Destinations Magazine

It's a London Thing No.39: The Pub

By Lwblog @londonwalks
It's a London Thing No.39: The PubIt’s a London Thing is our Wednesday series in which we turn the spotlight on a unique aspect of London – perhaps a curious shop, sometimes an eccentric restaurant, a hidden place, book or oddity. The subject matter will be different every week. The running theme, however, will remain constant: you have to come to London to enjoy it. It’s A London Thing.

The decline of the Great British Pub? It’s not A London Thing. London still manages to retain an embarrassment of riches when it comes to truly great pubs. Here are a four of our personal favourites, one from each Cardinal compass point…

It's a London Thing No.39: The Pub
Down South… The Crown and Greyhound, Dulwich Village SE21. So you’ve come to Dulwich Picture Gallery with your artsy chums, have you? Trying to impress a gf/bf that you’re a bit of a culture vulture, eh? Help is at hand. After a trawl round the Hogarths (an artist not above a pint himself, see his engraving Beer Street, the utopian counterpoint to his evil depiction of Gin Lane) get down sharpish to one of South London’s finest pubs just a few hundred yards away. This vast Victorian coaching inn, with its ornate plasterwork and ceilings, has a restaurant on the premises too, but we’d recommend the snack menu from the bar. On a Sunny day the beer garden is a real oasis. (Rail: North Dulwich/West Dulwich)
Up North… The King’s Head, Upper Street N1. Some of the biggest names in the theatrical firmament – from Kenneth Branagh to Victoria Wood – have played the King’s Head Theatre, one of London’s most famous Fringe venues. But the pub in front is just as much of a star. Even though this deliciously scruffy establishment has now scrapped the touchingly bloody-minded practice of counting out change in pre-decimal denominations to go with their old tills (thruppence, two bob, etc), it still retains a memorable eccentricity. (Nearest tube: Angel)
Way Out East… The Gun, 27 Coldharbour E14. Bang bang, you’re fed. Residents and worker ants on and around the Isle of Dogs (shall we call ‘em Doggers? Hmmm, perhaps not…) no longer have to bite the bullet when it comes to decent pub grub. The Gun is a reformed character of a pub, once a down-at-heel boozer, in its 21st Century guise as gastropub extraordinaire, it’s now taking a shot at the big time. (One more gun crack and you’re fired – ha ha – D. Tucker.) This 18th Century beer shop is a Grade II listed building. The front bar is nicely informal, and the dining room puts on a spread somewhere between trad pub and French bistro. The beer is top drawer, too. (DLR: Blackwall/Tube: Canary Wharf)
Wild West… The Elephant and Castle, Holland Street W8. The Elephant is one of those “hidden in plain view” boozers, just seconds away from the main drag, yet it feels like a well-kept secret. Thanks to a strong coterie of regulars, the E&C has an almost “clubby” atmosphere – yet the invariable old school cheery welcome defuses any hint of snotty exclusivity. From the outside it looks bright and airy, it being a corner pub with windows on both sides. Inside, the décor tames the daylight beautifully. The raging highway of High Street Kensington seems miles, not just mere yards away. Historic front pages from the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail (published nearby) adorn the walls – including England’s 1966 World Cup win. They keep a nice pint at The Elephant, too, with an ever-changing parade of “guest ales” on duty. (Tube: High Street Kensington)
Great pubs: Definitely A London Thing.
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