Mini guide to pubs in London
One of the city’s great social levellers, a local can be the place to go for craft beers or gastropub dishes, for feeling the sun on your face in an atmospheric beer garden, or soaking up the city’s wealth of history.
Best beer gardens
At the south end of Hampstead Heath hides The Garden Gate, a cosy 19th century cottage with dark wood tables, upholstered chairs and an assortment of sofas. The real draw is the gorgeous beer garden, complete with its own bar, plus barbecue and a covered dining area (14 South End Rd, NW3; mains from £9.75).
The Britannia is a large, rambling old pub, which sports a fabulous beer garden that sits right on the edge of Victoria Park – you can lounge back in a deckchair and watch the comings and goings. A barbecue runs throughout the summer weekends, and the pub serves decent gastropub dishes, as well as hosting beer festivals and theatre nights (360 Victoria Park Rd, E9; mains from £7.95).
West London has some great waterside drinking options, and the Union Tavern is a belter, with its splendid location on the canal and a terrace that’s perfect for alfresco drinking. It has the right mix of shiny gastropub (it smokes its own meat and fish) and roughand- ready appeal, and is an ideal stopover for those visiting Portobello Market (45 Woodfield Rd, W9; mains from £9.50).
Best for beer
The Dove does decent Belgian and British gastropub dishes, but it’s the wide range of beers that’s the top draw. Expect to find Belgian Trappist, wheat and fruity beers, some 20 draught beers and at least six ales. Drinkers spill onto the street in warmer weather, or hunker down in the low-lit back room when it’s chilly (24–28 Broadway Market, E8; Trappist beers from £4.20).
The Old Brewery is situated within the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College and features a bar, café and restaurant with seasonal draught beers, brewed on site. There’s also a heady range from other breweries. Sit in the main hall, which features burnished 1,000-litre copper vats, the annexe bar or in the courtyard (Pepys Building, Old Royal Naval College, SE10; four Meantime draught beers served on a paddle, £6.50).
The White Horse is a former gin palace and coaching inn on Parsons Green, which invites a diverse clientele with its friendly atmosphere. There’s hearty food, barbecues during summer and pleasant outside seating – and they take their beers seriously, offering eight cask ales and some 135 bottled beers. The pub matches drinks with food courses, and hosts four yearly beer festivals (1–3 Parsons Green, SW6; draught pints from £3.50).
Best historic pubs
It’s no wonder this magnificent old place is protected by the National Trust. The George Inn is London’s last surviving galleried coaching inn, dating from 1676, and was visited by Charles Dickens, who mentioned it in Little Dorrit. Now you can get Greene King ales and typical pub grub (75–77 Borough High St, SE1; mains from £8.95).
Built in 1863, The Prince Alfred has an impressive façade, with a tall, curved etched window, and inside it has kept its Victorian quirks. The bar is divided into five gorgeous booths and is always busy with locals, many of whom head straight to the Formosa Dining Room, for the twice-cooked crispy pork belly (5a Formosa St, W9; mains from £11.50).
It may look like Friar Tuck just stepped out of this ‘ye olde pubbe’ just north of Blackfriars tube, but the interior of The Blackfriar is actually an arts and crafts makeover dating back to 1905 – jolly friars appear in sculpture, mosaics and reliefs. There’s a good selection of ales and bitters and, unusually for this part of town, the pub opens at the weekend (174 Queen Victoria St, EC4; mains from £7.95).