Everyone knows the pub industry is in dire straits, with 25 closing every week since the pandemic. The latest to close its doors, at least temporarily, is the legendary McGlynn’s in King’s Cross.
Following the death of its landlord the pub hasn’t opened since earlier this month, a situation described as “alarming” by night czar Amy Lamé. It follows the closure of The Tipperary on Fleet Street, the self-declared oldest Irish pub in London.
As one black cab driver said to me last week: “It’s getting more and more difficult when people ask me to drive them to a proper Irish pub. Once there were at least a couple in most areas of central London, now I find myself going further afield.”
It all seemed to be going so well for the Irish pub, too: after lockdown ended, sales of stout rose by 30 per cent and at the end of 2021, one in every 10 pints sold in London was a Guinness.
So what’s a drinker to do? Here are some of our favourite Irish pubs in central London – get down there ASAP and order yourself a Guinness with a whiskey chaser: the industry needs you.
The Sheephaven Bay, Mornington Crescent
This is a proper one-stop-shop for all your Irish pub needs. Appearance-wise it’s a classic of the genre, with framed football shirts adorning the walls and club scarves strung across the ceiling. There are screens on virtually every wall, making it great for watching the football or rugby and there’s a lively but friendly atmosphere. It’s also got a patio out the back – a great little pub, highly recommended.
The Dolphin, King’s Cross
Not to be confused with the closed-and-reopened east London dive, The Dolphin in King’s Cross combines a cosy, traditional Irish bar aesthetic with… Peruvian food. If you’ve never washed down ceviche with a Guinness while watching Hibs get humped, then you’ve been doing London all wrong.
The Toucan, Soho
There was some debate over whether The Toucan was a little too… touristy for this list. But as the first Irish pub many newcomers to the city find themselves drinking in, it holds a special place in our hearts. Barely big enough to swing a cat in, it’s packed out most nights, with drinkers spilling onto the street outside. A slightly guilty pleasure, perhaps, but a pleasure nonetheless.
Nolan’s, Nine Elms
This south London boozer has all the bells and whistles: a darts board, jukebox and a pool table. Owned by a husband and wife team, Nolan’s has a good selection of real ale and often plays the big sports games, and there are darts competitions too. Find it near the new Nine Elms Tube station. Don’t be put off by the plain-looking exterior, the locals here are warm and enjoy a chat.
The Coach and Horses, Covent Garden
This Covent Garden pub has one of the best pints of Guinness in London. Irish owned and with proper Irish memorabilia (rather than the typical shamrock-shaped beer mats) you’ll need to arrive early to get a seat, as the indoors space is small, but plenty of people pour out onto the streets. There’s a decent sandwich selection too, especially the salt beef, which is a real locals’ favourite.
The Cooper’s Arms, Kilburn
There’s a strong Irish community in Kilburn, and they congregate at this incredibly friendly drinking spot. A central horseshoe bar creates a design statement as you walk in, and makes the pub ideal for solo drinkers. The windows feature the Charrington beer insignia and there are well-kept hanging baskets out the front. There’s only ever one cask beer on tap, but there’s plenty to keep you occupied, including a beer garden and darts board.