FROM the outside, the London Hotel near Southampton’s Oxford Street looks like any other traditional watering hole.

With its well-kept flower boxes, pristine exterior and well polished signage, you would be forgiven for thinking its patrons were real-ale-swilling conservative folk. But push through the heavy front door and inside things are somewhat different.

Sure, it has one of those carpets with a pattern so complex it would take a degree in code-breaking to figure out.

And sure the bar is old and traditional and made of dark wood. But there is something about the London that is different, something in the air and the atmosphere that sets it apart from other places in the city.

The London is a proud and openly gay pub but with an open door policy to patrons regardless of sexual persuasion.

Obviously the clues are there – the rainbow flag fluttering in the wind, the stickers on the door – but what really gives the London Hotel its individuality is its entertainment.

Come Saturday evening and the place is packed to bursting point. As regulars push through the crowd to order their drinkslocal ales, lagers, good quality wines, vodka mixers – the night’s entertainment takes to the small stage. As the giddy atmosphere reaches its peak, the cabaret evening gets into full swing.

Following performances from stars such as Lucinda Lashes – billed as having the gob of a sewer but the singing voice of an angel – the DJ fires up the decks for regulars to party into the early hours.

Other entertainment includes cabaret comedy and karaoke. But the London Hotel is also a nice place to go to during the day – to chat and be sociable and to while away the afternoon.

The pub serves a selection of home-made meals – lasagne, steak and ale pie – at prices that won’t melt your credit card. There is also a pool table and the chance to chat with the friendly and welcoming bar staff.

During the summer there is plenty of outside seating for patrons to sit back, relax and enjoy the warm weather.

Just don’t be too alarmed if you find yourself sat next to a dolled-up drag queen.

The London Hotel,
Terminus Terrace,
023 8071 0652

Location of The London Hotel