (West Lodge, 190 Euston Rd., NW1; +44-20-7388-9555), housed in a tiny, old lodge in front of Euston Station. The chairs are soft, the clientele safe, and you can hear yourself think. On Mondays, the Drill Hall Theatre Bar (16 Chenies St; +44-20-7307-5060) and Fridays, Girl Friday at First Out (52 St. Giles High St.; +44-20/7240-8042) are comfortable sites for single girls.
Stoke Newington is a popular neighborhood for lesbians. Fridays at Oak Bar (79 Green Lanes, Newington Greenon, N16; +44-20-7354-2791) is predominantly full of women at night Blush (8 Cazenove Rd., Stoke Newington, N16; +44-20-7923-9202)is a friendly women?s bar, which offers a tasty Sunday roast.
Lesbians in search of nightlife alternatives need to carefully peruse Diva, the lesbian sister of Gay Times, for weekly, bi-weekly and occasional events at established clubs. Fridays will find the gals cruising in the basement bar at First Out (52 St. Giles High St, MC2; +44-20-7240-8042) from 8p.m. to 11p.m. "Waltzing with Hilda" is a Friday option and a nice alternative to the bar scene. (+44-7939-072958). Check their site for venues. Partner here for lessons and good times with other women interested in ballroom dancing.