The pub. Never have two syllables been so keenly missed from the vocabularies of much of London’s population, along with all the associations that come with it. The pints, the spilled pints, the pint that accompanies the meal that you so dearly need. Thankfully, some things simply can’t be unlearned. Not least the arse-numbing bench perch that defines lunch or dinner in a pub garden. These five pubs promise all that and more. Not only are they superb drinking establishments, but they’re excellent dining ones as well.
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 hearty and delicious, and exactly what you want after a few drinks. The enclosed front garden that often spills onto the pavement is what people call ‘a spot’. The projector room ‘a mess’ (particularly when Arsenal are on). And the back dining room, when it opens, ‘a lovely place to be’.
The Chesham Arms has one of the best (and most popular) pub gardens in the whole of Hackney. It’s big, it’s comfortable, and once you’re in you never want to leave. The catch? Well, there isn’t one. Sure it doesn’t technically serve it’s own food but you order in from Yard Sale and, frankly, we see that as an enormous bonus.
The Compton Arms is a little boozer-cum-gastropub off of Upper Street that used to be frequented by miserable Arsenal fans and is now frequented by miserable Arsenal fans plus those seeking very good food from Four Legs in the kitchen. The cheeseburger here - a Ronald McDonald-inspired bit of beefy and gherkin-y craftsmanship - blows most London burgers out the water. That said, the changing small plates are also brilliant, be it deep-fried quail or a heritage tomato salad, and they only seem to get better. The garden is cosy but fits a decent amount in, and there’s standing room for walk-ins too.
There’s something uniquely British about a brown-wooded, burgundy-hued, bungalow pub in Paddington whose carpets smell like the memories of a trillion pints too many. Only the food at the Heron isn’t remotely British, it’s some of the best Thai food you can get in London. Fierce sour and spicy seafood salads will do their best to keep you warm, but if not, an enormous bubbling tom yum soup will do the trick. Their pub garden is getting done up, so expect rain protection and the warming glow of heaters.
Just like its south London siblings the Anchor & Hope and the Canton Arms, The Clarence Tavern is an excellent gastropub. Its changing European-flavoured menu can span from pork collar, to turnips and salsa verde, to pheasant kiev, to mussels and tomatoes on toast. Best of all is its back garden terrace: covered, heated, and footsteps from the bar.
A pub, a pint, and a great big plate of roast beef overlooking Hampstead Heath is what we need ASAP, and you probably do too. 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.
At the Canton Arms, old boys todder in for a glass of red and a haggis toastie, and families get together in the front bar, the back dining room, or wherever they can fit. Of course, the front-facing beer garden is where everyone will have to fit for the time being. But the good news is: it’s big, it’s covered, and it’s got heaters. So whether you’re enjoying a rabbit and smoked ham lasagne - the food here is a touch European and a touch British - or a plate of peach and stracciatella combined with a pint, you’ll be fed, watered, and under cover.