THE JERUSALEM TAVERN, CLERKENWELL
Yes it’s a classic and an obvious choice, but there’s still no finer place to hunker down and enjoy a few pints of beer. And what beer it is. This Farringdon pub serves the full range of the very fine St Peter’s beers, including their Organic bitter, blackberry, nettle and gooseberry ales and a nice, wintry selection of stouts and porters. The building dates from 1720 and appears not to be have been redecorated since, with faded frescoes on the peeling walls. It oozes character, and it’s no surprise that it gets very busy just after work, so get there early or later to bag a table and settle in for a session.
55 Britton Street, EC1M 5UQ
THE TUDOR ROSE, MARYLEBONE
If Marylebone makes you think of up-market clothes shopping and made-over pubs, then think again. This slightly battered but atmospheric little boozer tucked away on the corner of Manchester Street and Blandford Street is the very definition of dark and dingy, with wooden interiors that suggest the early 1900s – spam fritters on the menu and adverts for long-forgotten tonics on the walls do little to dispel the olde worlde image. A louche gang of locals give it a cheerfully ragged air, and it’s quiet enough on an evening that you should be able to enjoy your Speckled Hen in cosy peace in front of the very welcome fire.
44 Blandford Street, W1U 7HS
THE GRENADIER, HYDE PARK CORNER
Lurking up a hidden mews street on the edge of Belgravia, The Grenadier was once the officer’s mess of the Grenadier Guards, used by Wellington himself. Its tiny bar area – all stripped oak floors, rickety furniture and walls decorated with regimental paraphernalia – is home to the country’s oldest pewter bar, where a frothy pint of London Pride awaits. Sausages are served at the bar, while two tiny side rooms act as a cosy, candle-lit restaurant. It’s also said to be the most haunted pub in London, thanks to a former Grenadier Guard who met his untimely end in the building’s basement after being caught cheating at cards. Beware!
18 Wilton Row, SW1X 7NR
CHESHIRE CHEESE, FLEET STREET
This ancient pub on Fleet Street is a City institution, and there’s a reason for that. An ancient and windy place with wooden walls and stone floors, you half expect to see a hobbit staggering around the corner carrying a pint of best. The current building was constructed after the Great Fire, but a pub stood here long before. Old-time boozers would undoubtedly recognise the two open fires on the ground floor, which provide ample warmth against the cold air. Booze is Sam Smith’s, which means that you won’t break the bank, although you might feel a bit rough in the morning.
145 Fleet Street, EC4A 2BU
THE BLACK FRIAR, BLACKFRIARS
You just can’t go wrong with a pub which has a statue of a portly, chortling monk on the front. This stone-cold classic London boozer – a peculiar, wedge-shaped place that was saved from demolition in the 60s following a campaign by John Betjeman – is a real rarity and stands out like a sore thumb here. The inside is a mad Art Nouveau jumble of religious mosaics of monks and fish which give you a strong impression that you are drinking in a Byzantine temple. There are also oblique slogans all over the walls (such as “Haste Is Slow”), which presumably make a lot more sense after a few pints.
174 Queen Victoria Street, City, EC4V 4EG
THE CAT’S BACK, WANDSWORTH
You’ll need a compass and an OS map to find your way to this hidden corner of Wandsworth, but the quest is worth it. A resolutely independent place in an 18th century building that’s somehow survived the area’s modern redevelopments, in the winter the Cat’’s Back is a dark, tremendously atmospheric place where candles flicker around a small room full of idiosyncratic pieces of old furniture (and a few idiosyncratic old locals), while strange artworks and ephemera populate the walls. Once a pub for the lightermen who worked the River Wandle, it now stocks local Wandle ale from the local Sambrook’s brewery.
86-88 Point Pleasant, SW18 1PP
THE ANTELOPE, BELGRAVIA
Its location in the heart of one of London’s smartest residential districts – right next to Eaton and Sloane Squares – means that The Antelope has more than its fair share of double-barrelled patrons. This is a delightful, happily old-fashioned little place and there are snug wooden booths in the front and a comfortable lounge area at the back, while a dark, panelled side-room acts as an inviting inner sanctum for those lucky enough to grab themselves a pew there. A good range of Fuller’s ales such as London Pride and ESB are available from the island bar that sits in the middle of the pub.
22 Eaton Terrace, SW1W 8EZ