Over the last decade, London has seen the shutdown of over half its music venues. This can be attributed to a variety of reasons — from business rates and council interference to the ramifications of new housing developments. For those fortunate to have visited the likes of New Orleans, Memphis, Detroit or any place founded on the bedrock of live instrumental music, the wave of EDM just won’t cut it. Not only does London accommodate live music venues, but there are also those special places that celebrate nights out with an array of food that reflects the venue’s culture. This, therefore, is not a list of places that happen to have food, but a list of places with brilliant music where the food and drink have a story behind them.Read More
10 Terrific London Music Venues with Brilliant Food
Where jazz, soul, and bossanova dovetail with food that reflects the music’s roots
1. Pueblito Paisa Cafe London
London N15 5BT, UK
El Pueblito Paisa started off as a cash exchange and meeting point for Colombians and Latin Americans in North London. Over the years, it has swelled into a complex maze of restaurants and cafes, that have been pivotal to the aforementioned community; it is now under the threat of being demolished. Pueblito Paisa provides the facade of the market and is one of the largest units — meaning it has the most space for dining. Regardless of the time of day, the Bandeja ja Paisa is reminiscent of a fry up that consists of chorizo sausage, plantain, black beans, pork belly, and a fried egg appears to be the local favourite. On a Saturday night with revellers sharing tapas and empanadas, a mariachi band holds court parading the narrow aisles between tables, serenading each one by one with Latin American classics.
2. Northern Soul Bar & Kitchen
Formerly the Hideaway, the venue has been a source of live music for the quiet North London domain of Archway for years now. As the name suggests, most of the venue’s live music centres around soul and jazz with Tuesdays and Wednesdays reserved for the weekly blues jam and jazz jam respectively. In keeping with the name, the bar also serves up an American soul food-inspired menu with dishes like Buffalo wings and mac and cheese for the peckish. For those with a wider appetite, items like the “BB King” with its slow cooked pulled beef brisket and “Soul Pork Belly” with its caramelised slow cooked pork belly on the bone have made the venue a prime late evening attraction for locals.
3. The Dalston Jazz Bar
Keeping live music well and alive in east London, Dalston Jazz Bar is often packed to the rafters on Friday and Saturday nights out. It became an instant hit with its no entry fee, setting a minimum tab of £20 and left the rest to the visitors’ discretion. When it comes to food, choose from a visibly Caribbean-inspired menu with dishes like tropical tiger king prawns served up with sweet chilli sauce or a vegan option consisting of plantain, spinach, ackee, sweet potato patty, breadfruit and yam — the latter three also find their way into the hearty exotic vegetarian soup. Starch and produce will surely provide enough sustenance for even the fastest of metabolisms to dance and sway into the night.
4. Made In Brasil
Perhaps due to the lack of a large Brazilian community in London, there’s unfortunately a dearth of representative food and cultural experiences in the city. But Boteca has done a good job of promoting Brazilian culture, given the amount of Portuguese spoken inside and on the menu. The menu is a deep dive into the diversity of Brazil, from its tapas dishes of plantain, salt fish and meat pastries to mains dominated feijoada, the slow cooked mixed pork and black beans stew, chargrilled chicken, and choice cuts of beef usually served with cassava chips, rice, beans and salad. With a sweet icy caipirinha in hand the dance floor opens up on selected nights of week. Sunday is a guaranteed boogie night that gives Londoners the rare chance to indulge in samba, bossa nova, and baião, as well as funk and Latin jazz.
5. Plaquemine Lock
While the extremely residential locale of north London’s Islington couldn’t be any more different than the heart of Louisiana, the group behind Plaquemine Lock has endeavoured to bring its spirit to London. Louisiana favourites such as shrimp po’boys, soft shell crab and devilled eggs all make their appearance, alongside mains such as buttermilk fried chicken and T-Bone steak. For larger groups, the gumbo pot is a good choice, and to round off the experience, there’s pecan pie and beignets. If still awake after this heady meal, Wednesday nights and Sunday late evenings make way for live sessions inspired by the jazzy big band sounds of the south.
6. Troy Bar
Having survived years of change in the Shoreditch area, Troy bar has been striving to keep the sounds of black and contemporary urban music alive in London. While Tuesdays through Fridays are regular calendar mainstays, Wednesdays are for Hoxton Jam nights and Thursdays for reggae. Troy Bar celebrates Fridays with jazz, while every second Saturdays sees 60s, 70s, and alternative blues. During the day, tables are aligned for people to feast on Caribbean food, like grilled fish, jerk and curry chicken at only £5.50 a pop with the kitchen opening into the night. Funnily enough, many who frequent Troy Bar for its food in the day have seldom experienced its late night music and vice versa.
7. Ronnie Scott's
Legendary late saxophonist Ronnie Scott opened the doors to his Soho club in 1959 as a place for budding musicians to cut their teeth. Sixty years later, it still looms large. The bar was a pioneer with its Wednesday Jazz Jam, a late night instrumental session that has morphed into a main ticketed show — often repeated on Saturdays — that can sell out weeks in advance. Following this is a brief recess after which there is “The Late Late Show,” a relaxed 1950s speakeasy vibe where the doors are open till the wee hours of the morning. For the hungry amongst punters, the menu is nothing short of fancy with wild mushroom tart, lobster, pork belly and 55-day-aged steaks, and even celebratory caviar.
8. Buster Mantis
Underneath the railway arches of the Deptford station in southeast London, Buster Mantis has been championing a well-curated bar experience, in addition to challenging stereotypes of what a Jamaican or a Caribbean space should be. Its menu features classics such as jerk chicken and curry goat, in addition to a recent plant-based vegan offering. Wednesdays at Buster Mantis are a sweat-fuelled event to behold, with frequent residents Steam Down infecting the air with woodwind versions of various R&B, jazz singalong jams as well as their own musical concoctions.
Located away from the high street view in Streatham, the name is truly fitting as many locals have passed by it for years without knowing what’s going on inside. Open for nearly a decade now, the venue showcases live jazz, soul and funk while also serving great food. Hideaway has an extremely varied monthly lineup, including the regular Monday night jam session and a Sunday comedy club, besides anything from David Bowie tribute evenings and Cuban salsa evenings to reggae nights. Laughter and dancing aside, the kitchen also serves up an array of simple meals such as pan-fried salmon, rainbow vegetable skewers and chargrilled jerk chicken.
10. Little Bay Croydon
Little Bay Croydon is so far at the south of London that gems hidden this deep are usually frequented by the locals. Given the lack of knowledge about Croydon, it may be hard for some to picture the truly quirky and bizarre goings-on in Little Bay even on a weekday. While choosing from a modern European set menu, including shoulder of lamb, pork escalope, and leg of duck is somewhat usual, it’s the audio visual experience that takes the dining to the next dimension. Inside what looks like Aladdin’s cave, upper mezzanine tables are modelled after theatre booths and Wednesdays and Fridays are saved for bellowing, frenetic and fun opera displays.