I once went to the Tate Modern to see an exhibition - one of those that you pay a little extra to see. One of the most memorable pieces of art I saw (and in fact have ever seen) was a garden shed, filled up with a lifetime of junk and blown up with explosives then put back together using wires to give an impression of how the shed looked a millisecond after the explosive went off. I remember seeing barbie dolls and other bits of crap flying out in all directions.
This, is what I believe, was the inspiration for whoever decided to decorate the Friendly Society's walls and ceilings. Spattered with Kens, Barbies, trolls, vines and other stuff, it's like the bomb went off and everything was coated in superglue at the time.
This small, 'friendly', gay bar is never too crowded (deliberately so thanks to the bouncers upstairs). Seating is of the trendy but not too comfortable variety and the toilets are, well, they're toilets.
Being in a basement it's a little hidden compared to the brasher/busier bars of Soho. Stand under a speaker and risk losing your hearing. I don't go out in Soho much but if I do (when someone else is organising) and they choose this place, I'm pretty happy with their choice.
I have no idea of bar prices as my rounds came later but they're probably similar to everywhere else.
THE OLD/UGLY QUEENY DJ KILLED The Friendly Society place DARLING!!!
Forget about how it was entering in the cosy Friendly Society bar in Soho, and be prepared to be one of the victim from the nasty new manager/owner, who can bite as a rabid dog if you dare facing him with some music request.
The worse ever experience in the gay scene in Soho London today is the Friendly Society venue . This past Saturday I was celebrating a very happy birthday occasion with my straight girlfriends and after haven enjoy some of the lovely happy bars in gay Soho I decided to take them and finish in the Friendly Society. Bad idea!!! and I didn't suspect it. Once inside with my girlfriends I was banned from drinking from the wine that they already have paid, and I soon discovered that banning me was because in my pass visit to this place I requested a song that the DJ ignored and when I left I strongly complaint about it.
My conclusion, how sad it is that this bitter person has changed a so sociable place into rigid and unfriendly venue. This time when I left the venue my complain to him was that for the last decade I have been a regular client on this venue, and that I have met and befriend many of the previous managers and owner, and I couldn't believe and stand that he now in the right present is messing around so badly with the place.
Finally, I will like to give an advice to this person. Stop and think about choosing something that will suit you better and won't be so badly wrong for the gay scene in London. What about other location/and ambience, like old town/retired Hasting
I last visited this place whilst ona night out with a few Yelper friends (big up Jane G, Theresa C and Issy F!!). We went downstairs after being told by the bouncer that they were on last orders. This was at 11pm, which I think is a mistake for a Friday night. And also a shame because this place is GREAT. We could easily have spent all night here!
Downstairs you emerge into a crazily decoarted yet rather special world. Small and perfectly formed is how I would call this place, and you know it's popular when it's rammed to the ceiling. Drinks were cheap, friendly staff, amazing music (got to love some cheesy Abba to kick off a Friday night dancing) and Barbie dolls on the walls. Yes you read right, I would guesstimate over 100 barbie dolls in various provacative positions glued to the walls. Now that's a good bar!
I love the vibe in here. It's like you're in an underwater playground with seaweed made out of plastic garden flowers, and a sea of ken and barbie dolls on the ceiling.
They play cool music (first it was like brazilian lounge music, and switched into a pet shop boys marathon), it's a very low key lounge where you can chat with friends and cute decor. I think it is more hidden so drunk douches won't stumble in off the street. A pitcher of PERONI was £10... 2 pints.
Overall, I think this place is pricier than other pubs around, but this is made up by the atmosphere and crowd.
I WOULD DEFINITELY COME HERE AGAIN.
Out with a friend on a busy Friday who was determined for me to see this place for myself
As per the below reviews I was slightly skeptical about having to travel down a dark set of stairs into the unknown, especially given this place is sandwiched by peep shows and porn shops!
We queued for about 10 minutes so I expect a small pokey place with barely room to breathe! However it wasn't cramped at all - and no huge queue for the bar
I LOVE the decor - random Goose artwork, fab Gnome stools and strange barbies and kens nailed to the roof!
Definitely worth a visit - it's funky, cute and very soho
1 - Everything is served in doubles, makes a Sambuca shot very interesting!
2 - Lots of lovely looking men, pitty I'm not their type :(
3 - Go early and try and secure the booth at the back
I really love this quirky bar. It's down an alley in Soho. But don't worry, you won't be arrested for having a good time here. This downstairs bar plays some really awesome tunes, think the best of the 80s mixed with a bit of the hits from today.
The decor is amazing. My favorite is probably the lesbian jungle poster on the wall near the loos along with the booth at the side of the bar that is essentially just a massive bed.
The drinks aren't too overly priced and the staff are really nice.
L. O. V. E. I. T.
I've been a few times and this is one of those love it or hate it kind of places. Friendly, diverse & gay-friendly crowd, decent drinks, fun music and yeah, a pretty silly interior... but silly in a very good way.
Amazing!! Such a fun gem in Soho that's perfect for pre-drinking or meeting with friends before heading off for a late night. They only serve till 11, sadly, but the crowd is always fun and certainly friendly.
If you're lucky enough to get there while the owner is in and making drinks, she'll greet you with a smile and usually a hug and you know that even in a city of 7.5 million people, you've been welcomed in like you've been going there for years.
The decor is half of the fun, and the cushioned alcoves allow for a cozy feel even while half the bar is dancing to the in-house DJ. It's a small bar, so if you want to stake out a spot to sit, arrive early.
Drinks are well-made for the price and there's a decent selection of spirits. If you stop in, bring a camera, it'll be one of those nights!
Go down the street, take a right into the alley, and look for the beefy bouncer standing next to a small neon blue sign.
So those were the directions I was given to find Friendly Society. A little concerned? Yeah try an almost certain feeling I wasn't going to be coming up those stairs again. Oh yes, once the bouncer lets you through (after casting an appraising eye over you), you gotta head down below ground into this place.
Like the sign, Friendly Society is a small bar bathed in a blue glow. I have no idea why the lighting choice but it seems to fit along with everything else in this quirky gay bar. Yes, it's a gay bar (my first experience in one actually) as denoted by the 100/1 guy/girl ratio and the men grinding on each other. Keep an eye out for the ceiling which is "decorated" by sticking a variety of Barbie and Ken dolls in all sorts of positions making it look like some possessed child's bedroom. There is also a large goldfish swimming around in a tank on a shelf on a central pillar. Why? I have no idea but maybe the question is rather why not?
Another cool thing to check out are the speakers hung from the walls. Take a close look and see what they remind you of. Your first instinct will be right as those are indeed converted toilet bowls (one hopes they were washed thoroughly) and have surprisingly good acoustic focus. And if you are feeling tired of standing up or dancing, there are some tables and chairs near the toilets or, more entertainingly, a true lounging area where you can lie down or recline against some pillows.
The drinks are served in doubles (my kind of portion control) which makes jaegerbombs a true challenge for all but the most committed. Beer selection is limited but sufficient and the usual well drinks are on offer. I got the feeling this place is a great spot for starting a night with a relaxed yet upbeat atmosphere and some strong drinks.
Anywhere that has:
a) Barbie dolls hanging kinky-ly from the ceiling in the main room
b) lots of little disco balls hanging from the ceiling in the smaller room
c) wallpaper with characters dressed in outfits from different nations
d) cheesy pop music
is a winner in my book!
Everything else aside, I love this place purely for its unadulterated kitsch and for the fun times I have had here with my best friend!
Watch you don't fall up those stairs if you've had a few though, and don't forget to pick up a copy of BOYS on your way out (like my mum did when I took her here)! :)
Uh, a bar with about 100 random Barbie and Ken dolls stuck on the ceiling, AWESOME 80's/90's music, solid drinks, garden gnome seats, padded walls for when the crazy dancers go a little wild (and boy there were quite a few that night I was there)? Hellz Yeah.
Best Bar in Soho as far as I've been! And I thought it was a strip show or bath house... LOL.
I didn't realise that I'd been here until I read a review mentioning Barbie dolls on the ceiling. Suddenly the memories came flooding back.
As a flamboyant straight girl with a plethora of gay friends - aka a drama graduate - I find myself in gay-friendly bars and clubs on a regular basis. Some are far more inclusive than others and this one does exactly what it says on the tin. It's quite small and therefore tough to get a seat if you arrive too late, but it's ever so welcoming, regardless of sexuality and its biggest draw has got to be the bonkers decor. I'm a fan of the unusual and Friendly Society is most certainly that. The lack of memory was solely down the amount of alcohol consumed rather than the place being in any way forgettable. After all, it's hard to overlook the sight of two dozen skewered Ken dolls. And who doesn't love sitting on a gnome's head of an evening?
FS is an underground bar behind an unremarkable door in Soho. Once downstairs the dim interior is home to more barbie dolls than guests. They hang from the ceilings and sit in fish bowls. Because it's a gay bar, with possibly the odd confused person lurking in the shadows, I can be there without feeling threatened or ogled as in some other pubs.
Sometimes it's been drinking way to many cranberry and vodka cocktails and sometimes it's finding myself listening to the dilemmas of complete strangers (maybe I look like mom here) that make Friendly an interesting place.
Lights are up abruptly at 11pm, mid drink, mid dj. Something I am still not used to.
Personally, I prefer a bar that serves pints. Big frothy ones full of booze. Friendly Society does not, but what it does have is a great DJ (usually the bar owner herself), a ultra-modern decor spackled with kitsch and (usually) attractive gay men. Though nominally a bar for everyone, it is most definitely a bar for the friendlier society.
I've been to several birthdays here, stopped in for a quick one after work and carried my drunk ass up the stairs and into a taxi. And never once have I had a bad time. It's one of my favourite gay bars in Soho.
Now if they would only serve pints. The pitchers they serve instead are dangerous, unless shared with friends.
Friendly Society is a great bar, but why does it shut at 11pm??? Seriously, like someone else said, this feels like a late-night bar and on more than one occasion my buzz has completely been killed by the lights going on, music being abruptly stopped and being booted out.
But anyway, that's a small gripe. The place is great. I love it when I take friends here and they haven't had a clue that the place even existed (the entrance is rather hidden and to the untrained eye it could just be another strip joint). The barbie dolls (I think it's Trolls) now that adorn the ceiling are a great camp touch. As is the video projector showing films such as Wizard of Oz and I Dream of Genie, if you hadn't worked out it was a gay bar yet - that's your biggest clue.
Drinks are pretty good. I can see how people are a bit miffed about the lack of pints but the pitchers add a nice communal atmosphere to the drinking. The spirits are served in large measures and aren't too ridiculously priced, definitely not club prices, but getting close. It's all too easy to while away the hours here, especially if you manage to bag one of the funny circular booths. Just beware that come 11 o'clock you'll get a rude awakening and be asked to leave. Shame, as if they had a lock-in you'd probably have a very very very friendly night.
A tiny door in one of the dodgier looking alleys in Soho, between Ann Summers and The Village, take you down into a brilliant bar that is suitable for everyone, although it is aimed at the gay market.
The first thing you notice about this bar is its beautiful design. It's like the interior has been lifted straight from Wallpaper magazine; bold wallpaper in the main area with naughty barbies in slutty positions hanging from the ceiling, a small side room with comfy bed-like seating which you have to step into and toilets which are clean and brilliantly presented. It's obvious that a lot of thought has gone into the place, reflected by the owner Maria, who positively enforces the friendly in the name and goes out of her way to ensure everyone is happy and having fun.
Drinkswise the bar is brilliantly stocked. Pitchers of beer are served at reasonable price, spirits are served as 50ml but prices are okay. Add dj's throughout the week playing chilled music and it's a brfilliant place to take friends and relax.
Friendly Society is a must go-to for tourists and residents alike. The wallpaper on the wall is retro 70's inspired kid's wallpaper, there are trolls, barbie dolls and G.I. Joe's on the ceiling and there are troll stools that, if it were possible, I would steal and put in my room just because they're that. funny.
It's really not a great first date place, the music's usually too loud to have a decent conversation. But, it's great music to dance to and there's a mini dance floor. There are padded rooms in the back to lounge in, but beware girls, because it's super hot back there so makeup will run. There is also a giant mural near the bathroom of lesbians, which is fabulous..it's in the disco-ball room.
The only problem I've ever encountered is the boys trying to take over the girls bathroom. Uh...no. Go to your own bathroom, damn it. One had the audacity to tell me that, because this was primarily a gay man's club that no girls ever use their toliets...uh, hello? Pretty sure I go there, and I'm a girl. But, otherwise, great time :)
Seriously - Friendly Society is one of my top 10 bars in London. It's so quirky, fun and yet sexy.
However, don't tell everyone about this little gem or it will lose its charm!
Nestled down in a basement below Ann Summers is one of Soho's little gems. A gay bar which is more welcoming than most and which is perfect for taking straight friends or those who are looking for something more than the usual pulling places on Compton Street.
Not the largest of bars but with a small side-room and another room which is more a bed with a table in the centre, which you have to step into, it is one of the funkiest gay-bars in central London. Adorned with barbie dolls doing the naughty, vivid wallpaper and unusual seating it's ovbvious a lot of time and care has been paid to the feel of the bar.
Thankfully the bar itself is impressive. Great range of drinks at affordable prices, including well-made cocktails and pitchers of beer, all served by capable staff. The service area is quite small so you sometimes have to wait and as the evening progresses the place gets packed out so best advice get there early.
Maria, the owner, is a delight and the DJ's are always good, offering something different to many of the bars in the area. Early evening, though, can witness some awful music so best avoid the 6pm-7pm slot and head there later.
A great bar, more for those who want to find a place to settle or who have a large crowd to take out, but one which is definately worth checking out.
The friendly society really lives up to its name, with some of the most amiable bar staff in town, and Maria, the owner, will talk to anyone. She even followed me into the toilets for a chat once, which didn't feel at all odd at the time.
Speaking of which, great decor runs through the entire, strangely shaped bar, right into the loos.
Drinks are not cheap, but then nothing is at the Soho end of town. Great music more than make up for the dented wallet. There is a total lack of pretence which is more than can be said for most Soho haunts.
This society is friendly. It's also very, VERY LOUD!! It's a nice little bar, but not somewhere you'd want to go to for a chat with some friends - you'd spend the whole night saying 'huh?', 'what?'.
Despite the noise, and the location it is a nice venue - it's in a basement down a side alley in the middle of Soho.. It's quite small, but has a nice little vibe to it. Try heading there earlier in the evening to get a little room!
Granted, I don't go out to gay bars in Soho anymore, but I had always liked the Friendly when I did (it seemed that little bit leftfield compared to all the touristy spots), so when a friend wanted 'a gay drink' the other night, we ended up here.
Same cheesy, appealingly kitsch decor. But I don't remember drinks being THIS expensive. £15.60 for two gin and tonics and one soda water. YOU WHAT!? WOW! I don't pay that in Soho House, and I get table service.
Being a Fag Hag, this is another fave haunt, before a bit of Karaoke in 'The Village' next door a small downstairs venue, that lives up to it's friendly name.
Anywhere that has a Babycham themed bar, with a painted sky & cloud ceiling that has stuck on Barbie Dolls & Trolls in Day-glow outfits & garden gnome stools is OK with me (I so want to know where I can get that Babycham wallpaper from??)
Drinks about average for the West End, depending on what your drinking, premium brands of Vodka & Gin like Absolute or Grey Goose, will be more than Smirnoff & Gordon's Also bottled mixers, more than on tap mixers..
The Friendly Society is an odd shaped bar hidden in the darkest corner of Soho. It was a good few years of this establishment being open before I even noticed it was there and that was only after I wa mixed bar with a good atmosphere and friendly bar staff who serve up an amazing Cosmopolitan.
The venue is small and on weekends can get quite busy, but don't let that put you off, I've always been able to nab a table and there is always space to have a dance when your fav track comes on.
The music like the bar is very gay, and the Djs are normally happy to play requests as long as it fits in with the general theme of the night.
Typically for a Soho bar the drinks are a little pricey but no more then any other central London bar. A great place to have a few drinks after work to chill out or before a big night out.
I was told this bar was a "must" on my list of London bars. It's a funky, retro inspired bar with a young and fun clientele. Friendly patrons and great drinks make this a great place to be in London!
Bit of a weird place this. It's a little dive bar just off Old Compton Street downstairs and out the way. The lighting has an ultraviolet edge with emphasis on the violet bit and the décor and layout are slightly minimal and the odd novelty item on the walls or hidden in one of the booths. The music is average enough and the drinks plentiful although it's not open late it feels like it's one of those places that should be. Essentially this is an ok, mostly gay, bar perhaps for clandestine lovers and lost and confused followers of the Quaker doctrine. Society of Friends this isn't.
Went on a Thursday night and loved it. Really cool babycham bar and friendly crowd of people with dolly parton and diana ross blaring. Cant wait to go again!
This is such a friendly bar. From the staff to Maria who runs the place and knows virtually everyone in there. It's very friendly - which is one of it's main, great features - along with the dolls on the ceiling and other eccentric decoration delights
Definitely everything but your normal gay bar - friendly service, fun decor and a good (rather than posing) vibe. A little hard to find, as it is in an alley way behind Ann Summers (coming from Old Compton street), and in a basement - but worth it ;-)
One of the most interestingly decorated places I have ever been in. Look out for the troll dolls, disco balls, and barbie dolls.
This place is jam packed on weekends and veyr loud too, which is a shame because I would love to spend more time there and would do so if it werent so crowded or loud.
I like this bar. It lives up to it's name indeed. Tucked away in a basement underneath Anne Summers this quirky little gay bar is full of weird and wonderful decor, trendy cool people, great music and although it's pricy the cocktails are well made and very tasty!
The service area is small and it gets rather packed so I'd suggest getting there early so you don't wait around too long.
I'm just not sure about the fair/troll/barbie things hanging from the ceiling - oh, and the poor fish!
Cool bar to hang out with friends and meet people, very friendly service. Music is good and gets better with DJ after 8 pm. The interior is very interesting - definitely something you can talk about!
An old haunt by my partner, not been for a few years new décor, but still a great bar to visit. It has a great friendly atmosphere and the staff worked hard to keep their customers happy. We found the music fun and at times from our era, even had a dance to Blonde. The staff know their cocktails and over all this is a great London gem. May it stay the same..
I had no idea this bar existed. Later my boyfriend told me it had been there for years! Any way, went in for a after dinner drink with a friend and like everyone else I noticed the Barbie dolls stuck to the ceiling. It seemed quite chilled and pleasant. The only thing my friend didn't like was the fact that the bar did not accept American Express. I did't like the fact that it shut at 11.30! I would have quite happily stayed there for longer! I would go back though may be not for a whole evening but I would pop my head in.
Friendly, fun, gorgeously camp decor. This is a great place to dive into after a day shopping in the west end or something. It's a refreshing breath of tasteful kitsch in an otherwise tacky Soho.
Dragged here by my female friends didn't realise it was a gay bar (but I have absolutely no problem with this). We got there early about 7pm so it was still a bit empty and we were deciding weather to stay or go somewhere else, before we knew it the manager/supervisor comes over to tell us we have been in the bar for a while and asks us to buy a drink or leave!? Of course, this ruined the whole atmosphere for us and we walked out. I didn't expect this from a place with the word friendly in its name.
Most definitly one of the best decorations i have ever seen in a bar in soho the mix between retro and kitsch that screams for a trendy crowd is like a stroke of shoredich in soho. Love the Babycham wallpaper and the Barbie ceiling. The crowd is eclectic and the drinks the average soho prices. No funky house in here (thank you), instead a bit of electroclash and some 80's influences mark the beat for the coolest basement in the west end!
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