Asking a Londoner for their favourite pub is no easy feat: weather and commute aside, few subjects are bound to elicit such passions as this one. The pub is the cornerstone of London’s social and neighbourhood life: a place to celebrate, commiserate, or simply shoot the breeze over well-earned pints. Crowds spill out into the street at The Coach & Horses; locals bash out tunes on The Palm Tree’s piano; long rambles end at The White Swan in Twickenham.
Whether you’re in the mood for craft ales or solid grub, there’s a London pub out there just right for you. Here are five favourites to pin on your map.
A short walk from the British Museum, this handsome Victorian pub is a stickler for tradition. Green leather banquettes line the walls and snob screens – once used to shield customers from staff – still circle the horseshoe bar. The menu’s as trad as they come: half-pints of prawns, beer-battered cod, and sharing platters laden with cheddar, pork pies and pickled onions.
At the northern edge of Hampstead Heath, this 16th-century wood-panelled beauty rewards treks up the hill with cosy nooks by crackling fires. Come balmier days, the beer garden – one of the biggest in town – beckons. The menu’s quintessentially British (Scotch eggs, fish and chips, roasts with all the trimmings), but the range of craft beers on tap nod to a pub still moving with its times.
End a leisurely walk along the Thames at this historical pub, which overlooks the original mooring point of the famed pilgrims’ ship. It may have bags of character, but that’s not its only selling point. Whether you’re in for a pie and a pint on Wednesdays or fishy Fridays, the pub grub here’s always fresh and seasonal. As for the river views? You’d be hard pressed to find a better vantage point.
A far cry from its former incarnation as a notorious East End boozer, the Culpeper has scrubbed up very nicely indeed. An impressive central bar pours natural wines and local beers, best savoured by the floor-to-ceiling windows for a spot of people-watching. Herbs for the cocktail list are grown on the rooftop garden, which doubles up in the summer as a hangout for cool creatives
This bleu-blanc-rouge pub is a Soho institution. Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and Charles de Gaulle were regulars, perhaps drawn to its bohemian charm, pastis selection and half-pints of beer. Upstairs, the dinky dining room serves confit garlic, pig’s-head terrine and poached pear. But the joy is in the eclectic crowd: pull up a stool, order a glass of wine and see where conversation will take you.
Image credits: © The Lamb; © The Lamb; © The Lamb; © The Spaniards Inn; © The Mayflower; © Veerle Evens; © The French House; © Birdcage; © Grind; © Kerb