London’s Cosiest Pubs
When it’s cold outside, you want to beat the winter blues and hunker down, ideally somewhere with a roaring fire and a glass of something warming. We’re with you — here’s our list of snug pubs and bars to beat the autumn chill and frosty nights.
Queen of Hoxton
Every year, the Queen of Hoxton’s roof is transformed into a cosy themed winter retreat. This year it’s all about Morocco: the perennial wigwam has been turned into a giant Moroccan lamp scattered with cushions and fairy lights, and with scents of the souk in the air. Spiced hot buttered rum and cardamom-spiced coffee will keep you warm, as will halloumi fries and a lamb and apricot tagine.
Queen of Hoxton, 1 Curtain Road, EC2A 3JX
With a view of Wimbledon Common outside and a roaring fire inside, this 18th century Youngs pub ups the cosy ante with a dog-friendly policy, massive Yorkshire puddings on Sundays and a very hygge attitude come winter. They’ve been known to do various hot, spiced drinks and a mean hot chocolate (with little marshmallows). The fact it’s near to the magnificent Wimbledon Brewery is an added bonus. Put your feet up and ask if the chess board’s free.
Crooked Billet, 14–15 Crooked Billet, SW19 4RQ
Ye Olde Mitre
You may have come across Ye Olde Mitre online, as it’s quite famous in London nerd circles for once technically having been part of Cambridgeshire. To come across it in real life you need to find a narrow alleyway between Hatton Garden and Ely Place. It’s worth the hunt. Built in 1546 and extended in the 18th century, there are two entrances leading to two different snugs — snug being the operative word. Both rooms are small and wood-panelled with open fires, and there’s an even snugger snug off the back snug, which you can reserve for exclusive use.
Food is gloriously unpretentious: sarnies, toasties, pies and pasties, and you’ll get change from a fiver. There’s space outside the pub — and barrels to rest your pint on — if there’s no room inside, but we recommend arriving before the rush to bag a seat and soak up the atmosphere.
Ye Olde Mitre, 1 Ely Court, Ely Place, EC1N 6SJ
Basement? Yes. Leather armchairs? Yes. Lots of dark wood? Yes. But the real reasons we’re steering you in this direction are twofold. First: the menu focuses on desserts, deconstructed and rethought, but still sweet, delicious and lipsmackable. The second is the extensive whisky list, heavy on those from Scotland and Japan but a decent spread from around the world. Order a Lagavullin, sink into that chair and let winter dissolve.
Basement Sate, 8 Broadwick Street, W1F 8HN
The Pelton Arms
Far enough out of the centre of Greenwich to avoid tourists is where you’ll find the best pub in the area. It’s got a lovely old-timey feel, what with photos of the Queen Mum, those 19th century-style etched mirrors, a dartboard and bar billiards, comfy armchairs and your gran’s lampshades. There’s also a fire and a grumpy old black cat. Choose your time with care: if you want a quiet pint you might not care for the live bands at weekends. On the other hand, the pub is also home to a knitting group, which is lovely.
The Pelton Arms, 23–25 Pelton Road, SE10 9PQ
This is a bonny little place. Light and airy with more than a touch of chintz, you can flop into an armchair and enjoy a G&T made with one of 12 gins stocked on the bar. Food is definitely gastro (rabbit Caesar salad, anyone?), but the overwhelming vibe is of being simply adorable. You can even buy homemade jams and chutneys, with those little cloth caps, and proceeds going to charity. Come in when the fire’s roaring and feel right at home.
The Surprise, 6 Christchurch Terrace, SW3 4AJ
The Holly Bush
Discovering a pub is a Grade II-listed building is already a good sign when looking for cosy boozers. Built at the end of the 18th century, The Holly Bush was originally a stables before becoming the kitchens for Hampstead’s assembly rooms. These days it’s owned by Fuller’s and has had a recent wash and brush up, bringing out the best in its multi-roomed, wood-panelled, open fireplace glory. If there’s a group of you, you can even book a private dining room and make the most of the historic ambience.
The Holly Bush, 22 Hollymount, NW3 6SG
If you’ve found a rule that leads to great cosy pubs, keep going… Which brings us to another Grade II-listed pub owned by Fuller’s, this time in Highgate. The Flask is a collection of rooms of differing size, ceiling height and floor level, bolted together to form today’s pub. It’s insanely atmospheric, and the perfect place to hole up on a freezing February night. Find a nook with a fire or some lit candles and don’t move for several hours.
The Flask, 77 Highgate West Hill, N6 6BU
Every London pub of a certain age claims Charles Dickens used to drink there, but few made it into one of his novels. The Grapes appears, thinly disguised, in Our Mutual Friend, and it’s easy to believe it hasn’t changed much. A sliver of a building backing onto the Thames, walls panelled in dark wood or painted a rich red, it screams ‘Victorian’. Sit in the back snug (named after Dickens, obviously) when the fire’s on and watch the river flow past. Oh, and Ian McKellen’s a leaseholder, which explains the Gandalf memorabilia.
The Grapes, 76 Narrow Street, E14 8BP
Photo: Paul Reiffer