Welcome to Bad Night Out, where we explore the underbelly of a city through it’s nightlife spots.
WHERE AM I?
For some reason, I'm in Kingston-upon-Thames on a Thursday night. In recent years, I’ve successfully fabricated several different illnesses to avoid having to go out in Kingston. But here I am, standing between a vape shop and a branch of Warhammer, looking for a good time.
Judging from the "upon-Thames" suffix, I get the feeling that Kingston takes itself a bit too seriously. Most of the clubs here have a less than three-star rating on Google reviews, but insist on a dress code, which means I have to wear heels. My ankles are far too weak for that, so I will be risking not being allowed in by wearing a very basic pair of boots with ample ankle support, thanks!
Before starting tonight's tour I stop off for pre drinks at O’Neill's, a chain pub whose Kingston location somehow has a higher rating than most of the other bars, pubs and nightclubs in the area. I hate it here though. Four bouncers stand outside, jeering at me for absolutely no reason. Inside, I drink a tiny little rum-and-coke, and there's a woman singing "Lose Yourself" on karaoke – a terrible choice for someone who, despite having the words in front of her, struggles to get any out.
Although it's a Thursday night, Kingston's town centre is surprisingly quiet. No one's out for post-work drinks and pretty much every shop is shut. But it's time to go to the first stop, so I leave the town centre and make my way down a little alley which is ill-lit and very close to a river, and so: does not feel all that safe.
HENRY’S CAFE BAR KINGSTON - 3.9 ★★★★
TripAdvisor review: "Absolutely shocking service.. it’s quicker watching paint dry, no wonder the place is empty on a Friday night!"
Henry's is perfect and deserves five stars. I genuinely can't believe that this place has a 0.1 lower star rating than O'Neill’s. Even though it's hidden and kind of looks like an estate agent from the outside, this place has managed to finesse one of the hardest variables of an eating/drinking establishment: volume.
Granted, it's basically empty, but I can both hear the conversation I'm having and am able to eavesdrop on the couple next to us. What more could you want? I don't want to leave, but the format of this column demands it: onto the next place.
BACCHUS LATE BAR - 3.0 ★★★
TripAdvisor review: "Got sucker punched from behind at this bar while on vacation. Fractured cheek bone and ruined the trip. One of the worst nights of my life. Id love to get a hold of the little shrimp that cheap shotted me."
This review terrified me, I won’t lie. Being punched in the face for no reason is not what I'd call a ~vibe~. That said, it's difficult to get punched if there's no one there to punch you. I'm the only one in the queue, and the bouncer has to go downstairs to "check if they're ready for people", before coming back up and telling me it's £4 entry (fair price) but that my photographer and I will be the only people in there (not good). Naturally, I decide not to pay £4 to sit inside a dark basement alone.
So far, I hate Kingston and it hates me. Why is there literally nobody here??
PRYZM - 2.8 ★★★
"Bit gross and smelly. No good for the price you pay to get in"
"Had a great night listening to live concert of Jamie Cullum. Approachable staff, clean facilities and reasonable priced drinks."
I haven't actually made it into any actual clubs yet, so who am I to turn down somewhere "gross and smelly"? When I look up the directions to Pryzm on my phone, I realise that it's a Thursday and Pryzm isn't even open on a Thursday. The night just keeps on getting better!
Here's me maniacally laughing at the thought of anyone paying to see Jamie Cullum at Pryzm in 2019, and also at my own stupidity. Onto the next!
VIPER ROOMS - 2.4 ★★
TripAdvisor reviews [sic]:
I Needed to get out of the club after a couple of minutes , I was still drinking my first beer . The bouncers wouldn't let us in for no reasonat all .
All the bad comments are true.
I've heard a lot about Viper Rooms. Everything I've heard makes it sounds terrible, but I'm excited to finally make it into somewhere tonight.
We arrive and, apart from a cyclist whizzing by, no one is around. The lights are on and the door is ajar, but there's no one inside.
I sit on this bench, facing a wall that separates the bridge from the main road, and wonder why Kingston is so quiet on a Thursday night. When do people actually go out? Do they? Or are all these pubs and bars just for show, an elaborate ploy serving absolutely no purpose whatsoever? Granted, it's my fault I came on the night that one club was actually closed, but that doesn't explain why the rest of Kingston was such a ghost town.
What I will say is that Kingston-upon-Thames looks like a model town that I assume could be quite quaint during the day, but I won’t be returning again. My heart cannot take any more disappointment.