London’s Best Pub Food
The term ‘gastropub’ has unfortunately been adopted by every pub in London with a deep fat fryer and a stack of napkins on the bar. Everyone will be familiar with the experience of staring down a warm pint and a ‘sharing platter’ of brown, crispy items. Well, step away from the spring rolls, guys, because these are the London pubs that also serve great food.
London’s newest gastropub has been rammed since the day it opened. The food here is ‘overseen’ by Michel Roux Jr., which means he doesn’t actually cook there, but did have a hand in coming up with the dishes and the feel of the overall menu. So yeah, the whole place was designed with food in mind from the get-go; you were never going to get a plate of soggy chips or a watery ‘Thai’ curry.
The burger isn’t actually the best thing they do, though: we advise ordering the layered potato sticks with anchovy, the pies, with their exceptional, shiny pastry, and the chips, which are crisp, golden as a lion and sprinkled with bloody Mary salt. Oh, and there’s that cheese toastie. We love our carbs at JOL.
It’s worth exploring both the cocktails and the British beer selection, which includes one brewed just for them by Bermondsey Brewery. It’s served in silver tankards. Oh, come on; don’t pretend you don’t want all your drinks in a silver tankard.
The Wigmore, 13 Langham Place, W1B 1JA
The King & Co.
The King & Co. is interesting because it’s one of those pubs that gets away with hosting street food residencies while actually keeping up the quality. We’ve had some really fun food here, including from the fantastic Division 194, who make some of London’s best sandwiches (specifically po’ boys) and killer hot wings drenched in pickled chilli butter.
At the moment, they’ve got a double residency in the form of Tem Ban and Taco Rebels. The latter are there Monday–Tuesday and (as you can probably guess from the name) are all about tacos, with surprising flavours like chicken shawarma and our favourite, a special of lobster tacos with paprika fries in the taco. More of this, please.
Tem Ban is a real rising star in Thai cooking, serving dishes which combine Southeast Asian and British ingredients, for example: pork belly salad with crispy fish flakes and corn on the cob with salted coconut cream.
Be aware that the residencies here change often, and they’re due to change again at the end of October.
The King & Co., 100 Clapham Park Road, SW4 7BZ
The George & Dragon
The George & Dragon relaunched in Fitzrovia this summer with chef Aidan McGee, formerly of The Truscott Arms, in the kitchen. We were big fans of The Truscott Arms and absolutely gutted when it was forced to close due to an obscene rent hike of £175,000.
McGee was famous for his Sunday roast and he’s also been through some very technically competent kitchens, including Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner. All of this makes it very good news that we can hoover up his cooking once again. He excels at proper British classics like fish and chips, terrines and desserts including Bakewell tart.
It’s also a brewpub and will start serving its own beer in early 2018. What’s not to love?
The George & Dragon, 151 Cleveland Street, W1T 6QN
The Camberwell Arms
This pub laps up awards and praise like nobody’s business, and has recently had a bit of a freshen up and a change of ownership. There are two ways to dine here: either have a drink and then move through to the actual restaurant, or stay in the main pub area and eat at your table or at the bar in front of the kitchen. We often nip in to do the latter.
Michael Davies is at the helm, and his kitchen has gone from strength to strength. This is British food with global influences, so you’ll find all the classics like suet-crusted pies and roast chickens (check out our list of London’s best Sunday roasts for more info) alongside curries and koftas.
We also love the playfulness of the menu: recently we’ve enjoyed both a gigantic banoffee pie and a proper, old school banana split (ok, this time the bananas were caramelised, the cream freshly whipped and the ice cream made with the finest chocolate, but still).
The Camberwell Arms, 65 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR
Sun & 13 Cantons
This is another example of a pub that’s great at picking street food residences, only this time it’s bang in the middle of Soho. Now be warned: this place gets very busy on Thursday and Friday nights, when there’s a bit of a ‘school’s out’ vibe, and there’s often a limited menu on these evenings.
Currently Oxalis are there – read our news post to see what you’re missing.
Sun & 13 Cantons, 21 Great Pulteney Street, W1F 9NG
The Drapers Arms
Yeah, ok, so everyone knows about The Drapers, but we had to include it. This is British through-and-through so you’ll get Sunday roasts, steak, lots of game when it’s in season and some brilliant bar snacks. Their scotch egg was recently voted London’s best, for example.
We also never miss the cheese here: a great selection from Neal’s Yard, which is always well-kept. Desserts are very British, too; think crumble, posset and our good old pal, cake.
The Drapers Arms, 44 Barnsbury Street, N1 1ER
The Catford Constitutional Club
The Catford Constitutional Club is not perfect, but what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in charm. It’s basically a very ramshackle arrangement of furniture inside an old house that lay abandoned for 20 years before it was this pub, which is always populated by an interesting mix of locals. There’s a great selection of cask ales and beers, too.
Food-wise, we suggest you begin with one of their sausage rolls, followed by a big bowl of steaming pasta. The food here lacks the skill of the other entries on this list, but there’s a generosity to it, and frankly, it has more warmth in the tip of a spoon than many places in London have in their whole dining rooms.
The Catford Constitutional Club, Catford Broadway, SE6 4SP
This is a pub downstairs, restaurant upstairs. The pub may be a little shinier than average, with lovely leather banquettes and a frosty bowl full of tasteful bottles on the bar, but locals are often installed here discussing politics and football. Many of the beers, ales, lagers and ciders are made locally, as in ‘just down the road’ locally, and overall it’s a thoughtful, smart and good honest place to have a pint.
Upstairs, you’ll find the restaurant, which looks like a bright, modern, upmarket canteen, with a very British menu, so think lots of game when it’s in season, intensely flavoured pies with shiny pastry and sticky sauce, and stews so thick and rich you could smear them on your body and happily swim the Channel.
They also do a very fine line in ‘buns’, which are like sandwiches but sealed around their filling. The beef and barley version with horseradish has become a London classic, but we love the bacon one: filled with diced meat, it’s like the poshest little bacon sandwich you’ll ever eat (Sunday only, from 10am).
Desserts are also legendary. Brown butter and honey tart, anyone? Wobble.
The Marksman, 254 Hackney Road, E2 7SJ
The Guinea Grill is run by Oisin Rogers, who you may know was at The Ship in Wandsworth for many years, and is one of the most charming and lovely pub landlords in the whole of London, if not the world. He’s a man at the top of his game, which means everything runs like clockwork at here, and not just because it’s been going in this spot for more than 60 years.
It’s a Young’s pub, but it’s the smartest you’ll ever visit. Move through to the dining area and you’ll discover a very old-school grill restaurant, where the rack of lamb comes with little frilly paper hats on each cleaned bone and the steak is criss-crossed with char. Eavesdrop on the table next to you and you’ll likely get an earful of chat about investments, antiques or Tim’s cellar in Burgundy, but don’t let that put you off: the food is deeply satisfying, if expensive.
Guinea Grill, 30 Bruton Place, W1J 6NL