We're booked for a Best of London tour and are looking for recommendations for fun friendly pubs in the Mayfair area. Your help is much appreciated.
The problem is there are lots of good pub nearly everywhere. And there are some exceptional. If it was us, we would just ask some of the local folks for recommendations once we were there. We have always have good luck asking the hotel desk or even the doorman.
I’m going to purposely suggest pubs outside of the Mayfair neighborhood.
That way you can explore other London neighborhoods.
However, before I do, the small Red Lion Crown Passage has been a favorite since discovering it in the 90’s. Short 20 minute stroll from the Mayfair area.
The Dove in Hammersmith
The White Cross in Richmond
The art deco Blackfriar Pub adjacent to Blackfriars station
The gorgeous Bank of England Pub
And personal favorites: The Grenadier and The Antelope in Belgravia. Both small.
Fancy a pint?
EDIT: In the Mayfair neighborhood The Guinea and The Iron Duke.
Unless the itinerary has changed you’ll have a first group dinner at a nearby pub, and one or two further on. Your guide can provide recommendations for others if you want to dine at other pubs on your free nights. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food. But, when you visit the Borough Market try this place https://www.padella.co/#menu for the best pasta of your life.
Queen’s Gate in Kensington.
While I have been in many pubs, I seem to have avoided the Mayfair area, but I can offer some general advice.
Many of the pubs are owned by Breweries and Chains, not as many as years ago, but still a significant portion, maybe even growing as the pub business is a tough one.
So seeing the organization name can help make a rough judgement on a place. Any pub is decent for a pint, but for food, my experience has been:
JD Weatherspoon: Basic pub grub, certainly OK, but the menus will all be mostly identical, I assume a good amount of prepared foods baked or heated on site, ok for a quick bite, but nothing special.
Nicholson's: Much like Weatherspoon, all sites have a standard menu, decent pub grub, but still that sense that other than decor, if you have eaten at one, you've eaten at all.
Greene King: More variety in the menus between locales, a notch up from Weatherspoon/Nicholson, but also more variation from OK to very good, some places have been great, others...meh.
Fullers: I would place them at the top of my list. I have never been disappointed in a meal at one of their pubs. The menu tends to be mostly local, with some standard Fullers choices always there (Pie of the Day, Fullers Fish and Chips, etc.), so lots of difference between locations. Dishes made on site and probably a higher level of kitchen staff from what I can tell.
Independents: Sort of the wild card, there are lots of places advertising as Gastropubs, focusing on food, generally are very good, some wildly overpriced, you just have to peruse the menu and make a choice. Have had some fantastic meals, some also veer away from pub grub and do Indian, great pizza, or seafood. There are also lots of smaller pub groups and breweries (Samuel Smith, Buttcombe, Shepherd Neame) that a smaller number of places from the big chains.
All of the above may be in very old historic pubs, so that plays a role in your decision as well, and certainly some places are pubs first with food as a convenience, others are essentially restaurants within a pub persona.
From just looking at Google, Mayfair has a good variety of these. The Red Lion Mayfair is a historic pub associated with Fullers, so I would not hesitate to go there. The Burlington Arms looks to be a decent independent with a varied menu, compact, changes regularly, all good signs. Several Green King pubs in the area, that honestly I would probably put down further on the list, but would still be fine. The Barley Mow, run by a group called Cubitt House, an example of an upscale, higher end Gastropub. I could go on, like I said, been to none of these, but you can get a sense of what might be worth your time, and what to pass by.
I think Paul’s (from Iowa) write up was well written and accurate, however, his opinions seemed to be based on food quality. His response was spot on based on my experience. However, i will tackle the beer/ale aspect in my experience. While agree with Paul on food, I seek out Nicholson’s, Wetherspoons and Greene King pubs as they usually have a great variety of ales. Fuller pubs have good food and sometimes a decent ale selection. While not mentioned, whenever I go into some great Samuel Smith pubs, they are often great historical pubs, decent food, but for whatever reason, they have a half dozen pulls of real ale of the same variety. I have yet to enter a Samuel Smith pub that has on offer more than 2 real ales. For the Samuel Smith fans, please provide some examples that show me that I am not accurate as I would like to check them out.
To the other part of your question, of the hundreds of pubs I have visited in London over the years, I only have one pub in my saved list in the Mayfair area that I could recommend:
Coach & Horse (great interior)
You may get more responses if you post this in the main England section vs the Review section.
I agree my summary focuses on food. For beer it is a bit more difficult, but yeah, I agree with your (Jay) beer assessment. The Brewery pubs (Fullers, Greene King, and S. Smith, in the example) do heavily feature their own beers, though Fullers and Greene King typically have 2-3 guest taps of local or craft beers, and some big beer lagers. Sam Smith pubs tend to be more a brewery pub, rare to find other breweries there, and most of their beers are not on cask, just usually the couple you noticed. They focus on the bottle market, doing kegs for their pubs, and most of their products are not suitable for cask ale.
If you are into Craft Beer, some of the independents have decent tap lists, but usually only 6 or 7 taps of craft. For a wide craft beer selection, you almost need to go away from "traditional pub" to craft beer bars, still a pub in a sense I suppose, but more a bar.
The Harp in Covent Garden was mentioned above, they have been one of my favorite pubs, really only for beer and cider, other than snacks, I am not even sure they serve food. They have maybe 10 ales on cask, usually some small producers, an excellent selection of ciders. They were great when many pubs were not, and won accolades, though in the last 4-5 years, other pubs have gained ground, but they are still top notch.
We were on the Best of London tour in early June, also staying in Mayfair. Assuming the literary remains the same, you will have your welcome dinner at the Market Tavern in Shepherd Market. On our own, we visited the Kings Arms (in Shepherd Market as well) for food and beer. The latter is a Greene King pub.
We are trying the Kings Arms in a few weeks on our Best of London tour. It is well reviewed.
We'll be in London for a quick 2 days next week on the way to Scotland. Staying near The British Museum and going to matinee at Adelphi Theatre.
Can you recommend a quality pub, food-friendly as well? Saw the post for Whatpub, so will download that. We're not keen on stuffy restaurants, love the pub atmosphere but also love good food.....LOL, what a dilemma!
For the OP, I recommend the Golden Lion. Technically it's St James's rather than Mayfair, but close by and very cosy. I always stay nearby, and this is a favourite.
Thank you all for your very helpful tips and commentary!!
Phanna00…. hitchhiking on another poster’s question is tacky and disrespectful.
Post your own question to get responses AND share the pubs you discovered this week!
Sent you a pm
Claudia....so sorry you took offense at my question. It seemed more logical and timely to add to an existing post than start another one that seemed identical (pubs in London...), especially since Mayfair isn't that far from the British Museum area.
Thank you, Concerned local, for your recommendations--exactly what I'm looking for! Appreciate the tip and will post others as we find them.