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Looking for a local, not a gastro pub

We will be in London late November, thanksgiving, actually, and we're looking for a local where we can sit with a beer, chat, and recover from the flight in a cozy environment and have it not be about turning tables over. Thinking more "taproom" than restaurant. We're staying near St Pancras but will be traversing the city for 3 days so recommendations are appreciated.

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
2665 posts

As in North America, food is an essential revenue source for almost all drinking establishments. It's next to impossible to run a place on booze alone. So most "locals" will have a menu. Many, these days, are owned by chains and so the cooking is standardized, which is not necessarily unappetizing. The ratio of dining versus drinking depends more on the time of day. Expect a flood of drinkers at the end of the business day, followed by diners, and most of the plates will be cleared by mid-evening. The same dynamic works at the lunch hour, only quicker.
Google Maps is helpful. Enter your hotel address, click on Nearby and then on the Pubs button. It won't show all drinking establishments but usually includes links to the pubs so you can call up the menu for drinks as well as meals.
PS: My favorite pub for atmosphere is Blackfriars, at the bridge of the same name. It's two miles from St-Pancras.

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
3819 posts

Unless you are thinking of occupying the spot for hours and hours, just about any pub will do as long as you are in the "bar" area, not the separate dining area. In the bar it is "self-serve" order your drinks at the bar, take them to any open table or seating, I do not ever recall any pressure to move on or even order another drink. (I will add an edit: the only time I felt pressure was when the pub filled up and the crowds pressed in, some places, especially after work it can be shoulder to shoulder. But as long as there are open tables and a light crowd, relax.) Most places will also have a menu, from snacks to meals, some places pretty good, others not, but snacks and appetizers are usually good. Food you typically order at the bar as well, they bring it to your table. I have been to the Skinners Arms, nice pub, good selection of English Ales, plus decent food, good all around traditional pub.

Posted by ianandjulie
Yorkshire
302 posts

I visit London as a tourist in the main, so here are a few suggestions, not necessarily local to where you want them, but worth a look-see.

Blackfriars is a marvellous pub, very interesting decor! I think you could have a drink in most London pubs without eating, although most pubs do food these days as they can't survive on beer/drinks alone. We popped in there on a very cold day for a hot mulled wine prior to departing for Mexico!

Last time we were in London a few weeks ago we went to the Morpeth Arms on Milbank (near Vauxhall Bridge and not far from Tate Britain). It faces, across the Thames, the MI5 building opposite (as featured in James Bond - Skyfall, in which it gets blown up, fortunately with CGI) and the upstairs room is called 'The Spying Room' as rumour has it they provide binoculars so you can spy on the spies! Sadly we couldn't get up there when we visited as there was a function on (possibly another country's intelligence services!) so can't confirm the rumours! While we had a meal there (very nice) there were plenty of people who were 'only here for the beer' both inside and out.

I've had a pint in the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese off Fleet Street without eating (although most people were) but I imagine it could also get very busy with tourists, given it's age (rebuilt after the fire in 1667), but nevertheless it's worth a look inside.

I'm told I've been to the Lamb and Flag too, but I can't remember it, so I assume I had a good time!

The Rose pub/bar which adjoins the Globe Theatre is also interesting for a visit. We did a 'London Walk' in Fitzrovia ('Bohemia In London' I think it was called) which visited a historic pub, although I'm blessed if I can remember it's name, but it had the old style wood and glass panels obscuring the bar area, which was unusual. Further out 'The Prospect of Whitby' at Wapping with its pewter bar and grisly history (there was a gibbet outside the back looking over the Thames) is also worth a visit.

There are lots of great pubs in central London, I think you just have to get out and walk and try going in a few until you find one you like! I'm not sure what exactly is good in the St Pancras/Kings Cross area, but you can stick your nose in without obligation and see if any of them take your fancy!

Hope you find a quiet and cosy pub and have a great trip!

Ian

Posted by Nigel
Northamptonshire, England
19485 posts

PS: My favorite pub for atmosphere is Blackfriars, at the bridge of the same name. It's two miles from St-Pancras.

I like the Blackfriar too. It is 2 miles on foot but only 3 stops on the Thameslink train linking St Pancras International and Blackfriars - with stops at Farringdon, City Thameslink (but not on the weekend) and Blackfriars. You get to see the fabulous views from the all glass station which spans the Thames. Worth going there just for the view. All within Zone 1.

Posted by emma
London
4002 posts

Ian I have been to ALOT of work events in the Morpeth Arms including in the upstairs function room. I can therefore confirm that you can't see into Mi6 even if you do have binoculars...... You can see the terrace of the Mi6 bar though, which is very popular with the spooks as they drink their martinis!
The Morpeth is a very popular after work drinks pub for all the spooks, police and civil servants who work in the local area. Always worth earwigging the conversation on the next table!

It, and the Tate Gallery next door, were built on the site of a prison where they kept all the convicts before they shipped them off the Australia. The Morpeth cellar is built from some of the cells and is supposedly haunted. They used to have a cctv screen behind the bar to spot ghosts, but i haven't seen it for a while.

Posted by andi
franktown, colorado
1369 posts

Another thumbs up for Blackfriars. It has become our family's traditional first stop after arrival in London. I do also like Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese but it feels more "touristy" to me (says the perennial tourist!).

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
4024 posts

A totally unpretenious pub (at least in 2016 it was) serving Thai food near St Pancras is The Dolphin.

Both The Boot and The Skinners Arms are fine spots for a pint and pub grub. Ideal for recovering from jet lag.

I too will be there in November and will hang at The Castle in Holland Park. Comfortable, good food, and relaxing. Close to where I stay.

Love The Blackfriars but far too many people have now "discovered it," so it's not a secret anymore BUT even with that said you do need to see it for the art deco interior. Gorgeous.

And as about as unpretentious and unhurried as you can get if you are by the Tower of London enjoy the Princess of Prussia.

Its true many of the traditional pubs have become gastro pubs but if you take some time and explore you'll find some great "old boozers," where locals enjoy their pints. Complete with fires burning, pool and snooker tables and dart boards.

I'm hoping the spot I found last year, the large Prince of Wales pub on Willesden Lane while staying in the Queen's Park neighborhood hasn't been touched. Literally was just me and the bar maid on Christmas Eve day until a few elderly gentlemen arrived around 5pm for their evening meet up.

Cheers

Posted by ianandjulie
Yorkshire
302 posts

Hi Emma -

Thanks for your response! I suppose that it would have been something of a security lapse if you had been able to see into MI6 from upstairs at the Morpeth Arms! The 'ghost cam' (I say 'ghost' as opposed to 'spook' to differentiate them from the possible clientele!) was still on in the bar when we were there the other week!

Julie says there's a pub near the British Museum that is allegedly Karl Marx's local boozer, but can't recall the name. Any ideas? I'll do a web search later! For future and educational use, of course!

Ian

Posted by ianandjulie
Yorkshire
302 posts

A quick bit of research would suggest Karl Marx's local I was referring to is The Museum Tavern, which is in strolling distance from the St. Pancras area. It would also appear that old Karl enjoyed the odd pub crawl (and a bit of drunken vandalism!) if the Londonists article is anything to go by:

http://londonist.com/2016/07/do-the-karl-marx-pub-crawl

Maybe Monty Python's 'Philosophers Drinking Song' is closer to the truth than I realised!

Ian

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
2665 posts

Happy to hear from other Blackfriars' fans. To expand a point, this highly atmospheric establishment, once saved from property developers with the help of the then Poet Laureate (let's drink a toast to poetry), is part of a pub chain. It is also a "local" in a different way than tourists might intend. At 5 p.m. the neighbouring office towers disgorge thirsty finance strivers who will be lined up elbow to blue-suited elbow at their local pub. Nice patio, too.
On the west side I like the Hereford Arms, 127 Gloucester Road, two blocks south of the Gloucester Road Tube, with a better-than-average kitchen, a forward-looking beer selection, and traditional Sunday afternoon banquet where often some of the neighbours are EU-permit French. http://www.herefordarms.co.uk/

Posted by teksizgurl
4 posts

Also love Black Friars but will add Churchill's, The Princess Louise, and the Dove (small, out west).

Posted by Christine OP
Dundas, MN, USA
25 posts

Thanks all! Those are some great recommendations. We're not opposed to food; I mean, pub-grub rules, but anyplace where you have to book a table isn't what we had in mind. In May I went to Bree Louise near Euston station. I'd go back there and would recommend it to any of you still seeking a cozy spot. Great pies and ale selection. If I go back can I call it my local?

Posted by Nigel
Northamptonshire, England
19485 posts

If you want to get back to Bree Louise you may want to do it sooner rather than later. That side of Euston will be all redeveloped for the High Speed train boondoggle. One of the first buildings to come down will be the Ibis Hotel.