Soho's wide array of pubs makes the area a popular desination for those looking for a drink in central London. Track down Soho's best pubs with Time Out's guide. Think we've missed a great Soho pub? Let us know in the comments below. And don't forget to read up on the best bars in Soho.
An evergreen haunt of Soho barflies, the French House should have ‘La Marseillaise’ playing as you walk in. Beer (house lager) is sold in halves; eau de vie comes in strawberry, pear and plum varieties; the champers is Canard Duchêne and Pol Roger; and there’s Breton cider and Ricard behind the bar. The 30-strong (16 by the glass) wine list is dominated by vins français, Pouilly-Fuissé Monternot 2007, Brouilly 2009 and more affordable St Julien d’Aille de Provence included. This is no recent Gallic gimmick: frequented by Soho’s criminal and cultural underworld after the war, this was also where Charles de Gaulle ran his London base in the Vichy era, hence the photo; more recent guests (Suggs, Francis Bacon) receive more wall space.
Robert Sawyer created this ornate Victorian pub in the dying days of the 19th century, and he’d still be proud of his Grade II-listed, Nicholson’s-run monument to mahogany and etched glass by one of the West End’s busiest pedestrian intersections. Within, the unhurried sipping and supping of quality ales might recall a quiet rural pub but for the rapid turnover of the international clientele, all happy to have found a real London pub with a broad range of beers and an array of suitably eccentric little spaces in which to drink them.
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 unaltered. A Soho landmark for generations, the Dog & Duck is known chiefly for its literary heritage and for its ever-changing ale selection. Some of the beers will be familiar, the likes of Sharp’s Doom Bar, Fuller’s London Pride and St Austell Tribute, but others are more unusual: the selection might take in rare but worthwhile brews such as Black Dog from Whitby. Most of the surroundings remain authentically vintage: etched mirrors, carved mahogany and so forth.
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 and the Private Eye dining room upstairs, named after the satirical stalwart whose editorial team met here.
The Old Coffee House is in fact an old pub, with old pub attitudes, drinks and decor: the vintage etched mirror still advertises MB Foster and Truman, Hanbury & Buxton; birds stay stuffed in glass frames; and the menu still consists of pies and jacket potatoes. 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 at each end of the one-room interior.
Although it’s changed a little in recent years, brought up to date after years as an old-school holdout, the darkly handsome Crown & Two Chairmen remains a Soho crowd-pleaser. There’s real ale, plenty of lager and cider on tap, and substantial, high-end pub grub. Bar stools at the windows allow singletons to entertain themselves with central Soho street life, while a low-lit slouchy area of tattered red leather banquettes and red-beaded lampshades at the back gets the vote of courting couples.
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 Hoegaarden, Lindeboom, Franziskaner, Früli and Leffe. The bottled options fill one of the venue’s natty menus: Kwak, Delirium Tremens and Chimay all come in their own logoed glasses, although the gift-wrapped Bacchus is pretty enough without.
This Shoreditch High Street spot is the east London outpost of the Barrio chain - a group with three bars specialising in cocktails, DJ sets, live music and food of a Mexican inflection. There's a Latin slant to much of the music, with special events, DJ nights and live sets welcoming all things samba, a few Cuban beats, homages to Mexico and nights given over to the tango. They get the odd (relatively) big-name DJ in, too. Cocktails prove big sellers - especially during the popular happy hours. Expect tequila, rum and cachaca to play lead roles in Brazilian ladys, pinata palomas, hand grenade highballs and the Barrio zombie - a sharing cocktail served in a porcelain lucha libre mask. Bites to eat include tacos, quesadillas, empanadas and nachos.