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London's Best Pubs and Inns

London's best pubs offer the chance of great ale and good food. With the help of this guide, you can be sure of a super time in superb surroundings - we offer an impartial review of the pub and its food. If you have any comments, please email: suppliers "at" london-visitor-guide.com


West London Pubs


Portobello Gold

A gastro-hotel off Ladbroke Grove - bar, restaurant, internet cafe and fun place to stay. Sit out on the pavement in wicker chairs and watch the trendies stroll by. Or hook up at the bar with an organic lager and a plate of Cajun jumbo prawns. In the bar are tiled floors, an open fire, monthly, exhibitions of photography and live music on Sunday evenings until ten. At the back, the restaurant with its retractable glass roof feels like a comfortable jungle. Dine to the sweet song of canaries on Aberdeen Angus steaks, delicate seafood dishes and four styles of oysters. There's a large bar menu and all-day Sunday lunch. Linda writes about wine, so you'll drink well too. Redecorated bedrooms have good beds, 'Wet' rooms and flat-screen TVs, and the roof terrace apartment comes with a foldaway four-poster and small putting green! Broadband is free to hotel guests.
Nearest tube: Notting Hill Gate.
Michael Bell and Linda Johnson-Bell Portobello Gold, 95-97 Portobello Road, Notting Hill W11 2GB 020 7460 4910
www.portobellogold.com

Ladbroke Arms

The warm glow emanating from the windows is enough to tempt anyone into the Ladbroke Arms. Cream-painted and ginger hessian walls, benches plump with autumnal-hued cushions, long shiny tables, paintings, books, good wines and beers to please enthusiasts: Fuller's London Pride, Greene King IPA and
Abbot Ale, Adnams Bitter. The intimate Ladbroke takes its food seriously, too,
the chef buying cheese twice weekly from a touring supplier and placing orders with a fishing fleet every day. The bar sparkles with olive oils, vinegars and bottled fruit; in the raised restaurant area, stylish diners savour richly flavoured dishes such as chorizo and chickpea broth, warm salad of pork confit with salsa verde and rib-eye steak with green peppercorn, garlic and herb butter. Sunday roasts are a favourite among those who live close by; the hot chocolate fondant pudding is legendary. Sup under the parasols in summer as Notting Hillbillies smooch by.
Nearest tubes: Notting Hill Gate; Holland Park.
J Shubrati Ladbroke Arms, 54 Ladbroke Road, Holland Park W11 3NW
020 7727 6648
www.capitalpubcompany.com


Havelock Tavern

Plain floorboards, no fuss, tables squeezed around the main bar, delicious smells from the hatch and a noisy friendly crowd. When pubs are this popular, service can be slow but waiting is no hardship here. Settle in with a pint of fragrant Flowers or an aromatic Cotes du Tarn, order from the board, start on the crusty homemade bread and prepare for some of the freshest, most flavoursome food in London. They do pancetta, potato and rosemary soup, Thai green tiger prawn curry with coriander and greens, chocolate brownies, English cheeses. It's as cheap as chips (rather good ones) and the only downside is it's cash or cheque only
Nearest tubes: Shepherds Bush; Hammersmith.
Jonny Haughton Havelock Tavern, 57 Masbro Road, Shepherds Bush, 020 7603 5374 www.thehavelocktavern.co.uk


Paradise by Way of Kensal Green

The name was poached from G K Chesterton. Locals may have been taken aback when the arty bar first opened; now the area is full of trendies who little realise that The Paradise - all fairy lights and candles, background jazz and blues - stands on the site of the oldest pub in Brent. A statue of a fallen angel on the wall stares down in surprise on the battered reproduction Regency sofas, wrought-iron garden tables and chairs, and vast palm fronds growing in even vaster planters. The bar itself is small and not the most comfortable but there's still a pubby feel. The place doesn't take itself too seriously in spite of attracting the odd C-list celebrity; pop in for a pint of real ale and to look at the papers, or stay for a meal (must book). The menu is modern European with an oriental twist and the food extremely good: Thai green curry, penne with grilled aubergine, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and black olives, beef fillet with peppercorn sauce. A great place to spend a Sunday.
Nearest tube: Kensal Green.
Paul and Sarah Halpin, Paradise by Way of Kensal Green, 19 Kilburn lane,
Kensal Rise W10 4AE 020 8969 0098


The Scarsdale

We can be grateful to the French builder who believed Napoleon would invade and built The Scarsdale as living quarters for the French army. The immaculate Edwardes Square could only have been built by the French. This is a delightful little pub with a summer terrace of hanging baskets and bags of Victorian character. The old stained glass, dark panelling and burgundy walls provide a distinguished foil for old paintings in heavily gilded frames and various empty magnums of champagne, while the happy hum of drinkers flows from cosy corners as easily as the ales. Fabulous smells emanate from the kitchen hatch heralding the arrival of Aberdeen Angus rib-eye steak with sauce bearnaise, expertly followed by hot chocolate pudding. Eat in the busy bar or in the swagged dining room; sit in the garden and feel you're in the country. You could happily go on a first date here, or bring the parents.
Nearest tube: High Street Kensington.
Ray and Sarah Dodgson, The Scarsdale, 23a Edwardes Square, Kensington W8 6HE 020 7937 1811

Kensington - Churchill Arms

It's hard to say which comes first in the popularity stakes, the publican or the pub: Gerry O'Brien is an influential figure and this is a terrific pub. The Churchill is not only a shrine to the great prime minister but to Gerry's collection of memorabilia and his irrepressible Irish humour. To the left of the counter in the bar - cosy with open fire - is Chamber Lane (115 chamber pots suspended from the ceiling) while the walls of the leafy, glass-roofed Thai restaurant - once, unbelievably, a garage - display his prized butterflies. Never mind the tourists; come for great Guinness and beers, oriental feasts that don't break the bank, bags of atmosphere and a big dollop of tradition. On the annual celebration of Sir Winston's birthday unsuspecting drinkers are amazed to see everyone dressed in 40s style; sausage and mash can be bought for a shilling and the evening's takings go to the Cabinet War Office Museum. You have been warned!
Nearest tube: High Street Kensington,
119 Kensington Church Street, Kensington W8 7LN 020 7727 4242


South London


The Anglesea Arms

The raised heated terrace, historic lamp posts, wooden benches and hanging
baskets are a temptation for any passer-by. And one can't help wondering whether Dickens, who lived at No 11, and Lawrence, at No 9, were similarly drawn. Original panelling5 etched glass, dark floral wallpaper, heavy velvet curtains and scrubbed wooden tables - it's wonderfully, traditionally cosy. Settle
down to a pint of Adnams or browse the Sunday papers over creamy hot chocolate.
The little restaurant downstairs, away from the lively main bar, is a quiet snug in which to savour traditional English cooking. Daily lunch and dinner menus, built around fresh and local supplies, list crab, chilli, parsley and garlic linguine, aged club steak with garlic and rosemary
butter, battered haddock with homemade chips and pea puree, and hearty roasts on Sundays. Puddings are equally down-to-earth - apple and plum crumble, bread and sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce. Deeply, comfortingly English.
Nearest tube: South Kensington.
Jenny Podmore The Anglesea Arms, 15 Selwood Terrace, South Kensington SW7 3QG 020 7373 7960
www.capitalpubcompany.com


Swag &Tails

Hidden down a pretty mews in one of the smartest parts of town, the little whitewashed pub with black shutters and well-clipped topiary is an easy walk even in your Manolos - from the Harvey Nichols-Harrods drag. Escape the crowds and rest weary feet in the warm, yellow-and-blue interior where wooden floors and swagged curtains make a fresh and glamorous alternative to the heavy trimmings of your usual Knightsbridge pub. The attractive tiled conservatory at the back - less noisy than the main bar is a delightful spot in which to tuck into scared king scallops with lemon dill sauce or roast venison with crushed sweet potatoes. The food is stylish, modern and very good. Staff are full of smiles and, if it takes an explorer to find this little place, the wonderful photograph of Nare's Arctic expedition of 1875 - a present from landlady Annemaria to her husband - is a fitting first reward for your perseverance.
Nearest tube: Knightsbridge.
Annemaria Boomer-Davies Swag and Tails, 10-11 Fairholt Street, Knightsbridge SW7 1EG 020 7584 6926


The Grenadier

Down a cobbled alley on the Grosvenor estate, the tiny Grenadier is unmissable with its fanfare of patriotic paintwork, tumbling flowers and sentry box - a , magnet for tourists and cameras. Uneven' steps lead to a charismatic interior with a military theme, a reflection of this little watering hole's past. Originally the Duke of Wellington's officers' mess, it later became a popular place for King George IV to enjoy a pint; later it was frequented by Madonna. The dimly-lit Mess Bar, with smouldering coal fire, is stuffed with memorabilia: gleaming breast plates, swords and bugles. Behind, in the restaurant, squeeze in and settle down to beef Wellington or fish and chips at battle-themed bench seats and tables dressed in starched linen. In September, the ghost of an officer - accidentally flogged to death after cheating at cards returns to haunt the place, while the infamous Bloody Marys are best sampled on Sundays, from a specially erected bar. A small place with a big heart.
Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner.
Cynthia Weston The Grenadier 18 Wilton Row Knightsbridge SWIX 7NR 020 7235 3074

The Thomas Cubitt

This pub could be a metaphor for Belgravia itself: tasteful and well upholstered. The handsome ground-floor bar has high ceilings, oak-block floors and polished tables, a bit of panelling thrown in for good measure, and floorto-ceiling windows opening onto tables in the street. A well-heeled crowd is drawn by the classic, sophisticated, country-house feel, the real ales, the fine wines, and the kitchen, which puts more thought into what it produces than many a full-blown restaurant. In the bar is a reassuring selection of pub favourites all-organic beef burgers, grilled sausages with roasted red onion gravy and buttery mash - while the food in the very elegant, white-clad dining room upstairs is fiercely modern: roasted wood pigeon with smoked puy lentils; sea bass fillet with creamed wild mushrooms, bacon and chicory. It's always full, and the friendliness of the staff, even under pressure, is a pleasure.
The Thomas Cubitt, 44 Elizabeth St, Belgravia SW1W 9PA
tel 020 7730 6060 web www.thethomascubitt.co.uk

The Builders' Arms

You wouldn't expect such an exquisite little pub in the back streets off the King's Road. Enter and be seduced: the country -living-room feel is so enticing you'd happily move in. Settle down to a sauvignon or a pint of London Pride to a background of large puffy armchairs, low table lamps, walls in soft greens and creams and a ruby-red snug behind the bar. 'Never trust a builder without a tattoo' reads the sign on the wall, but the people here (and their pooches)
are as immaculate as the interior. The Builders is a stylish pub even if labelling the loos Builders and Ballerinas is a touch twee, and the food is delicious modern British well presented: pea and ham soup, roast salmon and basil risotto, and peppered sirloin steak with wilted spinach, mash and pepper sauce. The area is a shoppers' dream - but avoid the Builders on Friday lunchtimes: it's packed!
Nearest tubes: Sloane Square; South Kensington. Behind King's
Road, between Sydney Street and Chelsea Green.
Rupert Clevely The Builders Arms, 13 Britten Street, Chelsea SW3 3TY
020 7349 9040
www.geronimo-inns.co.uk


Chelsea Ram

A quiet residential street off the Lots Road seems an unlikely place to find a corner pub bursting with bonhomie. It used to be a junk shop; now the fine arched shop windows with etched glass are complemented by soft and subtle sage green and terracottas, tongue-and-groove cladding, a dark green wooden bar and colourful local art. A carpeted area to the back has small alcoves, soft lighting and shelves of thumbed books an intimate spot in which to be treated to some enticing food. Salmon fishcakes with crab and citrus bisque, perhaps, or confit duck leg on roasted garlic mash and braised red cabbage, followed by sticky toffee and banana pudding with butterscotch sauce. The scrubbed wooden tables are a great place for lively card games (please bring your own) over coffee. Close to the large storage depot of Bonhams the auctioneers, this popular pub is well worth the few minutes' walk from the end of the King's Road. Nearest tubes: Fulham Broadway; Sloane Square.
James Symington Chelsea Ram, 32 Burnaby Street, Chelsea SW10 0PL 020 7351 4008


The Atlas

Up high, golden letters on wooden panelling proclaim London Stout, Burton Bitter and mild ales. The Atlas is a great little place in which to delve into more modern brews: Fuller's London Pride, Caledonian Deuchars IPA, Adnams Broadside. A glazed wooden partition a prop for the 'Wine of the Moment' blackboard - divides the bar in two. Other Thirties' features remain: floorboards, attractive black and white tiling around the foot of the bar and three brick fireplaces, two of which add a glow in winter. The third, its mantelpiece piled high with lemons and limes, has been converted into a serving hatch for fabulous dishes that change twice a day - grilled sardines and Tuscan sausages, pot-roast poussin; the wine list trumpets 24 wines by the glass. Doors lead to a walled garden where puffa-jacketed folk flock under the rain cover. In spite of its modest frontage on a residential street, the pub is next to a big Pay & Display; not hard to find.
Nearest tube: West Brompton.George Et Richard Manners a Toby EllisThe Atlas,16 Seagrave Road, Fulham SW6 1RX020 7385 9129 web www.theatlaspub.co.uk


The White Horse

The pub on the green is reputed to have the best-kept beers in Europe: Mark Dorber's knowledge of real ale is the fruit of years working with the best tasters. The ever-changing list of guest ales above the log fire is within reading distance of some deeply comfortable sofas, while bar food is of the best sort, from ploughman's with unusual cheeses to fried bass with garlic mash. Even better, the menu suggests the best accompanying liquor; how about a crisp Bavarian wheat beer with your smoked salmon and scrambled eggs... a delicious alternative to a macon chardonnay. Inside, terracotta walls, slatted wooden blinds, lovingly polished pumps and beer memorabilia; outside, a big terrace overlooking the green and a Sunday barbecue. 'The Sloany Pony' may be a hotbed of Fulhamites but it's also a shrine to beer; come for the glorious two day festival in November when enthusiasts gather from all over the globe. Nearest tube: Parsons Green.
Mark Dorber The White Horse, 1-3 Parson's Green, Fulharn SW6 4UL
tel 020 7736 2115 www.whitehorsesw6.com

The Idle Hour

The trouble with the Rat Race is, even if you win you're still a rat'. Thus reads the sign outside. The Idle Hour is a small haven - tucked away down a dark, secret alley - where rats don't race and time stands still. The hour can all too easily be idled away over a cocktail or Grolsch as you sit stylishly amid fat dripping candles and a bizarre mix of clocks set at different times. Stephen Thorp (relaxed owner/ designer/barman / chef) has put as much thought and effort into the fresh, contemporary decor as the predominantly organic menu. Sundays at the Idle Hour are legendary; a delightful place to laze by the fire with a Bloody Mary before tucking into whole roast organic lamb served in the roasting pan and accompanied by utensils for a carve-it-yourself meal. Just like home but without the washing up... with sticky toffee pudding to follow who knows what time you'll leave? A gentle, unpretentious and civilised place. Nearest rail: Barnes; Barnes Bridge.
Stephen Thorp The Idle Hour, 62 Railway Side, Barnes SW13 0PQ, 020 8878 5555
www.theidlehour.co.uk

Cat's Back

Down a hidden backstreet, surrounded by new waterside development, an unexpected gem. You'll sense an appealing eccentricity here, as you sit among cosy-red walls, mismatched tables, African masks, a disco glitter ball, a portrait of Audrey Hepburn and all manner of flotsam and jetsam - presents from regulars and treasures picked up on the family's travels. It's mellow and fun and everyone and his hound pops by locals, builders, business people. At night, moody candlelight and chilled music - Bob Marley perhaps. In this part of town you may expect good food and no shortage of delicious organic meats and vegetables; try shrimp tempura with oyster sauce, roast shoulder of pork, tiramisu. Red, yellow and green lights in the stairwell lead to a lovely sash-windowed restaurant and a small but lavish private dining room beyond. Extraordinary.
Roger Martin Cat's Back, 86 Point Pleasant, Putney, 020 8877 0818 web www.thecatsback.com

Spencer Arms

They're flying the Slow Food flag here with guts and passion. And it's all so delicious: the whole roast rainbow trout, the rib-eye steak, the ham hock risotto, the 'British tapas' (smoked duck with beetroot pickle, venison carpaccio, potted shrimps). The lamb is from Cornwall because it tastes nicer and they love their chutneys - take some home. The stage for all this good humour is a pretty Victorian tavern with a big open dining room of sturdy tables and painted boards, a blackboard of wines and a sofa by the fire. Throw in bookshelves and games chest, chilled music for quieter moments, tailor-made orders for unfaddy children and cider punch with calvados and you have one fabulous place. The staff are brilliant and chef Adrian Jones (ex Shibden Mill) cycles 20 miles along the river to work each day, such is his enthusiasm. May God bless the Spencer Arms and all who sail in her.Nearest rail: Putney; Barnes.
Jamie Sherriff Spencer Arms, 237 Lower Richmond Road, Putney SW15 1HJ
020 8788 0640 web: www.thespencerarms.co.uk

The Earl Spencer

Its spit 'n' sawdust days are over, its Edwardian interior restored. Now, to a clean backdrop of deep cream and dark blue, gilded ceiling mouldings and a winter fire, you can discover some of the best pub food in south London. Mark Robinson and his team bake bread twice a day, have a smokery on the premises and a bunch of cookery books on the bar. Above the central fireplace the blackboard is chalked up with a seasonal menu and inventive dishes pop up every day: chargrilled squid with chorizo, tomato and garlic; duck rillette with gherkins and chutney; daube of beef with green beans and horseradish; shoulder of lamb to be shared among four; poached pear, honey and brandy parfait. Proprietor jonathan Cox has not forgotton the drinkers, so there are good wines by the glass and Hook Norton, Shepherd Neame and Hoegaarden on tap. Fresh flowers and papers, laid-back staff, happy drinkers, contented dogs - a place to unwind. Nearest tube: Southfields.
Jonathan Cox The Earl Spencer, 260-262 Merton Road, Southfields SW18 5J1020 8870 9244
www.theearlspencer.co.uk


The Ship

Drinking a pint of Young's Special next to a concrete works doesn't sound enticing, but the riverside terrace by Wandsworth Bridge is a dreamy spot. Chilly evenings still draw the crowds to this super old pub, cosy inside with its warm-red and sage-green walls, and its conservatory with central chopping-board table and wood-burning stove. No music, just happy chat, newspapers, tall blackboards and fresh flowers. Chef Rob Clarson has a good pedigree and sources ingredients from specialist suppliers to create his beef and thyme stew (served with crusty bread), pan-fried cod with sauteed spinach and garlic mash, and chargrilled beefburgers. Summer barbecues find grilled swordfish and lobsters alongside Angus rib-eye steaks. At peak times expect who can be the loudest Fulhamites to pack out the front bar but don't be put off. The Ship opens its arms to all, and families merrily gather in summer. Nearest rail: Wandsworth.
Oisin Rogers The Ship, Jews Row, Wandsworth SW18 ITB 020 8870 9667
www.theship.co.uk

The Fox & Hounds

As you pass beneath yet another dripping railway bridge you might wonder if the trek from Chelsea was worth it. But the moment the bright little corner pub comes into view you'll feel spirits rise. With its excellent beers and its photos of pints on cream walls, the place appears to be a shrine to the golden brew. No longer the old boozer it once was, it's still a popular hangout for the locals and, along with its sister pub, The Atlas, a foodie destination. As Mediterraneanstyle dishes flow from the open-to-view kitchen, food-loving train-spotters will think they've gone to heaven and back as they watch the Connex South Central trains whizz by. Try hake and fennel tagine, smoked haddock and saffron risotto, and rib-eye steak with sweet potato mash and salsa verde. There's a great atmosphere here, and a good little garden for summer. Nearest rail: Clapham Junction.
George and Richard Manners The Fox and Hounds, 66 Latchmere Road, Battersea SW11 2JU 020 7924 5483 Web:
www.thefoxandhoundspub.co.uk


North London
Holly BushHampstead - The Holly Bush

This superb pub is one of Hampstead's gems. It is tucked away in a quite cul-de-sac, a stone's throw from the busy High Street. It's a fairly plain and simple place, but what it lacks in grandeur is made up in cosiness and charm.
It was originally the stable block of a nearby 17th century house. Painter, George Romney, bought the house and the stables in 1796, but after his death the stables were leased to a victualler who converted them into a tavern in the early 1800's. Additions and alterations expanded the building we see today.
The two front bars have worn oak flooring, simple painted settles and wood panelling; one bar has an open fire. Original gas lamps hang from the nicotine brown ceilings. The cosy wood clad snug is a favourite and at the back is a later addition, a room converted from the landlord's living quarters.
The Holly Bush has a reputation for fine ales and great food. A changing menu of freshly prepared traditional dishes, using mainly organic ingredients, are given a new twist; be it a hot sexy big scotch egg or lamb shank slow roasted in beer. There's a wide variety of fish, poultry, pies and sausages to suit all tastes and vegetarian options.

22 Holly Mount, Hampstead, London, NW3 6SG Phone: 020 7435 2892 Fax: 020 7431 2292


lslington - The Albion

AlbionThe front bar area is pastel painted and bright, the matchboard ceiling painted white. Much of the 'cosy pub' stuff, such as the wooden ceiling lights have been removed, presenting a clearer, uncluttered area. Although less traditionally pubby, it is much more Georgian. It was the Victorians who liked clutter.
Similar redecoration has been carried out through most of the ground floor, presenting a smarter and more modern looking interior, but one which is more suited to the building, However, the intimacy and atmosphere has not been lost and the dining room, in particular, is still pleasant and charming. Some much for the decoration.
Food for most pub is a vitally important part of their business, but in so many cases pubs have become restaurants in all but name, which means less choice for those of us who love pubs. The intention here appears to be a balance of a good pub which serves exceptional food, so no complaints there. It's perhaps a good opportunity to praise the staff who, on our visit, were both cheerful and helpful, even though they were still settling in.
The Albion seems to have pitched itself well above 'pub grub' but without making it an occasional treat. Refreshingly, all the ingredients are English, free range and will change according to the season.
10 Thornhill Road, Barnsbury, London, N1 1HW Tel: 020 7607 7450

Islington - Albert and Pearl

The wood panelling gives the venue character and make it stand out from the rest of the drinking dens and eateries along this popular stretch of road. The bar is the first feature youíre presented with as you enter, and it draws you in with its large collection of high market alcohol and the attentive bar staff. To the left is where all the Tuscan food is prepared and the servers work together to bring some sort of cohesion to service. Although there arenít many seats and the bar itself is quite small, it does make for a cosy, intimate affair, with small wooden tables suited for two, stools at the bar and larger communal areas.

During the week, Albert and Pearl is more of a low key affair as punters meet here for food and wine after work; however, come the weekend the DJ booth springs to life and, being Upper Street, the bar fills with party revellers washing away the week with some fantastic cocktails. The low lighting and small candles scattered around the bar add to the relaxed vibe Albert and Pearl is trying to portray.

The best feature about this bar, however, are the warm, friendly staff who try their best to help you out in any way possible to make your experience enjoyable. They chat with you because they want to and are eager to help out with the food and drink selection - they even let you try before you buy just in case itís not the sort of thing youíre after.

The food at Albert and Pearl is authentic Tuscan cuisine. All food either comes from top London markets or is imported direct from Italy, so you know youíre getting only the best quality. As to be expected, there are a lot of meats, olives and wonderfully flavoursome bread.
he main emphasis at Albert and Pearl isnít on how many beers they have or the cheap drinks, itís all about quality and premium brand alcohol. The drink menu mainly consists of cocktails but there is a small wine list that they have carefully selected primarily for accompanying the food.

A nice touch to the menu are their cocktails for two, which makes drinking more of an experience when youíre with a partner or friend. Highly recommended is the Pearlís Punch (fresh strawberries and raspberries mixed with passion fruit and mango vodka, apple juice, and Champagne). Especially good is the Tropical Nonsense, which is a devilish blend of Jamaican, Cuban, Bermudan and Guyana rums with fresh mango, pineapple and passion fruit. Albert and Pearl is a welcome change to the hoards of party bars on Upper Street. Itís a very chilled out place to spend an evening and to indulge yourself with mouth-watering dishes and unique cocktails.
181 Upper Street, Islington, London, N1 1RQ Phone: 020 7354 9993


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Great prices on hotel rooms in London!
Check out the special low price offers at
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            with last minute discounts