Very Proper English Pubs
There's no greater English tradition than that of propping up the bar in a cosy, local pub. London's swarming with welcoming taverns - from the grand opulence of a Victorian hostelry to the snug, intimacy of a Tudor inn - just perfect for whiling away a long, lazy St George's Day. Listed below is just a small selection of the capital's most appealing, patriotic and English of pubs. Cheers!
Situated on the south side of the Thames in the Tower Bridge Conservation Area, this historic Southwark pub offers a truly traditional English experience from which to celebrate St George's Day. From the fish and chip suppers served, to the string of clearly designated separate rooms, upright piano, games room and open fire - this pub effortlessly captures old-fashioned England. Within the dark, oak walls of this late 18th-century, former dock-workers pub, one of the most quintessentially English inventions took seed; Dr Samuel Johnson compiled his English dictionary in a special room inside The Anchor Tap. Originally a place for brewery employees to sample the fruits of their labour, a 'Tap Room' was traditionally set up near its parent brewery. The Anchor Tap was the first such establishment set up by British brewing legends, John Courage, and was located in close proximity to the former Anchor Brewery and the old Hop Exchange on Borough High Street. This is an unpretentious, wharfside treasure offering a simple taste of a bygone English age.
Now more England's national cuisine than sausages and mash, Thai food (the perfect accompaniment to a cooling pint of lager), saw its inauguration in the small, independent pubs of her major cities. The Churchill Arms is said to have been one of the first pubs to serve this spicy cuisine and has continued to offer up fantastic, authentic, very reasonably priced, Thai food in extremely attractive surroundings ever since. Overflowing with hanging baskets on the outside this is one of the prettiest, most traditional pubs in London. The drinking section is very much a traditional boozer dripping with knickknacks, ranging from chamber pots to hat boxes and photos of the great Winston Churchill himself, and dotted with open fires throughout. The conservatory, where food is served, couldn't be more of a contrast. Bright, light and packed to the ceiling with greenery it offers a cooling, fresh backdrop for the tongue-tingling, spice-filled dishes. It gets very busy here - especially at weekends - and they don't take bookings on a Sunday, so you may have to wait in the bar for a table. Once you are seated your slot is limited to a few hours - lingering over coffee is not really the done thing here. However, being nudged off your table is no great hardship at the Churchill. Just head across to the bar for a digestif and make the most of the pub's two contrasting spaces. PS - they pull a mean pint of Guinness too.
A gastropub East End style - and that doesn't mean organic, corn-fed jellied eels and a gang of smoke ventilation engineers. The team behind King Eddie's has taken a Victorian public house, renovated it back to its historical best and whisked up a hearty, affordable menu of traditional, seasonal grub (homemade pork pies, venison stew and a ploughman's all feature). Low ceilings, panelled walls, etched glass, open fires and wooden settles make the downstairs a lovely 19th-century period piece, whilst the airier upstairs is now an attractive sole-purpose dining room. There's an admirable wine list and the bar is never short on real ale - Tim Taylor, Bombadier, Broadside, Summer Lightning and Deuchars plus guests. Not to mention the open mic on Thursday and quiz on Sunday. This is just the start of Olympics-led gentrification in Stratford - let's hope it's all as thoughtful as this.
Once known as the "Devil's Tavern" thanks to its one-time delinquent clientele, the Prospect of Whitby is one of the oldest pubs in London. Built in 1520, it managed to survive the Great Fire but a blaze in the 18th century necessitated a complete refurbishment. At the same time it acquired its current name from a ship moored close by. The pub's shadowy innards ooze atmosphere. You can almost picture a gang of highwaymen around one of the large tables, swigging greedily from tankards of ale, plotting to rob a stagecoach. The inside is strewn with ancient remnants of ships - lanterns, wheels and ropes; you'll notice a ship's mast built into the very structure of the building! A pewter-topped bar is complemented with dark panelling, barrels and an original flagstone floor. Refreshingly absent are any blaring widescreen TVs. The charming terrace area affords drinkers fabulous views of the Isle of Dogs and the Thames in either direction. No longer a haunt of thieves or murderers, the Prospect of Whitby, and Wapping as a whole, has seen an upturn in its fortunes over the centuries. The restaurant upstairs, opened in the 1950s, has served its high class take on traditional British cuisine to VIPs including Princess Margaret, Prince Rainier and Kirk Douglas. As the regular coach loads of sightseers attests, this pub sits firmly on the tourist trail but it still retains a friendly bunch of locals. A great place to drop in whilst wandering down the Thames path.
It may not have been a ferocious, fire-breathing dragon but Sherlock Holmes's battle with a snarling, phosphorus-coated hound has elevated him to similar cult hero status in the annals of English folklore. It seems only fitting that on 23rd April Mr Holmes gets some of the attention attracted by George so thirsty fans and lovers of traditional Victorian pubs need look no further than this homage to the great detective himself. While you indulge in a soothing pint of Sherlock Holmes bitter, black and white films featuring the fictional sleuth blare out from an old television in the corner. Boasting a fantastic, original Victorian facade, the pub's interior is less impressive in terms of original Victoriana, however upstairs you'll find the museum's focal point - a perfect reproduction of an original Victorian sitting room complete with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle portrait above the fireplace. When it comes to Conan-Doyle-related memorabilia this place is hard to beat. Down in the bar, a stuffed bloodhound's head glowers from above, while a wax replica of Sherlock Holmes' contemplative visage complete with a gun wound (acquired in 'The Empty House') provides another foreboding presence. With an unrivalled collection of artefacts, a cosy bar area and old-fashioned upstairs restaurant this unusual alternative to your ordinary London bar offers an interesting evening option for full-on fans and curious sightseers alike.
This historic boozer - named after another dramatic English conquest - provides a suitably patriotic location for raising a pint in celebration of St George’s defeat over that dastardly dragon.
Originally the Old George, The Trafalgar was built in 1837 - the year of Queen Victoria's coronation. Perched precariously on the edge of the Thames, the imposing exterior of this grand, cream-coloured building has, for centuries, acted as a stunning, iconic landmark to river travellers, locals and tourists alike. Its cosy interior also attracted much attention, and the pub soon became a regular haunt for writers. Charles Dickens, William Thackeray and Wilkie Collins were often known to sup within its wood-panelled walls. The pub has even received a mention in a great English literary work; 'Our Mutual Friend' by Dickens features a wedding breakfast held in here. The Trafalgar Tavern is now a popular venue for food and drink and home to over 1000 original prints and paintings marking Greenwich's heritage. The upstairs room, once a ballroom, still retains its spectacular chandeliers and the pub in general still has an overwhelmingly maritime feel. With tables outside on the walkway this is a great place to while away a sunny spring afternoon, having taken in the sights, sounds and streets of the quaint village of Greenwich.
High up on a wall, behind the counter of this opulent, smart Victorian pub is a clock dated 1864. A framed copy of the Sun newspaper dated 28th June 1838, offering an account of the Coronation of the young Queen Victoria, adorns an opposing wall. Patterned wallpaper, brightly coloured mirrors etched with intricate fleur-de-lys detail, wood-panelling and intricate tile work, sepia-tinted, smoky brown prints of British Army regiments, and a window inscribed with the royal motto capture the emotion of a time when the Empire was all important. This pub is pure patriotic Victoriana and a perfect place to raise a toast to the patriot's favourite friend, St George. Regally located on the corner of a terrace of smart, cream houses, the Victoria offers a truly fascinating insight into a potent part of English history as well as a very pleasant drinking and eating venue. At one time divided into separate Public and Saloon bars as was the custom, the downstairs area is now one big bar with fireplaces, unusual artefacts and a comfortingly local feel. The room upstairs with its open fires, soft sofas and leather armchairs captures the mellow, respectable feel of the library of a Gentleman's Club. Just across the road from Hyde Park this is an off-the-beaten-track delight that combines old-fashioned charm with history and colour. If that's not enough, Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill used to drink here - the pub was even Churchill's local for a time. What more excuse do you need?
Dripping with memorabilia, glass cabinets, guns, gunpowder, coins, cameos, photos, decorative plates, and an unrivalled collection of items dedicated to the Windsor Royal Family, The Windsor Castle is more a museum to the essence of old-fashioned Englishness than a pub. A model soldier standing to attention in a full-sized sentry box guards the entrance, while Oliver Reed and John Hurt join Prince Charles and Princess Diana in populating the photo collection around the bar. A host of English celebrity icons have frequented this idiosyncratic watering hole. EastEnder, Wendy Richards, opened the pub after a revamp (the pub, that is, not her!), while past customers include cockney comedian Joe Brown, cricketer Mike Gatting, actor Dennis Waterman and English footballing hero Bobby Moore. As well as being a veritable Aladdin's Cave of ornaments, knick-knacks and celebrity photos, this homely hostelry is also home to the uniquely famous and historic, Handlebar Club... Founded in 1947, this international club for men with handlebar moustaches otherwise known as "hirsute appendages of the upper lip, with graspable extremities" was formed in the dressing room of the Windmill Theatre by comedian Jimmy Edwards. What better way to mark St George's Day than to celebrate the traditions of English eccentricity and humour in this friendly, crazy, cavern of clutter. Oh, they also serve traditional English cuisine (Thai!) from 6pm to 10pm.
Built in 1882 this Victorian pub could be the perfect spot for a night out, if you can find it, that is.
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