NIGHT LIFE

A Night On the Town

The make -up of any major city seems to change at night as offices empty into pubs and trains drain the centre of workers and replace them with players. The West End, a shopping and office centre by day, is the heart of London at night. Soho is still the most fashionable area, and is still the sex centre of London, although smut is on the retreat. Some of the best food and the trendiest clubs are here, including Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in Frith Street.

Other gathering spots for swingers include kettners in Romilly Street and the Soho Brasserie in Old Compton Street. These are "gathering spots" because many of the champagne drinkers go on to a night club such as string fellows in upper St.Martin's Lane. London hippest clubs have all-powerful doorpersons who act as arbiters of taste, letting in those faces and fashions that fir, and excluding those who don't, irrespective of their wallet's weight.

The most successful and biggest discos in town are The Hippodrome (Cranbourne Street), The Limelight (Shaftesbury Avenue) the wag Club in Wardour Street and the famous gay disco Haven (Villiers Street).

Londoners get a buzz from being in the company of the countless nationalities that throng Leicester Square, Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and the Trocadero Centre. These are the best know central areas for evening promenading and for an entrance fee of a few pounds, drinking can continue past the 11 pm pub closing time at such places as Burlington Betie's in Shaftesbury Avenue. Although London may not seem to offer a conducive climate, 84 percent of all oversea visitors describe their evening activities as "Just walking around".

Further afield, King's Road in Chelsea, Nothing hill and Westbourne Grove, Camden and Islington can be lively in the evening. More off-beat places, such as around the former market at Spitalfields and among trendy clubs in Hoxton square, come in and out of fashion. Others might look for the ethnic: Indian in Brick Lane, or the latest sushi gimmicks - yo! Sushi in Poland street has robot services and claims to have the longest conveyor food belt in the world. Or they might want to skip to another continent at the Rainforest café in the Trocadero centre, where a suitably steamy ambience has been created.

The South Bank complex (on the southern end of Waterloo Bridge) may not be appealing to the eyes, but it does offer an impressive range of cultural choice from concerts through theatre to film, and some of the best views of central London can be had from the banks of the river. On the concrete promenade of the Jubilee Walkway on a summer evening, busking jazz saxophonist makes the place feel just a little like New York.

For a glamorously old - fashioned evening, head for Mayfair and St James. Here you'll find discreet restaurants and exclusive night clubs such as Annabel's in Berkeley square, appealing to an older, sophisticated crowd who don't need to ask the price.