london pubs

London: pubs to ramble towards

Heading towards the Union through the Greenwich foot tunnel.

We do love exploring London on foot and it always helps to have a pub or two as our ultimate destination.

A couple of times a year, we feel the need to be in Greenwich. Usually, we’re heading for Meantime’s brewery tap, the Greenwich Union. Over the years, it’s delighted and infuriated us, swinging from brilliant to awful from one visit to the next. The last couple of times, it’s been back on form. As well as being the best place to try Meantime’s own range, their selection of bottled beers just keeps getting better. The Old Brewery is Meantime’s new(ish) venture and, the couple of times we’ve been, we’ve loved it. In summer, it’s the nearest London comes to capturing the atmosphere of somewhere like Würzburg or Mainz. (Although not everyone agrees with us.)

The Flask in Highgate is a great place to finish a ramble through north London. It’s got hearty, only mildly pretentious food; Fuller’s beer in scintillating condition; and a small but select list of Belgian classics in bottles. Sat beneath a dark oak beam in a cosy corner, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the country pub of fable. It helps that lots of the punters are wearing wellies and Barbour jackets.

We’ve mentioned the Dove already in this series of posts (in case anyone’s in any doubt, it’s something of a favourite) but, when we’re wandering in east London along the Regent’s Canal, past the Olympic site and, more importantly, the Big Breakfast house, the Dove is usually our final destination.

Also in the East, but at the riverside, there’s the Wapping and Limehouse crawl. None of these pubs is staggeringly brilliant in its own right but there are few other such neatly arranged runs in London. You can explore the industrial history of London, stopping off every quarter of a mile for a pint of something. The views from the dining room of the Captain Kidd are particularly good; and the precarious-feeling wooden terrace of the Grapes, with the Thames lapping at its underside, is fantastic place to sit and watch boats go by at close quarters.

london pubs

Are there any bad pubs in Highgate?


In addition to the Flask (which we love) there are plenty of other pubs in Highate, north London, to make a crawl worthwhile.

On our visit, the Prince of Wales was serving Butcombe Bitter, Bateman’s Jester IPA, Woodforde’s Wherry and Adnam’s Old Ale. We had the first and last, both being in great condition. The Old Ale (4.1%) was, perhaps unsurprisingly, like a darker version of Broadside, and very nice with it. The pub was a cosy place with knackered furniture, low light and cricket bats on the walls. You wouldn’t think it was on a square full of millionaires — it felt like a real local.

Just down the road is the Angel Inn, a much trendier pub. As at Zero Degrees in Bristol, the tone was set by a cheerful barman who, before we got down to business, asked: “How are you, guys?”. Very civilised. They were selling Adnam’s attempt at a Koelsch and, conveniently, an example of the real thing (Kueppers) for comparison. The Adnam’s was very tasty although not really like a koelsch — we thought it would need to be colder and fizzier to fool anyone — but then it is an ale inspired by koelsch, rather than an attempt to clone it. It tasted, we though, very similar to their East Green. As koelsch tends to be when served away from its home city, the Kueppers was pretty bland and sweet, although there were some chalky, sherbety flavours to be enjoyed, and it came in a nice branded koelsch glass.

We went to three pubs in Highgate, two of them chosen at random, and liked them all.