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Clerkenwell bars and pubs

Read Time Out's list of the best pubs and bars to visit in Clerkenwell

Jonathan Perugia
From the heavily decorated interior of the Zetter Townhouse, to the bottle-lined walls of Vinoteca, there are plenty of interesting bars to explore in Clerkenwell. Sip American-themed cocktails at Giant Robot, or slurp on a hearty ale at Gunmakers, as well as checking out these bars and pubs...

Zetter Townhouse

The decor at Townhouse embodies a ‘more is more’ philosophy. Every square inch of surface area is occupied by something lovely, as if a couple of eccentric collectors moved from a country manse and felt compelled to fit all their possessions into two rooms.

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Farringdon

Craft Beer Company

Something is most definitely brewing in London – beer is making a quiet and classy comeback. Usually synonymous with long-established locals and males of a certain age, real ales and proper lagers are finding their way into cooler quarters.

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Farringdon

Vinoteca

Critics' choice

The original Vinoteca in Farringdon is full to-heaving most nights, so it’s no surprise they have kept their winning formula for this second branch: it’s a wine shop as well as a restaurant, the visual focus being the full-wall display of wine bottles.

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Smithfield

Green

Not to be confused with the nearby Green Tavern, this classy, food-oriented corner venue looks like a typical neighbourhood pub, but takes a distinctly continental approach to proceedings.

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Farringdon

Giant Robot

Critics' choice

The building that formerly held Match EC1 was revamped in 2010 by Match supremo Jonathan Downey, and in pretty fine style. Lined with brick walls and a handsome tin ceiling, Giant Robot pulls off the neat and unusual trick of feeling both industrial and cosy, and the split-personality nature of the decor extends to the food and drinks.

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Jerusalem Tavern

Critics' choice

The Jerusalem is both fabulously historic and a complete fabrication. Although the premises date from the early 18th century, the current shopfront wasn’t added until 1810 and the place didn’t open as a pub until the 1990s.

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Farringdon

Gunmakers

‘The finest ale and eating house in Clerkenwell’ says the board outside – and the Gunmakers does present a very good case. One of many gastropubs in the area, the Gunmakers also operates as a bar, with plenty of natter around the cosy front room.

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Farringdon

Three Kings of Clerkenwell

It's claimed the royal trio of the name turns out to be Elvis, Henry VIII and King Kong, a suitably eccentric trio for this most excellent of pubs, although in truth the building predates the first and latter by more than 100 years.

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Farringdon

Old Red Cow

The old red cow herself, if she wasn’t apocryphal, probably didn’t have a pleasant visit to this pub’s manor – Long Lane was an ancient cattle route to Smithfield meat market. You can see the cupolas, domes and reliefs of London’s temple of butchery through the front windows of this refurbed Victorian site, which no longer uses its antique ‘Ye Olde’ prefix and has turned its focus to serving very good beer.

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Smithfield

Bleeding Heart Tavern

Upstairs: a buzzy bare-brick space with elaborate carved-wood bar and close-packed tables heaving with shirts-and-ties. Downstairs: a demure, even dowdy, dining room with spacious booths sporadically occupied by a quieter, older crowd.

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Farringdon
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Cheap eats in East London

Counter Café

Café

A delightfully thrown-together-looking daytime joint behind artists’ studios, the Counter deals in brunches, salads and pies. Excellent herby lamb pie comes with well-dressed colourful salad leaves, and the flat white coffee is terrific. There’s good music in the ground-floor room right on the canal, and peace and quiet, plus a view of trees and the Olympic stadium from squidgy sofas and large tables upstairs.

Meal for two with hot drinks and service: around £25.

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Olympic Park

Hornbeam Café

Vegetarian café

Adverts on the wall for yoga and tai chi classes indicate where this daytime café’s heart lies. The welcome is friendly and the daily changing menu is short, wholesome and satisfying: a soup, a tabouleh dish and a salad, say, with ample cakes, and bread from the Hornbeam Bakers’ Collective. Exciting? No, but we can’t help liking the place.

Meal for two with hot drinks and service: around £20.

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Walthamstow

Jubo

Korean café Tucked in the corner of a bar in Shoreditch, this cosy pop-up serves KFC – that’s Korean Fried Chicken – with steamed buns and piquant pickles. Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

Korean café

Tucked in the corner of a bar in Shoreditch, this cosy pop-up serves KFC – that’s Korean Fried Chicken – with steamed buns and piquant pickles.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

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Old Street

G Kelly

Pie & mash

Since 1937 Kelly’s daytime caff has been serving minced beef pie, mash, ‘liquor’ (parsley sauce) and eels (hot or jellied) to the street traders of Roman Road market. The menu has grown to include vegetarian pies and apple crumble, but in the simple white-tiled interior you’ll still sit at benches alongside ravenous costermongers.

Meal for two with hot drinks: around £15.

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Bow

Lahore Kebab House

Pakistani restaurant

Punjabi-style tandoori grilled meat and generous portions of ghee-laden curry at bargain prices draw crowds to this spartanly furnished spot. Piles of sweet onion bhajia and heavily spiced lamb chops might start a meal, before the choice velvety dals, boldly flavoured curries (many on the bone) and buttery nans. The house specials are worth ordering, especially the nihari and dry lamb curry.

BYO; no corkage charge.

Meal for two with soft drinks and service: around £25.

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Whitechapel

Mangal Ocakbasi

Turkish grill

Prices have tripled in the 20 or so years since meat was first grilled at this famous Turkish café. The place is a mite tatty too, cash-only, and the starters aren’t worth bothering with. But grills from the enormous mangal by the entrance are still sublime. Try the cop sis (rich, succulent grilled lamb) or tavuk beyti (a delicately garlicky, melty kebab of minced chicken).

BYO; no corkage charge.

Meal for two with soft drinks and service: around £25.

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Dalston

Mien Tay

Vietnamese café

It may look slightly down at heel and a little cramped, but Mien Tay is nevertheless a great place to get authentic, top-notch Vietnamese food. The low prices attract young, mainly non-Vietnamese diners for the likes of stir-fried green mussels with ginger and spring onion (a delight), or scallops with black bean sauce. The chef here has a way with seafood.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £30.

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Haggerston

Miss Chu

Vietnamese café

This little hole in the wall stretches back to a long corridor and kitchen, where classic Vietnamese street and café food is handled with care. Among the many options, we rate the filling pho (beef noodle soup) and the bahn mi (filled baguettes).

Meal for two with drinks: around £25.

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E Pellicci

Caff

Opened in 1900, and still run by the same family, Pellicci’s is a Bethnal Green landmark. Chrome-rimmed Vitrolite panels line the outside, and the wood-panelled interior is filled with Formica tables and art deco touches. Fry-ups are first rate, and the fish and chips, daily grills, Italian specials and desserts (from bread pudding to Portuguese pasteis de nata) aren’t bad either. But it’s the vibrant welcome and lively banter that make this daytime-only place so special.

BYO; no corkage charge.

Meal for two with hot drinks and service: around £20.

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Bethnal Green

Poppies

Fish & chip restaurant

Flipping fresh fish from Billingsgate (fried or grilled) and irresistible chips are served up by waitresses in diner-style outfits at Poppies. The interior – sparklingly clean and gloriously kitsch – incorporates a mini red telephone box and a jukebox, and the menu extends to seafood platters and jellied eels. Better than the real thing.

Meal for two with drinks and service: around £25.

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Spitalfields
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