London is a bogglingly vast, complex world city. It’s also the kind of place where, if you’re in the know, you can find a ‘proper’ pub not too far from Trafalgar Square or St Paul’s Cathedral.
We’re specifically talking about places that are fairly central – let’s say in, or on the edges of, Zone 1.
If you read our monthly newsletter you might recall that we started thinking about this after a conversation with @CarsmileSteve in a bar in Brussels.
Steve mentioned The King & Queen on the corner of Foley Street and Cleveland Street in Fitzrovia as a prime example.
“It’s been run by the same family since the 1960s,” he said. “The same lads are always behind the bar and have been forever – for at least 15 years.”
When we visited back in the early days of this blog we observed that it felt like a relic of the 1980s and clearly hadn’t been redecorated in some time.
Another pub Steve mentioned was The Sutton Arms, Great Sutton Street, EC1. (Not the one about five minutes’ walk away on Carthusian Street.) That was seconded by reader Nathan in a response to our call for suggestions last month:
“It’s a little better known in the craft beer bubble but is all things to all people. Family-run for donkeys’ years.”
We don’t think we’ve ever been, somehow. It does look good:
- carpet ✅
- beer mats ✅
- mostly brown ✅
- a sense of individual ownership ✅
Or, to put that another way, not generic pubco, big brewery, “Would you like to upgrade to sweet potato fries?” managed greyness.
When Lisa Grimm wanted suggestions for somewhere to drink near Marble Arch we suggested The Carpenter’s Arms, Seymour Place, W1, which we’ve visited a few times. Again, it has the same family-run feel and characterful decor. In her write-up she said…
The Carpenter’s Arms was spot on for great cask ale – which makes sense, as it’s the HQ for CAMRA’s London branch. Alas, there was no food on, so I had to have a ‘meal’ of (fortunately) low-ABV ales and very expensive gourmet crisps, though that’s no complaint. I enjoyed an always-reliable/always-welcome Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter, but the new-to-me standout was Wantsum Brewery’s 1381, a session IPA.
Other suggestions received by Tweet and email include:
- The Red Lion, Crown Passage, SW1, off Pall Mall (Nathan)
- The Golden Eagle, Marylebone Lane, W1 – “has a long-serving landlady, regular customers and good beer… [and] a weekly piano singalong!” (Dermot)
- Star and Garter, Poland Street, W1 – “Also long-serving licensees and a proper boozer in the heart of Soho.” (Dermot)
- King Charles I, Northdown Street, N1 – “A magic little backstreet boozer.” (Ollie)
For our contributions, we’re going to suggest:
- The Calthorpe Arms, Gray’s Inn Road, WC1
- The Star Tavern, Belgrave Mews, SW1
- The Nell Gwynne, Bull Inn Court, WC2
- The Royal Oak, Tabard Street, SE1
- The Pride of Spitalfields, Heneage Street, E1
We’re going to aim to visit or revisit as many of these pubs as we can in the next few months.
In the meantime, are there any glaring omissions?