As I’ve mentioned on a few occasions, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in various pubs over the course of the last sixteen weeks in London. It’s a big culture change from the US, and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I thought this week I’d take the opportunity to take you on a brief tour of my favorite London pubs. Caveats: There are many, many pubs in London. Everyone has an opinion. These are just the ones I like.
The Old Bank of England (194 Fleet Street). Definitely has the nicest interior of any of these places, I’ve been told that this was, literally, the Old Bank of England, but that may well be apocryphal. You’ll want to dress a bit nicer than you usually would if you’re going there, but you’ll enjoy the people- and building-watching. It’s also got a few rooms, both upstairs and downstairs, that you can rent out, which means we’ve had a couple of Grimshaw society events there in the past.
The Court (108 Tottenham Court Road). If you’re not wearing deodorant, don’t bother. This place is pretty close to Passfield, and is smack in the middle of UCL’s campus, making it almost the definition of a student bar. That said, they’ve got pretty good discount deals, especially on Thursdays (student night) and, as I said, it’s really close to where I live. Nothing all that special about it, but a good place to come with friends.
The Old Bell Tavern (95 Fleet Street). This is probably the most relaxed place on the list. It’s way down the end of Fleet Street away from school, near Ludgate Circus, and is definitely also the smallest on the list. The barstaff is a bit disinterested, but there’s always an interesting assortment of characters around (often adult professionals after work), and they had mulled wine available much later than most of the other places. That’s good enough for me!
George IV (28-30 Portugal Street). This is one of the LSE’s two semi-official bars, along with the Three Tuns (mentioned) below. The George caters to a bit more of a graduate clientele than the Tuns, and is therefore often a bit less raucous. That said, I’ve only ever gone in the late afternoon (it starts filling up around 3:30 or 4) for a quick pint before work. Great prices and often excellent conversation.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (145 Fleet Street). My favorite in London. Built before the Great Fire, this place was rebuilt shortly thereafter, making it at least 350 years old. It’s got all sorts of rooms, from a gloomy and atmospheric basement to a “posh” bar and comfy seats on the second floor. There’s also a big back room on the first floor for general mingling and a seating area with bigger tables off to the side of the first floor tap. This is where Dickens, Johnson, and Conan Doyle wrote. Cheap ales, good food, and an excellent house bitter don’t hurt, either.
As I mentioned above, there’s plenty out there. Not mentioned, but periodically frequented: The George (213 Strand), Ye Olde White Horse (2 St. Clements Lane), The Three Tuns (Houghton Street), The Rocket (120 Euston Road), The Marquis of Cornwallis (31 Marchmont Street) and The Knight’s Templar (95 Chancery Lane). The first two, in particular, are quite decent. But there’s plenty more out there!