The best pubs for when you want to eat as well as you drink.Less
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 mostly that, if you walk up the creaking stairs 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. This place serves some truly excellent 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.
The George is a delicious and decadent take on a pub. The downstairs bar is Fitzrovia’s usual mix of slurring suits and those trying to ignore the slurring suits, while the upstairs dining room is a hideout for anyone looking to part ways with a stupendous amount of cash for scampi, steak, sausages and mash, and the like. All of it is perfectly debaucherous. If a certain kind of British excess gets you going, then The George isn’t just extravagant. It’s extremely enjoyable.
The Baring has the feel of a serious restaurant that just so happens to be in a polished pub space, but come here in between service and you can sink a few jars at a clean-cut bar full of fellow Islingtonites. Really though, you should be booking a table for lunch or dinner, as the food has the potential to be excellent. The menu spans cloud-like ricotta gnudi to crispy chips with garlic mayonnaise.
After their storming success in the kitchen at the Compton Arms, the fellas from Four Legs have their own pub in the shape of The Plimsoll in Finsbury Park. What was once an Irish boozer that let Guinness rightfully rest with Arsenal on the projector is now the kind of pub that lets Guinness rightfully rest while serving a whole lemon sole from the kitchen. Make sure you book ahead if you want dinner in the week because the popularity of their famous cheeseburger hasn’t waned at all.
If you’re looking for a great, reasonably priced wine list from a pub then St John’s Tavern should be close to the top of your list. But if you’re looking for damn near perfect Sunday roast then this Archway spot should be right at the top of your list. You’ll also find oysters, pickled cockles, and potted shrimp on the menu in the spacious and woody dining room at the back of the pub. As well as a changing seasonal menu, they serve solid plates of food for dinner from Monday to Saturday.
The Clarence is another gastropub from a lineage of excellent London gastropubs. Older siblings the Anchor & Hope and the Canton Arms are two of the most consistently delicious pubs around that still maintain a feeling of comforting pub-ishness. There’s no danger of seeing a mini shopping trolley full of chips here. The Clarence is their latest venture that somehow feels like it’s been making fried pumpkin, roast brill, and slow-cooked lamb shoulder with dauphinoise forever and ever.
The Drapers Arms is 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 on a Sunday, this is a pub that will always stay in your mind.
The Compton Arms is a little boozer off Upper Street that used to be frequented by Arsenal fans and is now frequented by Arsenal fans, as well as those seeking very good food. The weekly changing small plates menu, served by current chef residency Belly, is generally very enjoyable—be it a whole dressed crab or pork chop with apple sauce and chilli oil. Book ahead whatever you do, especially if you want a seat in the garden.
A pub, a pint, and a great big plate of roast beef overlooking Hampstead Heath is what you need, we need, everyone probably needs. The Bull & Last is easily the best gastropub around the Heath (though if you’re just looking for a pint and a pork bap, The Southampton Arms is down the road) and its menu of gastropub favourites is hard to resist. The scotch egg is strong, the fish and chips chunky, and the setting lovely.