It’s difficult to imagine London without pubs. There’s something special about them. Their history? The experience? The booze? I don’t know. While my English allegiance and affinities lie with the north, in recent years, my visits to London have grown more and more enjoyable. Complain about the crowds, sure, but I’ve been lucky to find some wonderful places to enjoy good company and conversation, a comfortable seat, and a warm plate and perfectly poured pint. Each time I visit London, I seem to find my new favorite watering hole. And with each passing year, my choice of pub changes, too. Ten years ago, I was on the look for beer on a budget… Then came the big night out (and every night seemed to be a BIG night)…The next phase shifted to those high-end sophisticated classics that were more theatrical presentations than pubs (pushing experimental drinks and placing emphasis on elegant food over the pouring of a pint). My current state leans towards the quiet. Interesting decor, welcoming staff and environment, and arguably fewer drinks but good ones. A place for friends and conversation. Here’s the short list, geographically dispersed across the city, my London Pub Quad (although this will probably change with my next visit)!
The Windsor Castle
114 Campden Hill Road, Kensington
I haven’t been here since my group of Lancastrians made our way to London for a weekend getaway. An ancient-looking pub with great food and a nice garden area, hidden away on a side-street in Kensington. The food and atmosphere are incredible. Great stop for a daytime drink (or two) on a nice day or for supper with supper friends. It’s been a couple of years now, but I remember seeing lots of vegetarian dishes before I started considering meat alternatives. A fan of the dark oak and fireplace, go on a sunny day and get a spot in the ivy-shaded garden.
69 Dulwich Rd., Brixton
Large and airy, this stop seemed to be a bit-more family (and dog) friendly, at least on the ground floor and terrace. There’s an upstairs where you can get some distance from the kiddies. And tourist-free for those out with a friend in Brixton who are looking for the English version of Cheers. Gets busy quickly in the evenings, but keep up with your friend’s drinking and you’ll barely notice. Classic English pub in menu and feel: a nice neighborhood pub but if you’re, well, in the neighborhood.
The Natural Philosopher
489 Hackney Rd., Bethnal Green
I’m always content and intrigued when greeted by a Victorian office and rows of bookshelves. The bar’s downstairs. One word: ambiance. Oil lamps and lowly lit rooms, walls covered in paintings, and an intriguingly odd sunken bar. This is the place to stop for whiskey, scotch, or mixed drink. Another word: cozy. A great place to catch up with an old friend or enjoy the company of your partner.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
47 Villiers St., Charing Cross
From my latest visit. Not a serendipitous stop: it was actually on our list of places to check out before we even left the States. And so glad we took the time to stop by for a few glasses of wine. And this is the place for wine–they have a great selection. A short walk from Trafalgar Square, the tourists will be wandering around the streets outside. Somehow Gordon’s remains hidden despite being in plain view on the corner. London’s oldest wine bar. There are tables outside along the Watergate Walk and around the bars, but you’ll want to venture around the corner to the subterranean rooms surrounded by stone vaults and lit only by candlelight. Cool dampness of the stone, echoes of voices, shifting shadows and flickering light . . . is that the rumble of the Underground? . . . Gordon’s has the most romantic feel in the city. The quintessential experience.