Although Shoreditch may be better known for trendy cocktail bars and cool clubs, there are also plenty of great pubs. From the grand and glamourous Princess of Shoreditch to charming little boozers such as Wenlock Arms, Time Out will show you the best places to bend an elbow in Shoreditch. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions. And don't forget to check out our pick of Shoreditch bars and clubs.
The Fox is an after-work magnet on Thursdays and Fridays, when you can hardly see the bar for bodies. Outside peak hours, though, it’s a very pleasant place for a drink, just far enough from Shoreditch’s main drag to ensure that it isn’t dominated by bright young things. Plus points include an attractive ground-floor room, modernised but not ruined, with a big central bar and etched-glass windows, moreish bar food dished up as small plates by the same kitchen that serves the lovely first-floor restaurant, and a generally relaxed vibe. The fine range of wines is complemented by a couple of ales; Harveys Sussex Best usually seems to be among them. Worth considering if you’re in the area.
Up the spiral staircase from the bustling downstairs bar, the dining room at this 250-year-old corner premises is a good-looking, cosy space. A dozen linen-clothed tables – candlelit at night – are served by a small team of young, efficient staff. Choosing from a menu that included wild boar scotch egg, Chart Farm fallow deer and a host of seasonal goodies wasn’t easy, but the kitchen more than fulfilled its remit. Rich ham hock, foie gras and pork knuckle terrine benefited from tangy piccalilli, and sour goat’s cheese was a lovely foil for the sweetness of roasted red and yellow heritage beetroot. Mains of beer-battered fish and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce, and Cornish brill with pea purée and black pudding were done to a T; the last ingredient slightly overpowered the purée, but it’s a minor quibble. Simple but effective afters might be chocolate fondant with vanilla ice-cream, or an artisan cheese sold by the slice – the Lancashire ‘strong bomb’ is sensational. There’s a choice of wine by the glass and carafe, as well a wide range of bottles (including five rosés), which goes for interesting tastes over establishment favourites and is aware of current trends: the wine of the month when we last visited was from the Lebanon. There are also local beers, such as Wandle Ale from Sambrook’s in Battersea, on tap, and East London Brewery's Nightwatchman. A top-notch operation, now joined by sister pub the Lady Ottoline in Bloomsbury.
When a pub closes, as this one did way back in 1989, the worst thing that can happen to it is to be turned into a Tesco Metro. Next bad, demolition, followed by change of use to chicken shop or bookies. But sometimes, a pub comes back from the dead. Not in a creepy, zombie way, but a joyous, on-the-third-day style. And here is one of these born-again boozers – following wilderness years as a Chinese restaurant and a leather wholesaler, the Well and Bucket is once again brimming over with beer. A lot of care has been spent restoring the big room to resemble a pub once again. The Victorian tiling was once noted across London for its splendour; it now looks a bit battleworn, but is brilliantly atmospheric. Close your eyes and you can imagine the place packed with porter-drinking, pipe-smoking, H-dropping Cockneys of yesteryear. Phantom East Enders might be a bit unfamiliar with the huge array of craft beers on offer, which includes about 18 on tap. The fine selection ranges from Kent’s Caveman Brewery Citra to Little Creatures from Western Australia. They’d be mad for the oysters on the food menu, although the sliders (barbecued aubergine, for instance, or braised beef brisket) would have them baffled. They’d also be shocked by what’s going on downstairs – the vaulted cellar has been turned into the 5cc Cocktail Club. This dark and hidden-away bar serves proper, grown-up cocktails, the sort that leave you in no illusion that you’re drinking alcohol. Rare spirits are shaken by en
Its authentically traditional pub exterior jutting out into Commercial Street like a ship’s prow, the Commercial Tavern is a wantonly wacky revamp outpost of the Hoxton boho bar beat. Polaroids of 24-hour party people, a whole wall of Interview magazine covers and a cluster of retro lampshades all point towards the venue’s underground bent, although the pretty young bar staff will still provide your change on a silver platter. It’ll be too dark to see the beer taps on the brightly tiled bar counter, but ale drinkers should enjoy a pint of Meantime Helles or London Pale Ale, or Young’s Special. If chat and early Bowie over the speakers start to lose their appeal, there’s a pool table filling most of a small side room; upstairs has its own bar.
Buried away off Bishopsgate in a cobbled corner close to Spitalfields Market where city suits and Shoreditch collide, the Water Poet is a multi-tasking gem with a bar, restaurant, cool pool parlour, a downstairs theatre and a super-duper sun-trap of a beer garden. Adorned in dishevelled decadence, it’s all down-holstered leather and velvets, gilded metal and myriad chairs on which to flex your pint-curls; from Chesterfields to church pews, school chairs to picture-house seats. There are weighing-in scales as you enter. Not entirely relevant but worth a mention. Clientele range from open-collared city sippers during the week and market meanderers on the weekend. A bevy of Belgians under the Artois banner, Timothy Taylor and Flowers Original hold the fort on hand-pull and there’s Staropramen and Hoegaarden too. There's serious sausage action on the bar and BBQ menu, sharing platters and, people say, a rather renowned roast of a Sunday. Entertainment consists of ‘Witty in the City’ comedy nights every Thursday, the (rather odd) cabaret night on a Saturday while, upstairs, there’s pool and plasmas dotted both inside and out.
The Queen of Hoxton – pub, club and everything in between – offers an eclectic mix over two fun floors, with DJs playing on a cutting-edge disco/house tip on the weekends, while film nights, fringe theatre and food often take centre-stage during the week. Their huge rooftop is one of the funnest in London too – with an enormous wigwam set up during the winter season as well.