London's 10 Best Pubs

By: elliotjameswilson
The Hot List: Lifestyle

So many pubs, so little space. Stylebible has laboured long and hard, raising and lowering the elbow on oh-so-many occasions, to bring to our readers a completely, utterly and selfishly subjective list of the ten best pubs in the world’s best pub city, London.

Why no Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street, long the watering hole of hacks, and of literary giants ranging from Mark Twain to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I hear you cry. Why no George Inn near London Bridge (too packed and smelly), no Mitre Tavern in Holborn (amazing, but amazingly impossible to find), no French House in Soho (too much wine). So many others were considered, from the Pembroke Castle in Primrose Hill to the Shaston Arms in Soho, and the Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell to the Holly Bush in Highgate.

All are great – worthy and wonderful pubs, often with histories stretching back beyond the time of Shakespeare and Jonson (there’s been a pub on the site of the Cheshire Cheese since 1538). But what we were looking for was a mix of characteristics. Each of the ten establishments on our list had to have great beer – that was a given. Then, either loads of history, or a fascinating modern tale to tell. Also, character in bundles, a likely crowd, and a likeable atmosphere. Finally, to make this list, each pub on this list had, to paraphrase that Sesame Street song, be not like the others. It had to be unto itself, unique. So enjoy, drink up, then fess up – and tell us what you think. Cheers!


The Castle

The Castle

Portobello Road
Both Portobello Road and Notting Hill are awash with good pubs. But The Castle stands out. Solid food, thoughtful and unpredictable range of ales, nice atmosphere, neither empty nor too full. Plus a perfect place to interrupt your Saturday shopping while browsing for cheap antiques and Ramones tee shirts.

225 Portobello Rd, London W11 1LU | T: +44 20 7221 7103 | www.castleportobello.co.uk
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Market Porter

Market Porter

Borough Market, London Bridge
Packed to the rafters on weekdays and weekends. One of the best selections of ale in London. One of the city’s best places to find a mate (or a friend). Stand outside, opposite Borough Market, with its artisan cheeses and bespoke kitchenware, sup up, and listen to the trains rattle past overhead.

9 Stoney St, Borough Market, SE1 9AA | T: +44 20 7407 2495 | www.markettaverns.co.uk
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The Cockpit

The Cockpit

St. Paul’s
There’s been a pub here since the 16th Century. Mostly used as a favoured gambling haunt until cock fighting (which took place here every week) was banned in 1849, this is the quintessential old-fashioned East End hostelry. Good beer in a simple but lively place overseen by a cheery-but-no-nonsense landlady.

7 Saint Andrew's Hill, EC4V 5BY | T: +44 20 7248 7315 | No website
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The Harp

The Harp

Chandos Place
Best and fullest range of ale and great beer in London. End of. If this were a rural establishment, it would make the Sunday supplements. A squeezy little place, so come early in the evening. Not to be confused with the Chandos a few doors down, which is one of the worst pubs, anywhere.

47 Chandos Place, WC2N 4HS | T: +44 20 7836 0291 | www.harpcoventgarden.com
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The Cross-Keys

The Cross-Keys

Covent Garden
You want old? You got it? You want brass furnishing? Ibid. You want Elvis and Beatles memorabilia. Natch. A blast from the past: was, is, and hopefully always will be one of the city’s great watering holes.

31 Endell St, London WC2H 9BA | T: +44 20 7836 5185 | www.crosskeyscoventgarden.com
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Lamb and Flag

Lamb and Flag

West End
Wonderfully antediluvian public house in the heart of the West End. Nice food, great beer, and you get the added benefit of being able to leave via one of the squeeziest little alleyways in London. Add a few tendrils of fog and a passing hansom cab and you could be in Sherlock Holmes’ London.

33 Rose Street, WC2E 9EB | T: +44 20 7497 9504 | www.lambandflagcoventgarden.co.uk
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The Spaniards Inn

The Spaniards Inn

Hampstead
An oldie but a goodie. Mentioned in the Pickwick Papers and haunt of proper-to-goodness Highwaymen, the place still burns with a primal flame, from the ales on tap, to the hearty Sunday lunches, to the real fires burning in the great. Old wood, old heart, old times, but a great and mixed crowd in the evenings.

Spaniards Road, NW3 7JJ | T: +44 20 8731 8406 | www.thespaniardshampstead.co.uk
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The Water Poet

The Water Poet

Spitalfields
Makes the list not because it offers great beer (though it does) or because of its juicy atmosphere (though, again, tick) but because it has one of the best beer gardens in the city. Great place to spend a hot summer’s day, then to stay for a hot and drunken summer’s evening.

9-11 Folgate Street, Spitalfields, E1 6BX | T: +44 20 7426 0495 | www.waterpoet.co.uk
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The Black Heart

The Black Heart

Camden
Unusual choice in that it’s primarily a rock hangout. But it has good beer, a great and boisterous clientele, and lots and lots of live music. Not the place to bring your pipe, slippers and copy of Horse and Hound. Bloody great fun, though.

2-3 Greenland Place, NW1 0AP | T: +44 20 7428 9730 | www.ourblackheart.com
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Bradley’s Spanish Bar

Bradley’s Spanish Bar

Hanway Street
Bowie drank here in the 70s. S did oJagger. Tiny, Spanish-owned bar with room for, ooh, twelve people inside, and 112 outside. While Tottenham Court Road and its environs moves into the 21st Century, Bradley’s remains happily and thankfully ensconced in a simpler, rock-and-rockabilly era.

42-44 Hanway Street, W1T 1UT | T: +44 20 7636 0359 | www.bradleysspanishbar.com
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