12 ‘Must Visit’ Pubs in London
lApparently there are over 7,000 pubs in London, and until three weeks ago, I would have been fairly sure that I had visited most of them. However, when I was asked to write an article titled 12 must visit pubs in Central London, the realisation hit me that I didn’t really even know what “Central London” means, let alone which pubs are considered in it.
So, I did what any modern journalist would do: I went and looked at some YouTube videos featuring people eating the hottest chilli in the world, and some others of people falling over. Then, once two and a half weeks had passed, I wrote a list of my favourite pubs I can walk to from Charing Cross (which since the early 19th century has been regarded as the “centre of London,” and is now the point used to measure distances from London).
While most of these have been around for a while we felt not everyone may have had the pleasure of visiting or possibly hearing about these little gems. So sit back, digest these pearls of wisdom and plot your next pub-led adventure.
1. The Old Shades
The Old Shades on Whitehall, long a favourite haunt of mine simply because it’s never too busy. I attribute this to the fact it’s sandwiched between two other pubs and has quite a narrow frontage.
The Old Shades has recently re-opened so it’s Old Shades, new style with a change in management the pub features a characterful bar (where I have personally given advice on the layout of the spirits), dining area and a range of quality British ales. I love an ale, there is always something new on and it is always something I want to try (a Good Stuffing is a particular favourite of mine).
The Shades serves a varied menu of the nation’s much-loved pub classics and light bites, but my top tip is to try the burger as they are great.
Address: 37 Whitehall, London SW1A 2BX
Contact: 020 7839 8577
2. Somerstown Coffee House
Second is the Somerstown Coffee House in Euston, which is not a house but they do serve coffee (and good coffee at that), but they also have 10 beer pumps filled with classic ales and a few unusual choices which change on a regular basis. There’s the usual selection of wines and spirits too.
When it comes to food though,there are several menus which have some unusual choices such as British Tapas of which the obvious choices for me are their black pudding Scotch egg with piccalilli and this may be the only place in London you can get all year round pigs in blankets.
The real surprise comes when you venture down into the basement though, the ‘Cosy Kettle’ is their hidden cocktail bar. I have had a great night in here and it is worth checking out.
Address: 60 Chalton St, Kings Cross, London NW1 1HS
Contact: 020 7387 7377
3. The Waterloo Tap
Third, the Waterloo Tap, the sister pub of the Euston Tap, a two minute walk from Waterloo station. It’s a great place to head if your train is delayed. They have a massive 20 keg and 7 cask beers which seem to be on a constant rotation meaning there is always a different choice here. They also do takeaway bottles so this is an ideal place to stock up on train beers.
It’s just beer though, there’s no food or snacks. This is one for the dedicated ale crowd who want to try lots of new things.
Address: Sutton Walk, Lambeth, London SE1 8RL
Contact: 020 3455 7436
4. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Fleet Street classic, and maybe the most famous pub in London.
One of the few in this area that survived the Great Fire of London and has been on this site since the 1500’s. Over the years it has, apparently, been visited by some greats in the literary world such as Oliver Goldsmith, Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, G.K. Chesterton, P. G. Wodehouse, and it is referred to into in Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities.
There is a chophouse and restaurant on the ground floor and, as it is a Sam Smiths pub, the range of food is not too expensive. If you want a London classic then it doesn’t get more classic than this.
Address: 145 Fleet St, London EC4A 2BU
Contact: 020 7353 6170
5. The Coach & Horses
The Coach & Horses in Mayfair is on the list as it is the narrowest pub I have ever seen. When I first looked at it on street view I thought the camera was broken.
But, aesthetics of the building aside, this is a local’s pub. All the times I have been here there have been locals in, and this area is full of choice. I’ve spoken to the manager who has recently expanded the dining area into the back of the pub, making it much deeper.
The range of food is good, too, and there are some huge portion sizes. The fish and chips could have comfortably fed two people (I ate it all…) and the burgers looked amazing.
Address: 5 Bruton St, Mayfair, London W1J 6PT
Contact: 020 7629 4123
6. The George Inn
Sixth, let’s go south of the river, to the George Inn in Southwark. Located just two minutes from London Bridge, this is the last remaining galleried inn in London, say the National Trust, who own the pub.
This is one of my favourite places to meet people. It has masses of outdoor seating and is set back from the street in a courtyard, making it the ideal rendezvous point.
They have a range of well kept ales, but the gin is the thing to try here, ask for a flight of gin and you will be happy. The Craft flight features Tanqueray No. 10. and is brilliant.
They have a unique menu, the Big Fish & Chips lives up to its name, and the East Is Best Hot dog is a great addition. But, really when I go here all I want is the Fish Finger Brioche.
Address: The George Inn Yard, 77 Borough High St, London SE1 1NH
Contact: 020 7407 2056
7. The French House
Seventh, the French House, Soho. One of my all time favourite pubs just for its quirky little ways, which some people will hate, but I love. The food has a French theme, the wine is brilliant (I recommend the Dom de Bisconte cotes du Roussillon 2012). It’s a great place to go for a pint – oh wait, you can’t, because they don’t serve beer in pints, you can only have a half.
People say this is a great place to come and rub shoulders with actors, writers and journalists so you get quite a few tourists. If it is your first visit though, they have quite a strict no mobile phone policy, and you will get shouted at if you start talking into your phone.
So yeah, you can’t have a pint (order two halves) and you can’t use your phone (go outside) but I think those two rules make the French House one of the best places to drink in London.
Address: 49 Dean St, Soho, London W1D 5BG
Contact: 020 7437 2477
8. The Flying Horse
Eighth is the Flying Horse, Oxford Street. You would think Oxford Street would be packed with pubs, an ideal place for the husband to wait while his wife shops? But no, The Flying Horse is the only pub actually on Oxford Street.
The secret is though, it’s actually rather good. Make sure you check out the basement bar area as it is never as busy as upstairs. They have the usual range of ales and spirits and some nice wines. Sadly they don’t seem to serve food here anymore, but I am told it is on the cards for a return in the new year.
Address: 6 Oxford St, London W1D 1AN
Contact: 020 7636 8324
9. The Windmill
Ninth, the Windmill, Mayfair. Or, ‘The Pie Pub’ as it is known in my circle of friends. They have guest ales that change daily, and a good range of spirits and wines.
Let’s talk pastry though, shortcrust? Check, Puff? Present. This is the place to go for pies. Bacon & Thyme Pie is top of my list, and this is one of the few places I know that serves Rabbit. They have a Pie Club too, so you can join up and start updated on the latest developments in the world of filled pastry.
The Windmill has a lovely roof terrace too, so in the summer months you can pop up there and catch some sun. During the winter they have collaborations with various brewers to bring tipples to keep you warm (Christmas Pudding gin was a particular favourite).
Address: 6-8 Mill St, Mayfair, London W1S 2AZ
Contact: 020 7491 8050
10. Ye Olde Mitre
Tenth, Ye Olde Mitre, Holborn. This pub is the best place to arrange to meet someone you don’t particularly like because it is so hard to find. Also, technically this pub is in Cambridgeshire despite the fact it’s in Zone 1.
Ye Olde Mitre is in Ely Place, which is an exclave of Cambridgeshire, managed for the Bishops of Ely, by its own body of commissioners and beadles, and you will have to pass their gatehouses to get to the pub.
This is a pub well worth a visit just for the history. You can often seek out a local who will tell tales of robbers fleeing Hatton Garden after a job, holing up in the pub because the local police had no jurisdiction there, all the City Police could do was call Cambridge Police and wait. It’s a brilliant pub.
Address: 1 Ely Pl, London EC1N 6SJ
Contact: 020 7405 4751
11. The Bell
Eleventh, the Bell, Aldgate. This is a corner pub, with dark wood paneling and a basement room filled with games like table football and darts. However, if you book it out for a party they will let you use their SEGA Mega Drive (if you ever play Sonic the Hedgehog press UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, A, B, C, START at the menu and you unlock all the levels).
The Bell has a great saloon bar, as well as the upstairs dining room. The food is good and changes frequently so you will always find something to suit your appetite.
The best thing though is the shots. Fancy trying Murray Mint vodka? Or maybe some old school sweet classics like Sherbet Lemon, Rhubarb & Custard, Werthers Original, Peanut Butter, Nutella and Marmite.
Address: 50 Middlesex St, London E1 7EX
Contact: 020 7247 3459
12. The Builders Arms
Twelfth, the Builders Arms, Kensington. Hidden away in the middle of Kensington, apart form the green exterior, this is another local’s pub.
With daily menu changes to keep things fresh the Builders Arms is a great place to pop while out exploring the V&A or Royal Albert Hall. It’s also close to Kensington Olympia, so I rush here whenever I get spammed to go to some boring conference.
If you go on a Sunday morning, get a Bloody Mary, I promise you it will pick you up from whatever happened the night before.
Address: 1 Kensington Ct Pl, Kensington, London W8 5BJ
Contact: 020 7937 6213
Words by EJ Ward