1. Union chapel: This functioning church is a very grown up venue; gig attendees sit on desperately uncomfortable pews holding (real) mugs of tea which you can buy from the friendly bar staff. Tea lights add to the general mellow atmosphere, the band playing comments several times on how beautiful the audience looks: 'I'm not sure if it's the lights or if you're all just really attractive, you're glowing." The band in question is almost embarrassingly what you might expect to find playing in a church; of three, two members are wearing hats, and one accompanies his with a beard, tight jeans and braces. It's all good fun, and the atmosphere is unbeatable. The pews do take their toll on your bottom though.
2. Wilton's Music Hall: Wilton's is the kind of place whose fame is spread by word of mouth alone; it is proud of being 'the city's hidden stage'. This is a big part of its appeal, admittedly, but it's beautiful and deserves to be known better. Built in 1858, it has been through various incarnations, music hall, obviously, Methodist mission and bomb shelter, and now gloriously re-imagined in its original context. They do a big variety of different artsy things, from puppetry to comedy to cinema clubs, all of which are slightly off the wall. If none appeals, they also do weekly tours, a good opportunity to see the city's brilliant vestige of Victoriana up close.
3. Bloomsbury Lanes: Not a music venue, but a bowling alley. If you have to ask what's so special about that, you clearly haven't been yet. The alley in question has an attached 50s style cocktail bar, which is done out in pink and red, with booths and mirrors and associated kitsch. It has a huge range of beers and spirits, and, for a bar right in the centre of Bloomsbury, is secret enough to be blessedly quiet even on a Friday. Bloomsbury Lanes also means Lucky's Diner, the kind of diner you'd see in Grease, right here in pedestrian north London. There's so much good stuff here, you might not even get around to bowling.
4. The Nightjar: One for the vintage lovers among you, this bar will take you right back to 30s America, when prohibition was in full force. Except that this isn't a gimmick, it's a modern twist on a classic. They host regular jazz and blues evenings which are very atmospheric, added to by their wooden panelled ceiling and Belle Époque cocktail menu. You have to book for music evenings because it's table service only, which if you've ended more than a few evenings with aching legs, you'll appreciate. Be warned, it's in Old Street, and it's a bit trendy.
5. King's Head Theatre and Pub: One of many fine pub-theatre venues in London; this one's a bit special because it puts on huge operatic masterpieces in a tiny theatre space. Using recycled red velvet theatre curtains and lamps from venues as august as the Theatre Royal Haymarket and the Scala theatre which adds to the high quality of the productions – they often transfer plays to the West End.