Camden has a great selection of pubs, ranging from traditional boozers to dolled-up and DJ-ed gastropubs. Here's Time Out's guide to the best pubs in the Camden area.
A rock 'n' roll watering hole off the beaten Camden track, The Black Heart falls somewhere between an American biker bar and a classic British rock pub. It's a dim space decorated with Día de Muertos skulls and a big neon crucifix. A pop-up kitchen hosts different fast food chefs each month. For the thirsty there's a good range of local beers from the Camden Town Brewery and East London Brewing Company, including Camden Hells Lager.
Set a little way from the main Camden beat, this is a delightfully relaxed gastropub, a polite young professional in casual after-work clothing. The bar and the dining area fit around a half-hexagon bar counter, with the whole intimate single space imbued with the wafts of gravies and sauces from the kitchen at the back. A soundtrack of Janis, Aretha and the Velvets plays as regulars sup on Sagres, Adnams or Guinness (or bottles of Leffe, Budvar and Moretti) against a backdrop of framed butterflies and circular brass light-holders.
The Dublin Castle is one of a circuit of London venues that make up the essential proving ground for any up-and-coming band. It's dim despite the skylights and far from salubrious: upholstered couches of the 'economy train seat' ilk; mirrors dotted with fingerprints and dog-eared drinks promotions. Posters all over the walls hint at the bands who've come through here – from Madness to Blur.
Billing itself as 'the one and only true pub left in Camden', this warm (there's a fire in winter) and cheerful, dark-wood, shabbily chic place is frequently packed, due to its tirelessly enthusiastic support of largely unknown indie/alternative bands – which it puts on seven days a week – its regular club nights (eg Bloody Awful Poetry) and its late licence on Friday and Saturday (until 1am).
Located just beyond the lock next to Camden market the railway tracks and the canal, the Hawley Arms is a vast Victorian boozer that has risen from the ashes of the 2008 'Great fire of Camden' which destroyed the top two floors. Renowned regulars, such as Noel 'Mighty Boosh' Fielding and the late Amy Winehouse, helped raise funds for its return. It still scores highly on the ‘slebs scale and there’s plenty of hipster-spotting to be had. It's a Greene King pub, so there's Abbot Ale and IPA as well as Budweiser Budvar, a guest ale hand-pull, fine burbons and a dozen-strong wine list.
The bass notes pounding through the pub floor into the soles of your shoes, the spiky-haired twentysomethings, the scattering of gob-smacked students from the continent – it could only be Camden. This old local has been transformed into a DJ and music venue with room for a serious number of punters in the main bar, the large garden (accessed via a short flight of steps) and a sassy upstairs space, complete with a neon sign knowingly admitting that this is ‘a tarted-up pub’. On offer are pints of Amstel, Moretti and Guinness, bottles of Modello, Leffe and Tiger, and ten wines.
With Miles Davis on the stereo and a stream of banter from two generations of Quinns behind the bar, this Irish boozer manages to feel like a real sanctuary from the outside world. There’s a rotating selection of guest ales, and one of the longest lists of Belgian and German bottled beers you'll find in the capital (stored in a padlocked fridge beside the bar).
The Gin Palace
It's not all about gin at this Strand Palace Hotel cocktail bar, but with a name like that – and with more than 30 different types on offer – they clearly rate the stuff. There are 20 whiskies on offer too, as well as gin afternoon tea, bar bites and a solid cocktail selection. G&Ts do brisk business, with your choice of gin from the likes of Sipsmith, Tanqueray No. 10, Hoxton Gin, Hendrick's, Brockmans Premium and Whitley Neil, plus a few sourced from around the world – including Citadelle Gin from Cognac, and Aviation from Portland. Cocktails include margaritas, long island ice teas, martinis and mojitos. The bar menu features options such as teriyaki salmon and chicken satay, plus there's afternoon tea, too.