A good pub is like a beloved best friend. They’re always there for you. You still like them even when they’re a bit smelly. And they’ll never judge you for getting completely smashed or wearing your ‘workout clothes’ for an entire weekend. That’s why we love them, even though most of them have some pretty mediocre food. But not these pubs. From an 18th century Soho spot serving terrine, to excellent Thai food at a Paddington boozer, these are the pubs where you’re guaranteed a great meal.
Few London pubs are as well known as The French House in Soho: this place is a classic and the food very much follows suit. While the downstairs of this drinking institution is still kept to just that, walk up the creaking stairs and you’ll find a red-walled, yellow-lit dining room. This place is made for consumption. Specifically terrine, steak, coffee mousse, and, of course, wine. You’ll be leaning over the table and stage whispering conversations before you know it.
For a pub named after a giant predatory bird, this old school Farringdon pub is actually pretty laid back. It’s got a dark green front, dark split leather, and a simple dining room with lots of mismatched wooden chairs. But don’t let the casual feel fool you. This place serves some truly excellent classic British dishes, and whether you come for lunch or dinner, you need to get involved in their steak sandwich. It’s basically a whole meal between bread and is completely worth £13.50. Be warned, this place is popular and they only take bookings for groups of six or more.
The Guinea Grill is a tiny pub on Bruton Place in Mayfair, and perhaps owing to its size or the fact that it’s a bit out of the way, it doesn’t often attract huge crowds like other Mayfair pubs do. People do come out of their way for the food here though. They serve a limited menu of pie and oysters in the bar, as well as sandwiches for lunch, but if you’re looking for somewhere more spacious, you should head to the very old-fashioned and sedate restaurant in the back. Pies and oysters are still on the menu, but what you really want to get involved in are their excellent - but pricey - steaks.
Some pubs stay with you for much of your life, like a compliment your art teacher once gave you, or a particularly ratty but sentimental pair of pyjamas. The Drapers Arms is one of those. It’s an Islington stalwart, down a residential street, that’s suitable for drinking, dining, and drowning your sorrows. The food is classic, comforting stuff. Baked camembert, sardines on toast, pies, chops, and the like. It’s stuff you might make at home if you could be arsed, but even then it would never be as good as this. Whether you’re pitching on a stool at the bar for pints and snacks, or you’ve booked a table for ten on a Sunday, this is a pub that will always stay in your mind.
A pub that’s good for food, families, football, and Friday night drinks is, really, the best kind of pub. And that’s exactly what The Scolt Head is. This De Beauvoir local is a regular for young and old, and its food is consistently crowd pleasing. From courgette fritters, to homemade pies, to Sunday roasts, everything here is completely satisfying, and exactly what you want after a few beers. The front garden is what people call ‘a spot’. The projector room ‘a mess’ (particularly when Arsenal are on). And the back dining room ‘a lovely place to be’.
The Compton Arms is a little boozer off of Upper Street that used to be frequented by Arsenal fans and is now frequented by Arsenal fans, and those seeking very good food. The cheeseburger here is the best of its kind: a seemingly McDonalds-inspired bit of beefy craftsmanship that blows all other burgers in London out the water. That said, the changing small plates are also all generally very enjoyable, be it deep fried quail or a heritage tomato salad. This is one of the best pubs around to drink and eat, or eat and drink in.
There are more pubs in Stoke Newington than there are exposed ankles. Actually, that’s a lie, but there are a lot. None though have food as good as The Prince. This done-up neighbourhood pub is at the civilized end of things. As in, you’ll be fighting over the last strawberry on the Eton mess, rather than seeing a scrap over the fruity. The space is divided between bar area and dining room, with a menu that’s simple but solid: padron peppers, handmade tortellini, and a very decent burger, of course.
Spitalfields isn’t an area lacking when it comes to food or drink, but The Culpeper is one of the few that combines both very well. This is a very modern pub, in that it’s not just a pub. It has a rooftop, an upstairs restaurant, and also rooms to stay in if you have a few too many bevvies. Food-wise, the bar is where you come after work for a few drinks, padron peppers, and nibbly bits like croquettes. While the restaurant is a little more burrata and risotto with the family or a date.
Some pubs require tactics. Bar positioning. Table grabbing. What to order, and what not to order. The Duke of Richmond in Dalston is one of these. Although you can have a full slap-up meal in the dining room, we think it’s best used as a beer and burger place - because it’s extremely good at both. The more casual dishes, from a bernaise loaded burger to a crab and chip butty, are ideal boozing snacks and can also be ordered to their outside terrace.
If someone asked us to describe The Marksman in one word, we’d say “Dickens”. This old school Shoreditch spot has been around since Queen Victoria, has a proper mahogany bar, those little scallop lampshades that went out of fashion in the 1950s, and a more modern dining room upstairs. These days you’ll find food like Aylesbury duck, salt lemon surf clams, and some of the best savoury pies in London. Heads up, if you’re free this weekend, their £33 three course Sunday menu is always a good idea.
Ah, The Camberwell Arms. That smell of butter in the air. That big dining room. The inevitable three pints you weren’t planning on, but oh well, you were just having such a nice time. This spot in Camberwell does have excellent food from huge pork chops to banging pasta dishes, but it still very much feels like a boozer where no one’s going to judge you for getting smashed on a Tuesday. The seasonal menu changes daily, but no matter what they’ve got going on on their blackboard, you know you’re in safe hands. Our game plan is to start things off with a pint at the bar, before going a full three courses. Yes, even if it’s a Tuesday.
Anchor and Hope is not only the name of our eventual sailor rom-com, but it’s also a cosy boozer in Southwark that serves some pretty amazing Mediterranean meets British food. From the outdoor picnic tables, to the smoky dim lighting, this place feels like your quintessential pub just with some bonus things on the menu like three cheese and hazelnut soufflé, crab beurre blanc, and chopped octopus salad. Once you’re sufficiently full, and buzzed, go for a stroll along the south bank, and reminisce over how good that baked poppyseed cheesecake was.
Eastenders superfan or not, most people know The Queen Vic is at the heart of the action around Albert Square. Only in reality the pub in question is The Canton Arms, and you won’t find any balding perma-angry brothers or pints being thrown here. Instead you’ll walk into a boozer that feels a little like it’s from another era. Where old boys todder in for a glass of red and a haggis toastie, and families get together in the front bar, in the back dining room, or wherever they can fit. The food is a touch European and a touch British. Put simply, it’s very nice. Think a plate of peach and stracciatella, only combined with a pint. You wouldn’t expect a taste of Rome on the South Lambeth Road, but The Canton Arms is full of surprises.
From the outside, The Heron looks like the sort of pub that doesn’t so much indulge in lock-ins, as live by them. It’s a wide bungalow-like spot in Paddington that’s full of football, fellas, and fantastic Thai food downstairs. The restaurant space is the budget karaoke room of your birthday dreams - a not often seen combination of pink walls, neon lights, and TV screens flashing lyrics, combined with food that will blow your socks off. If it sounds slightly bizarre, that’s because it is. And if it sounds brilliant, that’s also because it is.
You might think that a pub called The Cow would specialise in beef, but you’d be wrong. This upmarket pub and dining room near Notting Hill actually specialises in seafood. One of the go-to orders here is oysters and Guinness, but you’ll also find an £89 seafood platter and fresh crab tagliolini on the menu. When it comes to the space, it looks like it was designed by a super-fan of both The Moulin Rouge and The Apprentice. Basically, it’s a bit luxury, a bit retro, a bit French, and a lot of bright red leather. Although this place can be pricey, they do have a £12 dish du jour available in their saloon bar.
If your idea of a pub involves fruit machines, sticky floors, and drunk locals that have somehow been sat on their stool since the 80s, then think again. The Harwood Arms in Fulham is about as close as you can get to being an upmarket restaurant whilst still being a pub. It’s on a little street that feels more country than town, and once inside, you’ll find neutral walls, deer antlers, sophisticated furniture, and a posh ’20s bar that we absolutely cannot picture Peggy Mitchell standing behind. You can expect dishes like whole baked lemon sole, strawberry and lavender trifle, and plenty of things involving fresh game. The three-course set menu is fifty quid, which yes, could get you pretty far on the fruit machine at your local, but trust us, the food here is worth it.