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29 pubs and bars south Londoners love

Written by
Guy Parsons

It's that time of year again where you can have your say and show your local side of London some love, for the Love London Awards. Nominations are open until the end of September 2016, so make sure you give your favourite pubs, restaurants and shops a shout out. Click here to get your nominations in now, and make sure your special place doesn't miss out. 

To inspire your vote, or your thirst, take a look at the drinking holes south-of-the-river drinking holes that took the top prizes in their areas last year. 

1) The Brown Dog, Barnes


A photo posted by Paul Proctor (@paulieproctor) on

Big windows make it bright by day, while copper globe lights and a polished red ceiling give a cosy glow at night. At the back is a sunny courtyard. ‘The friendliest pub in London,’ says Richard M – and the hospitality extends to dogs too, as the name might suggest. Or try... The Red Lion.

2) The Exhibit, Balham

The Exhibit, Balham

 A bar, restaurant, cinema, gallery, live music venue and comedy club rolled into one. A boozy bottomless brunch on the weekends is rather popular, for some reason... Or try: Balham Bowls Club.

3) Four Thieves, Battersea

Four Thieves Pub, Battersea

© Instagram

Want some fun and games with your beer and crisps? The Four Thieves has pinball, ping-pong, car racing, football and even hosts a comedy night. Or try... The Walrus Room.

4) The Woolpack, Bermondsey

Check out that ceiling! South London's answer to the Sistine Chapel, basically. But you can't have a pint in the Sistine Chapel... Or try: The Roebuck.

5) Hare & Billet, Blackheath

 Craft beer from small London breweries is present and hella correct, and in the summer, you can take your pint out onto the heath, which is A+++. Or try: Princess of Wales.

6) Shrub & Shutter, Brixton

Cocktails... and SCIENCE! A chemist would be proud of this array of apparatus, and the fellas will throw you together something fruity and boozy (and possibly on fire) to start your night off right. Pepperoni-infused margarita, anyone? Or try: Seven at Brixton.

7) London Beer Dispensary, Brockley

© London Beer Dispensary

They like talking to the customers so much, say the staff, that they got rid of the one thing in the way: the bar! The bar without a bar serves beers from their brewery, Late Knights, and killer burgers too. ‘Practical, reliable and on-trend no matter the season,’ says our reviewer. Or try: Jam Circus.

8) Camberwell Arms, Camberwell

 Alright, this gastropub is perched dubiously on the pub-restaurant divide, but it turns out food is a pleasant accompaniment to alcohol, so you may as well eat some top-drawer rustic British cooking. Or try: Stormbird.

9) Catford Constitutional Club, Catford

This charming old gentlemen’s club has become the new home of the Catford Bridge Tavern. Parquet flooring and bunting everywhere. 

10) Venn Street Records, Clapham


A photo posted by Tom Jackman (@tomjackman) on

It sounds like a vinyl shop, has a 'SEX DUNGEON' sign outside, but don't be put off by either – it is, in fact, a bar. A cocktail bar with a musical theme, to be exact, and sometimes actual live music too. Also, pizza! Or try: No 32 The Old Town.

11) Beer Rebellion, Crystal Palace


A photo posted by Sarah Horn (@sarahhorn92) on

‘Friendly staff, the occasional half-price burger and always a reliable selection of cask and keg – this is always my first choice when stumbling off the train at Gipsy Hill after a long day,’ says one Londoner on our site. Simple as, really. Or try: Westow House.

12) The Birds Nest, Deptford 


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Punk rock ain't dead at The Birds Nest! There's live music Wednesday-Sunday, plus food and (of course) glorious beer every day. [devil horns emoji] Or try: Dog & Bell.

13) The Great Exhibition, Dulwich & East Dulwich

 Home to an excellent quiz, a boozy bottomless brunch and substantial Sunday roasts. Or you can, of course, stick to drinking. Or try: East Dulwich Tavern.

14) Sylvan Post, Forest Hill

 A converted old post office with plenty of original touches – you can enjoy a beer in the safe, for example – this retro little venue is loved by the Forest Hill community. Or try: The Railway Telegraph.

15) The Vanbrugh, Greenwich


A photo posted by Dean Ryan (@de4nryan) on

Don't worry, it's not the world's wonkiest pub. Instead, explains Penelope, it's ‘quirky and cool with two spacious back rooms and an amazing garden.’ ‘The perfect family pub,’ agrees D.E. Or try: The Cutty Sark Tavern.

16) Off the Cuff Bar, Herne Hill


Lost Film Foundation at OTC Bar - Off The Cuff / Pretty Ugly Presents, by Stuart Gallagher

Posted by Lost Film Foundation on Saturday, 19 December 2015

A bit of a quirky pick, this: a members' bar in a railway arch dedicated to wine, cheese, live music, and... furniture auctions? But the unusual mix must somehow work, because it was voted most popular in Herne Hill by our readers. Or try: Prince Regent.

17) Old Red Lion, Kennington and Elephant & Castle

Old Red Lion, Kennington

‘It manages it to pull off being a great local whilst also being cosmopolitan,’ says Beth. ‘It's become a regular bastion of the Kennington community,’ agrees Andrzej. ‘Great beer selection, killer board games, decent scotch eggs,’ comments Big Nige. Okay, we're sold. Or try: The Duchy Arms.

18) Ravensbourne Arms, Lewisham

‘You feel completely welcome... and compared to some of the other pubs in this area it's a pleasant surprise!’ says Abi. Or try: The Station Hotel.

19) Royal Albert, New Cross

Says contributor Kevin J: ‘Top beer list, great atmosphere, comfortable sofas, helpful friendly staff. Brilliantly eclectic playlist.’ Sounds good. Bonus: commenter ‘Anna’, who may or may not be wholly impartial, suggests the assistant manager is 'eye candy'. Or try: Marquis of Granby.

20) The Beer Shop, Nunhead & Peckham

The Beer Shop's website labels it a ‘micro-pub’, but its colourful, light-filled, open-plan front room is probably best described as a drop-in centre for beer-lovers. A ’terrifying’ range of drinks to try – and Jenga. Or try: The Ivy House.

21) The Toy Shop, Putney


A photo posted by @lexy5493 on

This lovably silly bar is made to be Instagrammed, from technicolor furniture and neon signage to cocktail pitchers in the form of robots, house fires or castles. Leave good taste at the door and prepare to get Hefe. Or try: The Duke's Head.

22) The Mayflower, Rotherhithe and Canada Water


A photo posted by The Mayflower Pub (@mayflowerpub) on

Very nearly 400 years old and so cosy it could put you on the Glasgow Coma Scale, the Mayflower is one of London's finest riverside pubs. The deck out the back has a great view facing onto the river, although one commenter warns: ‘beware of very high tides: the passing boats' wakes can cause a splash through the floorboards!’ Or try: Ship & Whale.

23) The Cavendish Arms, South Lambeth


A photo posted by macaronnic (@macaronnic) on

‘A cultural oasis,’ says Andy Z. The inside is decked out with old Chesterfield sofas to suit the dimly-lit, drawing room vibe of the place. Little kitsch trinkets line the window sills and bar – ‘like an Aladdin's cave of retro and fun things!’ – along with books and board games. There's also a side room where they host regular live music and comedy nights. Or try: Vauxhall Griffin.

24) Crown & Anchor, Stockwell

‘A pleasant, chilled out haven for the ale enthusiast,’ says one commenter. ‘Love the Crown and Anchor, and I don’t even drink beer! Such a nice atmosphere in which to while away an evening drinking fizz,’ says another. Okay, well let's all go shall we? Or try: The Clapham North.

25) The Bull, Streatham

@thebullstreatham, Instagram

‘The place looks absolutely stunning,’ says Henrietta F, ‘with what has got to be south London's best beer garden.’ This 180 year-old pub recently had a facelift and now has a burger shack out back, too. We'll have ours with cheese and bacon. Or try: Pratts & Payne.

26) Unwined in Tooting, Tooting

Unwined in Tooting, a wine bar

© Dave Coles

A ’cracking little wine bar’ with an ‘innovative selection, enthusiastically described’, Unwined also has a constantly rotating line-up of guest chefs from London's pop-ups, with each evening's dishes paired with suitable wines by the knowledgeable owners. Sounds like an idea with legs (and berry on the nose, etc...) Or try: Antelope.

27) Grand Union, Wandsworth


A photo posted by Grand Union (@grandunionlondon) on

Shouldn't every beer garden have swings? Yes, yes they should. There are cute Thai-style huts, too, if the weather starts to turn. Or try: Brewers Inn.

28) Great North Wood, West Norwood

‘I can't believe I let superstition deny the delightful smells that had been tugging at my senses!’ exclaims Time Out commenter Max T. ‘There really is a worthy establishment on my once-bereft doorstep.’ In the summer, enjoy the sizeable patio with picnic benches and a barbecue enclosure packing some serious hardware; in the winter, cosy down amongst the artfully knackered sofas. Or try: Gipsy Hill Brewing Co. Tap Room.

29) Dog & Fox, Wimbledon 


A photo posted by Shiori Sorimachi (@shiorisori) on

This Wimbledon Village stalwart is regularly spruced up, and its airy main bar provides a taste of country life, all without having to leave a London postcode. I say! Or try: The Alexandra.

Think your local beats these? Then nominate them for a Love London Award or check out our guide to London's 100 best pubs and bars for more inspiration.

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