Basement bar at La Camionera lesbian night
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La Camionera: The new underground lesbian pop-up night on Broadway Market

London’s newest lesbian night, La Camionera, opens on Broadway Market, and hundreds flock to experience its candlelit ambience and Spanish-themed cocktails.

A great lesbian bar is hard to come by these days, especially in the wake of two of London’s most celebrated queer bars recently closing, The Glory in Haggerston and Soho’s G-A-Y Late. But the curtain hasn’t fallen yet. 

A much-needed saviour has entered stage left, La Camionera, described simply as ‘Lesbian Bar’ on their Instagram, with just ten posts but a rapidly growing following. Opening last night on bustling Broadway Market, it seems like something special has hit East London’s queer scene.

Popping up like a mysterious Instagram daisy, La Camionera caused ripples among the queer community before last night. From its slightly saucy and obscured Insta photos to its supposedly anonymous event promoter, who we found out last night is called Alex, it caused quite a stir.  

The name ‘La Camionera’ means female truck driver in Spanish, and is also slang for butch lesbians, according to the owners. An apt name, looking around at the clientele on the night. 

We went along for what we thought would be a quiet drink on opening night to see what all the fuss was about. There was no need for Google Maps as we approached the north end of Broadway Market and stopped opposite the Cat and Mutton pub to take in the surroundings.  

Perched on the corner next to Climpson and Sons coffee house is the venue ‘Off Broadway’, usually an American Jazz bar, but tonight home to La Camionera, the much anticipated lesbian pop-up event. The night is held in the jazz bar’s secret basement, although there were no soft jazzy tunes wafting out this evening as the venue was heaving. 

Crowds of people outside La Camionera lesbian night on Broadway Market, East London
Punters from La Camionera overflow onto Broadway Market

Spilling out of the door and joining the masses filling the cobbled street, were excitable throngs of people clutching pint glasses and catching up over a cocktail, one in one out. A unified murmur throughout the crowd, ‘It’s wild, literally everyone is here, my ex, her ex and her ex’s ex,’ said Kate, 29.

Managing to squeeze in and wriggle past sweaty, tattooed arms and leather jackets to the bar, the atmosphere and excitement were palpable. 

The venue was filled to the brim with the hundreds that descended; the lucky few who nabbed a table early were nursing bottles of wine from silver coolers, and others propped up at the bar on high wooden stools.  ‘We did not expect this turn-out; it’s completely incredible, an actual sea of lesbians spilling onto Broadway Market’, said one of the bar staff, Sophia.

In search of the main event, we headed downstairs to the building’s hidden basement and got hit by a wave of heat. A dark room with low ceilings lit only by candlelight and the glow of the bar, this is La Camionera. 

Tiny tables lined the back of the room, set like a romantic restaurant, complete with crisp white tablecloths, tulips in a vase and flickering candles. 

Basement seating with tulips and candles at La Camionera, Broadway Market, East London
Basement seating at La Camionera

Queer punters had flocked from all over London, Manchester and some from as far as San Francisco, all leaning over tables to hear one another above the cacophony of clinking drinks and noisy chatter.

Serving up £8 Negroni’s faster than they could collect glasses, the menu also offered Cava at £3 a glass, Yayo, a traditional Spanish cocktail made with lemon-lime soda for £5, and natural wine by the bottle. Each drink was served up with tiny bowls piled high with olives, anchovies and pickles that littered the tables, giving it that authentic tapas bar feel. 

With popularity way larger than the event space, it’s clear there is high demand for a more permanent lesbian venue in London. Until then, the night promises to return every other Thursday and, depending on popularity, every other Wednesday, too. 

If last night’s turnout is anything to go by, Wednesdays look likely. Oh, and don’t forget the opening hours of 5 pm to midnight due to Broadway Market’s curfews, so head down early if you want a seat. 

Outside the front of Off Broadway, location of the pop-up lesbian bar, La Camionera, Broadway Market, East London
Crowds of people outside La Camionera lesbian night

If you do find yourself short of somewhere to perch in the basement, upstairs, not strictly part of the pop-up event, ‘Off Broadway’ is decorated with hanging plants and framed with exposed brickwork. The bar is stocked high with every spirit you could imagine, ready and waiting to be mixed into one of over 28 cocktails on their menu ranging from £8.50-£13.00.

You could have anything from a classic Daiquiri, ‘Cuba in a glass’ or for those needing to blow away the winter sniffles, a ‘Penicillin’ which captures the soothing flavours of hot toddy – Monkey Shoulder whiskey, agave syrup, and ginger and lemon. 

The future looks bright for lesbian nights.

If you liked this article, you might enjoy LGBT History Month 2024 in Tower Hamlets

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