The best pubs in Soho
This ornate Victorian pub was built in the dying days of the 19th century. Now it’s Grade II-listed and run by Nicholson’s as a monument to mahogany and etched glass right by Oxford Street. Within, the unhurried sipping of quality ales might recall a quiet rural pub but for the turnover of tourists, all happy to have found a real London pub with an array of suitably eccentric little spaces to sit.
The people behind hit restaurants The Palomar and The Barbary now hold the lease to the 275-year-old pub. They’ve sliced and diced the space to cram in a cocktail bar up top and a tiny restaurant in what was once the beer cellar, with the ground level remaining a pub – of sorts. It’s a fairly small and grey space, but the drinks line-up is as impressive as you’s expect, with hip breweries in good stock. And don’t miss the upmarket bar snacks.
It’s another of the craft beer brand’s buzzy bar-meets-pub locations. This one is always rammed with craft beer fans tucking into a great selection from around the world. There’s something for the hesitant lager fan as well as the dedicated explorer of craft beer’s outer reaches. With its poshed-up pub grub, Brewdog is fit for far more than another post-work beerathon.
One day, there will be a review of this Soho landmark without mentioning its legendary, long-gone landlord Norman Balon – but not just yet. The grouch who presided over the Coach’s louche years, when equally legendary columnist Jeffrey Bernard and fellow wisecracking, literary sourpusses were regulars, still looms large. ‘The West End’s most famous pub’ now features ‘Norman’s Coach & Horses pub piano singalong’ twice a week.
This famous old Dutch pub was once a refuge for homesick Dutch sailors, then later became a rallying point for the Dutch Resistance during World War II. Dotted with retro beer ads and faux Dutch Masters, it now attracts punters savvy about their Benelux brews, with taps offering the likes of Franziskaner, Früli and Leffe. Bottled options from Kwak, Delirium Tremens and Chimay all come in their own logoed glasses.
During February 2012 a refurbishment took place at this pub; but we were pleased to find on revisiting it post-refurb that the charm of the place was unaltered, with the etched glass intact. A Soho landmark for generations, the Dog & Duck is known chiefly for its literary heritage – Orwell the pub’s most famed former punter – and for its ever-changing ale selection as another of the area’s Nicholson’s pubs.
An evergreen haunt for Soho barflies, the French House should have ‘La Marseillaise’ playing as you walk in. Lager is sold in halves; eau de vie comes in fruity varieties; and there’s Breton cider and Ricard behind the bar. This is no recent Gallic gimmick: this was where Charles de Gaulle ran his London base in the Vichy era, hence the photo; more recent guests (Suggs, Francis Bacon) also receive wall space.
Soho’s drinkers wax lyrical about The Lyric. They pack into the small bar or a cordoned-off section of the pavement to the side of the old Victorian pub, now an 18-tap altar to craft beer. Your standard pints of Camden Hells and Brooklyn Lager are met by brews from the likes of Magic Rock and Big Smoke. Regulars are rewarded with a free pint when they get their loyalty card stamped enough times.
The Old Coffee House is in fact an old pub, with old pub attitudes, drinks and décor – taxidermy included. The layout of the place, though, lies with its 18th-century roots, when such coffeehouses were debating chambers for rational political discussion. The debate today is carried out between two Sky Sports TV screens. Sip from a range of ales from Brodie’s, brewed up in Leyton.