London is the gastropub capital of the world and we’ve eaten our way through the lot and rounded up the very best. These are boozers that can compete with restaurants in the culinary stakes – they just happen to come with cracking Victorian buildings, and fires, and dogs (mostly). So whether you’re after fish and chips, or a roast, or an oxtail ragù, you’ve come to the right place. Because food tastes better with bags of atmos. Fact.
Nose-to-tail does it in the kitchen of this rollicking gastropub, where cramped surrounds, jam-packed tables (no bookings), deliberately battered furniture and dressed-down service set the tone for an artful daily menu stuffed with butchers’ offcuts, wild pickings and seasonal scoff. Big, bold flavours are a given, whether you’re in the mood for rabbit livers and kidneys on toast, suet-crusted steak pie or steamed cod with spinach and crab beurre blanc. The no-choice ‘workers’ lunch is a steal, and bookable Sunday lunches are a regular sell-out. Handy for the Young and Old Vic theatres.
Whether you’re after one of Deptford’s best Scotch eggs or a slap-up dinner for two, this reborn Victorian boozer right next to Brookmill Park is an asset worth knowing about. Fancy food, local booze and a community-minded approach (quizzes, exhibitions etc) ensure a humming local crowd, so join the throngs for some tempting seasonal grub and pub classics – anything from pot-roast partridge with roscoff onions, roast root vegetables, mustard sauce and kale to burgers, pies and battered fish. Wetting your whistle pays dividends too, with beers from excellent local breweries including Gipsy Hill, Belleville and Brockley on tap.
Fancy kicking back after a walk with the dog and the kids on Hampstead Heath? Why not make tracks for this honest-to-goodness Victorian boozer and park yourself in the laid-back rustic bar for a spot of ale-guzzling, snacking and chatter. Or you can head upstairs for serious grub with a trendy slant – think slow-cooked oxtail ragù with soft polenta, crispy onions and parmesan or Cornish hake partnered by roast cauliflower, saffron potatoes, brown crab and soft herbs. Hearty breakfasts and whopping Sunday roasts are star turns too – proof that this place isn’t too highfalutin for a good old blowout.
Pedigree counts, and with siblings including Waterloo’s Anchor & Hope and the Canton Arms in Stockwell, there’s no doubting the class of this revamped Victorian boozer. Small plates and ‘feasting’, an open kitchen, blackboards and scrubbed tables – all the trademarks are here, and they even do a good line in rustic sharing dishes (half a chopped rabbit with black cabbage, anyone?). Otherwise, we’re in ‘Britain greets the world’ territory, from romanesco fattoush or ox-heart kebab with pickles and pitta to chana masala with aubergine or chocolate terrine accompanied by blood orange cream. Don’t ignore the daily changing guest ales either.
Like its close relations the Anchor & Hope and the Camberwell Arms, this swished-up neighbourhood pub handles the booze-grub balancing act with confidence, keeping its drinkers happy with esoteric ales (Skinners Betty Stogs, say) while feeding gastro-minded locals with a daily hotchpotch of Anglo-European dishes. We’re talking devilled lamb’s kidneys on toast alongside escabèche of red mullet for starters, ahead of Lancashire hotpot or roast black bream partnered by patatas bravas. If you’re in the market for pud, try out the prune and almond tart or bag a scoop of Seville orange gelato. No bookings, but the owners run a waiting list for hopefuls.
It’s more than 20 years since Tom Conran opened The Cow, and the old girl is still mooing away happily in her urban grazing ground on Westbourne Park Road. We’ve got a soft spot for the delightfully scruffy Irish-themed saloon bar (pints of Guinness and Belgian beers with plates of oysters and other briny nibbles), although the main gastro action takes place in the upstairs dining room. Seafood is also the big player here (whole crabs, moules marinière, fish stew), although you can get chicken Kiev or bangers and mash if that’s your bag. For afters, how about spotted dick?
Custom-built for riverbank revels, this grandiose, gastro-tastic boozer between Hammersmith and Putney bridges comes complete with a gigantic beer garden and a covetable weeping willow by the water’s edge. If you’d rather be indoors, stake your boozy claim in the high-vaulted lounge bar (pints of Doom Bar and Deuchars IPA await) or head to the restaurant for sizzling BBQ classics, pies, finger-lickin’ rotisserie plates and more tricksy ideas such as seared tuna with pickled cucumber, teriyaki-glazed aubergine or Hampshire venison ragù with pappardelle. Check out the annual Boat Race Festival too.
Named after Nicholas Culpeper (the seventeenth-century herbalist who lived nearby), this sprawling venue is a real tonic for the East End crowd with its offer of four floors of fun (pub, kitchen, bedrooms, greenhouse). It also takes the ‘seasonal food, local food’ mantra to new heights with its dedicated rooftop growing patch – taste the results by ordering pan-fried gnocchi with Delicia squash, cavolo nero and sage brown butter or baked cod with lentils, charred shallots and carrots. Above all, The Culpeper is an easy mix of eating and drinking under one roof, with enough beers to satisfy the most hard-core Camra zealot.
An above-snuff Islington local well away from the Upper Street fray, this high-ceilinged green-hued gastropub delivers exactly what the locals expect – pricey but desirable wines, varied beers, neutral decor and thoughtfully seasonal Brit-accented cooking with a few global twists. On a typical day, you might be treated to ’nduja, ricotta and watercress on toast ahead of suet-crusted guinea fowl pie or skate with spinach, blood orange and capers, with carrot and almond cake for afters. Meanwhile, Sunday lunch sees some ginormous roasts called into action. There’s also a secluded garden out back for balmy days and nights.
It looks like a lot of time has been spent on the interior at this otherwise food-focused pub on Bermondsey Street. Expect vintage, up-styled, renovated and reclaimed furniture alongside plenty of curios – diners have to pass the watchful eyes of a stuffed antelope’s head to get to the toilets. There's a slight lean toward Britain on a food menu that borrows from across Europe. That means classic fish and chips and braised jacob's ladder with bubble and squeak croquettes, shallots and braising liquor alongside orecchiette, duck egg with chorizo, and a couscous salad with roast cauliflower, pine nuts and spiced yoghurt. The wine list focuses on the old world, with France especially well represented. Beers on draught include Truman's Pale Ale, Amstel, Heineken, Pilsner Urquel and a guest, with bottles including options from Anspach & Hobday, Orbit, Siren and Buxton Spa.