Melissa Cole’s Top 5 Pubs in London

Melissa Cole, award-winning beer and food writer shares her top 5 spots for quality beer in London. She is the author of The Little Book of Craft Beer. 

The Rake

The Rake. Melissa says, ‘I have to start with the Rake. Owned by Mike Hill and Richard Dinwoodie, two of the godfathers of craft beer in London, it’s an institution that I have so much love for.

Not only does it always have a cracking range of beer, making sure there are always sensibly-priced and sessionable pint on tap, there’s always something interesting and exciting to try and regular meet the brewer events too.’

The Rake, 14 Winchester Walk, Borough Market

The Hop Locker. Melissa says, ‘When summer comes, then sitting around the shipping containers that house the Hop Locker (with Bleecker Burger in another just next door) is an absolute joy.

The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and manage to balance out the desires of passing thirsty folk for just something cold and fizzy with some of the most sought-after brews of the day.’

The Hop Locker, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX

The Harp. Melissa says, ‘I could sing odes to this pub and they wouldn’t be enough. It’s an institution for a reason; a cosy place with no airs and graces, a bar so low you have to stoop to speak to the staff if you’re taller than five and a half foot, possibly because it’s weighed down with so many of the pump clips of beers that have gone before.

The cellar is immaculately kept, the beer always on fine form, and there are always some entertaining characters to be seen – it’s a boozer, plain and simple, and I love it.’

The Harp, 47 Chandos Place, WC2N 4HS

The Cock Tavern. Melissa says, ‘Maybe it’s because my grandparents spoke of East London with such fondness, it was their home until they were evacuated to Surrey during WWII after their home was bombed, or maybe because this pub is almost a caricature of an olde English ale house, but whatever it is, it works.

Sensibly priced beers, always an exciting range, no airs or graces and very rarely the sound or light from an electronic device, there’s just something about the place that encourages idle conversation with the person next to you, it’s quite magical.’

The Cock Tavern, 315 Mare Street, E8 1EJ


The Richmond Tap Tavern. Melissa says, ‘Bit of a conundrum this one, I’m not happy to see so many gay pubs being erased from the London scene but this is a worthy and welcoming establishment in its place and, frankly, is a much-needed breath of fresh air to a fairly stale South West London scene where bottle shops like Micro Beers and The Beer Boutique are more exciting to drink than most of the pubs!

A fine range of beers on draught, often with a focus on sessionability, and I’m particularly enamoured of the range of interesting bar snacks they have on the menu here, particularly as it always features a whole baked cheese, what’s not to love?’

The Richmond Tap Tavern, Princes Street, TW9 1ED