Something of a local legend, the White Swan is the East End’s most famous gay boozer. The comedian Michael Barrymore famously came out on stage here. Sir Ian McKellen used to drop in after he came out. And the Sunday Tea Dances are an institution with an older crowd, who waltz and tango the night away. But despite its illustrious history, the pub’s decor is not quaint or cosy: on the contrary, it’s a rough and soulless space, with a dark warehouse-style aesthetic, enlivened only by the soft-porn videos broadcast from TV screens above the bar (usually naked French rugby players). The crowd, by contrast, is cheerful and rowdy; many Essex lads make the trek here in on the weekend. It is notorious for its amateur strip contests – held on Wednesdays around midnight – in which the young and shameless bare all for cash. On Friday and Saturday nights, there are often strippers or drag queens, who warm up the crowd for a night of dancing to chart tunes and commercial house.
556 Commercial Rd, London London E14 7JD