If you’re willing to brave the crowds, and the eye-watering price of pints, London offers a veritable treasure trove of legendary pubs to visit.
Whilst many of these watering-holes operate much the same as any other modern 21st-century pub, you’ll find that deference has been made to maintain the original features of many of these establishments. Many London pubs’ histories can be traced back several centuries, this is often evident in the places where you’re forced to duck low-hanging beams or squeeze into comically small toilet cubicles.
I’ll be honest, London has never been my favourite place to visit. I’m first and foremost a country lad, I enjoy the comfort and cosiness of a country pub, as well as the natural sense of community that is fostered in them. Although I’ve had good times drinking in cities, I’ve found that there’s always a sense of transience in regards to the patrons, I rarely feel that I’m surrounded by locals who are actively supporting a favourite pub. With that being said, there’s a certain freedom of anonymity that can be found at these urban boozers. Holidaymakers freely mix with travellers, businessmen and London commuters, creating a convivial, festival-like atmosphere that probably won’t be found at your usual country farm.
You’ll be able to find a solid pint at all of the following establishments, however, try and visit them outside of rush hour (5pm-7pm) as this is when they’ll be the most packed:
The Blind Beggar
This 19th Century boozer has two major claims to fame that couldn’t be further from each other in terms of moral ethics. Firstly, in 1865, the pub served as the location for William Booth’s first open-air sermon which led to the establishment of what would eventually become the Salvation Army, one of the UK’s oldest established charities. You can spot a statue of the man just a short walk away from the pub. The second historic event to take place there has a much more notorious reputation. You’ll find many pubs claiming a connection with the legendary Kray twins, however, it’s a matter of public record that Ronnie Kray murdered George Cornell at the Blind Beggar in 1966. The pub is a little worn around the edges now and could probably do with a lick of paint, but it’s still a perfectly serviceable place for a pint.
The Star Tavern
During the 1960s anyone who was anyone drank at The Star Tavern, then known more widely as Belgravia’s Star. Actors such as Peter O’Toole and Diana Dors were known to frequent this handsome decked out pub, but the Star is probably best known as the place where the Great Train Robbery was planned. The gang was led by Bruce Reynolds, who drove across town in his flash Aston Martin to meet his crew in the upstair room of the pub. Since those days the pub has been bought by Fuller’s who have kept the place in excellent nick. The Star is an exceedingly grand place to enjoy a drink in, however for that reason it can be difficult to find a seat and prices are also hiked accordingly – you’ve been warned!
The Dog and Duck
Nestled in London’s fashionable Soho district, it’s hardly surprising that the Dog & Duck has been frequented by all manner of illustrious clientele. The building is a Grade II listed public house which was built in 1897, writer George Orwell was frequented the pub in his youth and thanks to careful conservation efforts, the historic interior remains much the same as it would have appeared in his day. Since that time, the Dog & Duck has been bought by Nicholson’s, so you can almost guarantee a decent pub lunch and a well-stocked selection of cask ales to choose from.