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De Beauvoir Arms
Photo: De Beauvoir Arms /Time Out

Great pubs that you don’t need to book

Organising ahead is for suckers. Why not just rock up to one of these and try your luck?

By Joe Mackertich
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The pubs are open! That’s good. All the pubs are booked up until November! That’s not good. One result of the easing of lockdown rules to allow for outdoor dining has been a mad rush for seats. Quite simply there are more thirsty Londoners prepared to brave the cold than there are seats in beer gardens. So currently every pub is full of quite smug-looking, very organised people who booked their night out way back in February. Those people, quite frankly, suck.

This list, featuring pubs with beer gardens and outdoor seating for which you do not have to book, will be updated regularly. Know a pub that should be on this thing? Let us know right now, thank you.

Check out our main list of exceptional London beer gardens. Or play it safe and book a table at one of the city’s biggest ones here.

Great pubs you don't need to book

Albion

Bars and pubs Barnsbury

Halfway between Upper Street and the Caledonian Road, this Georgian boozer has an olde-worlde English charm entirely in keeping with its name. It’s far enough from the main thoroughfares to ensure there’s barely a whisper of traffic noise to be heard at the wooden tables in the walled beer garden.

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Antelope

Bars and pubs Gastropubs Tooting

A brilliantly tasteful south London boozer. (Think ‘1950s village hall’: it’s full of gorgeous wood panelling, stained glass windows, church pews and criss-crossing floral fabric bunting.) If it weren’t for the young, trendy drinkers it attracted, you could be at a meeting of your nan’s bridge club.

AuldShille_NH_13.jpg
Photograph: Nerida Howard

Auld Shillelagh

Bars and pubs Pubs Stoke Newington

A honest Irish pub (as opposed to Irish-themed pub; the difference is crucial) that draws a devoted circle of boozed-up Stoke Newingtonians most nights of the week. Important note: its pub garden has heaters. 

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Bank of Friendship

Bars and pubs Pubs Highbury

This independently run, strictly over-21s Highbury pub also doubles as an intimate music venue, showcasing new talent at its Thursday night open-mic sessions. Plus there’s a beer garden for the warmer months (walk-ins only). 

Boxpark Shoreditch

Restaurants Street food Shoreditch

Not a pub! I realise this is not a pub! But Boxparks are pub-like environments and you deserve to know about them. Refitted shipping containers plonked artfully around Shoreditch, Croydon and Wembley, the Boxparks will not require you to book ahead. 

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The Castle

Bars and pubs Walthamstow

A Walthamstow gastropub with a cute decked pub garden that's better than the wonky balcony at your flat but just as homely. 

Jason Bailey

Cat & Mutton

Bars and pubs Gastropubs London Fields

The sizeable Cat & Mutton sits proudly at the helm of Hackney's Broadway Market, and has been welcoming its costermongers and consumers for 300 years. A mix of bookings and tables that are reserved for walk-ups.

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© Ben Rowe

Coach & Horses

Bars and pubs Pubs Soho


This Soho institution may have mellowed somewhat since self-proclaimed ‘London’s rudest landlord’ Norman Balon finally hung up his polishing cloth in 2006, but there’s still plenty to make it stand out from the crowd. Reserves half its tables for walk-ups.

De Beauvoir Arms

Bars and pubs Gastropubs De Beauvoir

A gastro pub on Southgate Road. Nice food and staff and a welcoming vibe overall. Quite a few tables out front, all reserved for people rocking up on the day.

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The Dove

Bars and pubs Gastropubs London Fields

Broadway Market’s Dove is walk-ins friendly and if it doesn’t have a table for you at the time, someone will call you once it does. Belgian beer heaven inside a continental-style tavern.

The Dovetail

Restaurants Belgian Clerkenwell

Same as sister pub The Dove. The Dovetail in Farringdon is a modern European restaurant with a heavy influence from Belgium in both its food and its drink offerings. 

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Duke of Edinburgh

Bars and pubs Brixton

Popular Brixton boozer with an enormous beer garden. Home to Plonk Crazy Golf’s nine-hole jungle-themed course.

Faltering Fullback
© Greg Whitescaver

Faltering Fullback

Bars and pubs Pubs Finsbury Park

This vaguely Irish pub has long been a Finsbury Park favourite, and that’s 98 percent down to its amazing garden. Drinks are reasonably priced, the Thai food is good and it’s a sport-watchers paradise, but these are just cherries on the verdant layer cake that is its three storeys of leafy nooks, crannies and look-out posts outside. 

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The Farrier

This is a new pub in Camden with a great menu and loads of wine. While you can book, the owners also encourage customers to turn up and try their luck with the tables set aside daily for disorganised, happy-go-lucky people like you. 

The Globe

Bars and pubs Pubs Moorgate

City pub in Moorgate, near the Roman Wall, the Globe is part of the Nicholson’s chain.

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Nici Eberl

Hand of Glory

Bars and pubs Dalston

A friendly and thoughtfully stocked pub in an area not stuffed with them. As well as the ciders, almost all beers are from Hackney (Five Points, Crate etc); food is uncommonly good for a pub too. 

Venue says The dark art of infusing spirits, sharing flagons, roasting & wiccan arts can be found in this British folklore inspired pub.

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Hunter S

Bars and pubs De Beauvoir

A pleasant, comfortably furnished, dimly lit neighbourhood drinking and dining spot in a restrained art deco style. Expect gastropub grub and big bunch of beers. 

Mercato Metropolitano

Things to do Event spaces Elephant & Castle

A 45,000-square-foot market space offering a mixture of Italian and London based artisan producers including ‘the best pizza maker’ from Naples, supposedly. Seats over 500 people. No booking at all. Views of The Shard, if that's your thing.

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Ming Tang-Evans

Mother Kelly's

Bars and pubs Breweries Bethnal Green

A New York-inspired bar tucked beneath one of the railway arches on Bethnal Green’s Paradise Row. But there’s a twist. The beers here aren’t just for sitting down and sipping in situ: you can also take them away to savour on your sofa too. And the selection of bottles is staggering – and it’s all judiciously chosen.

The Junction

Bars and pubs Gastropubs Camberwell

Jazz-inflected local fave (with a nice menu) in south London with covered tables set outside for people who just turn up. Looks nice.

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Perry Hill

Restaurants Contemporary European Forest Hill

A well-loved gastropub in Catford, under new management as of this year. One of the largest beer gardens in all of south London, no less. The menu is now pretty impressive and it’s done a great job of renovating the place while retaining its character.

 

© Charlotte Mayhew

The Salisbury

Bars and pubs Pubs Green Lanes

Built in 1898, this place is absolutely massive. Taxidermy cases and ornate cornicing decorate the central, beer-focused bar, and drinkers take their pick from private booths, fireside armchairs or more sociable clusters of tables and chairs in one of two huge spaces.

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Shacklewell Arms

Music Music venues Dalston

Pretend you’re at a gig and hang out in the courtyard smoking area here – complete with broken fountain and faded, crudely painted murals. 

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Southampton Arms © Ed Marshall

Southampton Arms

Bars and pubs Pubs Gospel Oak

The sign outside announces ‘ale, cider, meat’, and that pretty much sums up what’s on offer at the best pub in Gospel Oak. One of the many great things about the Southampton is that it retains its mixed clientele, long-time residents and newcomers alike – and of all ages. There’s also a pub dog. This is a true local hero.

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Spurstowe Arms

Bars and pubs Pubs Dalston

One of the more mature pubs in the Hackney canon, the Spurstowe Arms works a sophisticated stripped-back charm, never trying too hard to impress. It’s first come first served in the beer garden.

The Sun of Camberwell

Bars and pubs Gastropubs Camberwell

A really great gastropub in Camberwell that’s often less rammed than bars closer to the green. Not because it’s any less inviting, but because it has more space and is tucked away on Coldharbour Lane. There are booths to get comfy in, stylishly mismatched tables and chairs, a lovely skylight and ample outdoor seating in the front and back. Food includes seasonal British pub fare.

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The Talbot

Bars and pubs Gastropubs De Beauvoir

A really pleasant oasis tucked away from the hectic high street on a residential road. Head to the balcony for views of leafy De Beauvoir Square.

Tommy Tucker

Bars and pubs Fulham

This bar and restaurant does sell a few good beers, but its always been very popular with wine fans. Lovely pavement seating for walk-ins only. 


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White Hart

Bars and pubs Pubs Stoke Newington

The White Hart in Stoke Newington always leave tables reserved for walk-ins.

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