One of the best ways to experience London is to grab a beer and a meal at one of the city's beloved pubs.
Callooh Callay a more contemporary pub located in the hip Shoreditch area (http://www.thedailymeal.com/travel/best-hipster-cities-food). It's very Alice in Wonderland-reminiscent with a cool drink menu and a secret entrance to a different room that's through a wardrobe. It has a bit of a classic speakeasy feel, and it’s inventive in that each month a different bartender has complete artistic freedom over the bar — from the drinks menu to the décor to the ambiance — providing you with a unique experience every time you visit. As creative as the drink options are the bar snacks, and you’ll find awesome options like deep-fried squid with curry leaves or yogurt and almonds, enough to soak up your cocktails but also a reason to visit in their own right. Enjoy a spin on a traditional bar favorite with their “Mexican” burger: a spiced kidney bean burger topped with lime yogurt.
In Covent Garden, this intricate, labyrinthine alehouse is perfectly situated a short walk from the Covent Garden Market. Once inside, it is a delight to explore all the nooks and crannies on each of the 12 different levels.The Porterhouse is unique in that it’s one of the best-known British pubs with a distinctly Irish feel (and an Irish owner). Aside from the genuine Irish beers, you’ll find a fine selection of multicultural fine foods like toasted ciabatta with grilled halloumi cheese or a mezze platter with Mediterranean favorites like tzatziki, baba ghanoush, and hummus.
In Kennington, this beautiful little pub is tucked in the corner of one of the most beautiful Georgian squares in London. On a warm summer day, patrons can spill out into the center of the square, which is fantastic in itself, but there is the added bonus of being able to participate in a game of boules, or bocce, as we call it. It's a perfect game to play while drinking, as you can throw the balls with one hand while keeping your pint in the other. At this very traditional pub in the center of the action, you can find everything from classic favorites like fish and chips to more inventive specialties like chardonnay chicken pie. For a treat, try the roast Atlantic cod fillet with brown shrimp butter, kale, and crushed new potatoes, or the New Forest venison and winter vegetable pie, champ mash – or combining mashed potatoes and chopped spring onions with butter and milk, and optionally, salt and pepper –, and buttered seasonal greens.
The Spaniards Inn, one of London's oldest pubs, is precariously located on a narrow bend of road that skirts around Hampstead Heath. Its countryside charm inspired Charles Dickens to mention the pub in The Pickwick Papers. It's a great place to head to if you've had an energetic stroll around the park or if you fancy a typical English Sunday roast, as the food here is just as spectacular as the views from the heath. Their menu combines familiar pub favorites with modern classics, such as homemade scotch eggs and sausage and mash, modernized with a gourmet spin: On the menu you will find a sausage and mash made with free-range Cherry Orchard sausages, served with beer mustard mash and red wine gravy. You can also go for the fish and chips, with fresh sustainably-caught cod served in cider and tarragon batter with pea purée, tartar sauce, and double-cooked chips.
The Dove in Upper Mall, Hammersmith has long been one of London’s most beloved riverside pubs. It’s known as the tiniest public bar in Britain, at just four feet, two inches wide and seven feet, ten inches long. Many legends say Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwyn used to visit The Dove, but it’s unlikely unless it was their ghosts — the bar was built about a half a century after Charles died. However, it is true that James Thompson wrote the words for “Rule Britannia!” there in 1740. The pub also appears in A.P. Herbert's 1930 novel The Water Gipsies, but you’ll find it there under the (fictional) name The Pigeons. The menu at The Dove is one that will impress, with dishes like Hampshire lamb rump with rosemary and thyme marinade; Pont Neuf potatoes with squash purée and creamed savoy cabbage; or venison bourguignon with truffled mash, pancetta, shallots, heritage carrots, chestnut mushrooms, and red wine jus. Of course, like many a British pub, you can always go for the classic fish and chips, too.
Located in the banking sector and right outside one of the biggest tube stations, the Black Friar in London is what you are looking for in a true English pub. It’s an historic Art Nouveau Grade II masterpiece of a pub, built in 1905 on the site of a Dominican friary, and it is quite small and is generally crammed with men in suits. The Black Friar’s appetizer sharing platter with Brie fondue, Gloucester Old Spot sausages, whole mini Southern-fried chicken fillets, homemade onion rings, plus marinated olives and feta with Nicholson’s Pale Ale chutney, chilli jam, and sour cream dips. Another must-try is the steak and ale pie, with tender beef steak, mushrooms, and onions in Nicholson’s Pale Ale gravy, encased in a shortcrust pastry, served with creamy mashed potato, green beans, and Chantenay carrots.
In Westminster, St. George’s has original Victorian architecture, incredible food, and a wide selection of drinks, making for the perfect, quintessential English pub vibe. Although it can get a little loud, the ambiance allows you to have a pint along with delicious fish and chips, and take in the London scene. While there, you can also enjoy classic British comfort food like roasted root vegetable soup, steak and Nicholson's Pale Ale pie, or a sticky slow-braised pork belly. For heartier fare, try the wild boar and chorizo burger, combining chorizo, spiced with paprika and chiles, with lean and flavorsome wild boar meat.
The Eagle originally opened in 1667 and it is now one of the most famous and larger pubs in the Cambridge area. Not just a pub but also a beer garden, this spot is credited by many for launching the food-in-pubs trend when it opened in its current form in 1991. Inside, you’ll find graffiti from World War II airmen, and it’s said to be haunted by spirits of those who were there during the Great Fire of London in 1666. Creepy, yes, but it is still an amazing moment of history every time you stop in for a drink and a bite to eat. The Eagle is known for its fish and chips, of course, and it also has some great local craft beers on tap, including the house brew, Eagle’s DNA. Great bar snacks include salt and pepper squid served with smoked paprika and lemon aïoli or baked figs with gorgonzola stuffing wrapped in serrano ham, Stick around for gourmet comfort food like fillet of bream with braised Puy lentils, spinach, and sautéed potatoes, and braised rump of beef and kidney pie with wholegrain mustard champ and curly kale.
This much-loved neighborhood pub is located in the heart of West London, between Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith. The Victorian façade gives way to a drinking area, complete with real working fireplaces, cozy sofas, resident pub cat (Lily), and an intimate dining room and heated outdoor terrace. Chef Phil Harrison oversees The Anglesea Arms’ ever-changing British menu, with seasonal highlights such as juniper and gin-cured trout with a warm crumpet, pickled kohlrabi, and horseradish; and scrambled duck eggs served with charred sourdough and shaved Piedmont black truffles. The bar boasts an evolving selection of cask-conditioned real ales on the four hand pumps, including local brews and regional classics, as well as a well-curated international wine list with a special focus on magnums.
On Fleet Street, this spot affectionately known as “The Cheese” has a rather Sweeney Todd feel. It's so historic it even has its own Wikipedia page, and was thought to have been visited by THE Charles Dickens. It’s known for its great prices (both beer and food), so there’s no excuse to miss “ye famous” steak and kidney pudding or Curry-Lovers Pie, made of chicken in a curry sauce with potato and vegetables, encased in pastry, served with chips. What’s more is that the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is also known for the legends of literary greats who frequented here. It goes back hundreds of years — in fact, it was around before the Great Fire of 1666: there has been a pub at this location since 1538. There’s not a ton of natural lighting inside and that’s led to a certain “gloomy charm” that has brought visitors in throughout the years. The pub shows its age on a board at the entrance, sharing the 15 monarchs’ reigns that The Cheese has lasted through. A throwback to the good old days of British pubs, this is one of few that deserve the “ye olde” moniker!