There isn’t a dry eye in the basement of Euston’s Zodiac bar when vocal powerhouse Farrah Mills delivers a genuinely moving rendition of Adele’s 2021 comeback hit ‘Easy on Me’. It is a sudden gear change for Thursday-night party Temptation, which has until this point been dominated by a series of sizzling dance performances by an array of scantily clad (and inconceivably agile) beauties — it’s not billed as ‘London’s Hottest Transgender party for Transwomen and their admirers’ for nothing!
When Attitude first arrives, before Temptation’s 9pm kick-off time, there are decidedly different scenes on Zodiac’s ground-floor bar: namely, three rounds of Bingo Bonza with charming host Brenda LaCreme, who’s decked out in sky-high ruby red slippers The Wizard of Oz’s Dorothy would kill for. Later, after taking full advantage of the irresistible happy-hour offerings (two Long Island Iced Teas for £12? Yes, please), we put on something of a show ourselves, blagging control of the sound system and treating punters to self-choreographed dances to classics like Charlotte Church’s ‘Call My Name’ and Holly Valance’s ‘Kiss Kiss’.
Such pure pop crowd-pleasers perfectly suit Zodiac: a pint-sized watering hole that radiates unpretentious, naturally inclusive energy; the kind most baby queers cut their teeth in outside the capital. Not that Zodiac is a retro outfit: it only opened in 2021, despite other LGBTQ+ spaces closing left, right and centre. And as a Big Smoke venue decisively engaging with the trans community — as symbolised by a huge wall gorgeously spraypainted with the colours of the trans flag — it’s arguably unprecedented.
“When I came to London five years ago, there was no such thing as a trans-owned and-led bar in the UK,” says co-proprietress and ‘Mother of Zodiac’ Jade Phoenix Hoskins, one half of London’s most painfully gorgeous nightlife power couple, alongside house DJ Dave Hoskins. The Philippines-born beauty continues: “We’ve gathered a collective of queer people to come together and give us common people — not rich people — a queer community venue that gives platforms to beginners, not just established, polished performers.”
It’s an immensely likeable space, albeit with a very slight Achilles heel: location. Despite being only a few minutes’ walk from Warren Street and transport hub King’s Cross, Hampstead
Road, on which it lives, is new to this writer — even after 14 years in London. It’s also a bus ride from the thriving bar scenes of Soho and Camden. Not that this is entirely a bad thing: it’s far enough away that bar-hoppers and shoppers are unlikely to flow in at random and it is a relief to escape the meat markets of Old Compton Street — and to get served in a timely manner for once! And there is something about the crowd: many of the punters, we discover, have heard about Zodiac by word of mouth, before venturing out specially to visit and immediately taking it to their hearts. In other words, you’ll find pure kiki vibes: conducive to connecting to the people around you, having conversations and a dance.
Besides which, it fills out considerably by the time Temptation, which runs from 9pm to 2am, reaches its peak. We’d just love to see it a little busier, generally, so tell every trans person and trans ally you know to hit it up.
“We are extremely grateful for people’s support for the venue and each other,” enthuses Jade, who goes out of her way to warmly address every punter as they arrive or depart. “People tell me: ‘Your bar is amazing!’ It’s not my bar, it’s our bar. You need to own it. It’s for everyone, and it won’t exist without the support of everybody.”
Temptation takes place everyThursday, 9pm-2am at Zodiac, 119 Hampstead Rd, London NW1 3EE.