Time Out’s critics have anonymously eaten at and reviewed scores of the finest pubs serving good food all over London. Here we pick the best of the best – and our list of gastropubs is regularly updated. Do you agree with our choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
Once there was just St John, then former St John chefs started to create their own restaurants using the same template – head-to-tail ingredients in simple but artful combinations, served up in a relaxed setting. The Anchor & Hope, which opened more than a decade ago, is still showing how it’s done.
Chef Claude Bosi opened a gastropub in Fulham in 2012 to go with his other one in Wimbledon, but he clearly hasn’t taken his eye off this flagship restaurant. There’s no à la carte (unless you really want it), so choose three, six or eight courses – and marvel, as the extraordinarily composed dishes arrive on your table with military timing.
Typical of the ETM chain, the Gun is an attractively spruced-up pub, with attentive staff and stiff prices. The focus is on making both diners and drinkers feel at home. The restaurant menu is available throughout – not just in the smartly dressed dining space – and there’s a standalone bar menu too. The handsome bar counter is lined with real ales (Adnams bitter is a regular, and there’s always a guest ale), but also offers cocktails and a global wine list.
After years of very thin pickings, the Barbican has recently acquired not one but two classy gastropubs. This, and the Chiswell Street Dining Rooms (opened in 2011) are both part of Ed and Tom Martin’s ten-strong empire. The Jugged Hare was once called the King’s Head; it’s been handsomely remodelled, with a lovely oak floor, red leather seating and more than a scattering of stuffed and mounted animals.
Note: As of October 2014, The Lady Ottoline has been taken over by the Truffle Hunting restaurant group, which also owns Newman Street Tavern, The Princess Victoria and The Henry Root. The Time Out Eating and Drinking Team This upmarket gastropub is part of the small Noble Inns stable that includes the Princess of Shoreditch and the Pig & Butcher in Islington.
The old red cow herself, if she wasn’t apocryphal, probably didn’t have a pleasant visit to this pub’s manor – Long Lane was an ancient cattle route to Smithfield meat market. You can see the cupolas, domes and reliefs of London’s temple of butchery through the front windows of this refurbed Victorian site, which no longer uses its antique ‘Ye Olde’ prefix and has turned its focus to serving very good beer.
For a place with such a good reputation for its food, the Bull & Last is refreshingly pubby: heavy wooden furniture, velvet drapes, stuffed animals and old prints decorate both the bar and the upstairs dining room. The latter is a calmer and cooler place to eat than the ground-floor bar, and allows diners to focus on dishes such as king scallop carpaccio with pink grapefruit, crème fraîche, coriander and vinaigrette or pig’s cheek with watermelon pickle, basil and sesame – both fabulous ways to start a meal.
‘Home of the Camden Town Brewery’ reads the menu. But yes, this is the heart of Hampstead – presumably Jasper Cuppaidge, the thirtysomething Australian who runs both this cheery pub and the brewery (which has moved from the pub’s basement to close-but-no-cigar Kentish Town), thought naming a beer label after one of London’s poshest neighbourhoods might alienate more drinkers than it would attract.
Neil Rankin has now joined the Princess of Shoreditch and the menu has since changed. The review below refers to the previous menu. - The Food and Drink Editors, July 2014 Up the spiral staircase from the bustling downstairs bar, the dining room at this 250-year-old corner premises is a good-looking, cosy space. A dozen linen-clothed tables – candlelit at night – are served by a small team of young, efficient staff.
‘This is the most exciting opening in the vicinity in recent times.’ You wouldn’t know it as no date is given, but the Time Out quote adorning the front page of the Norfolk Arms website celebrated its seventh birthday in 2013. From E1 to W1, London is full of bars and restaurants that have been coasting for ages on the back of a good review received years earlier. Happily, the Norfolk Arms isn’t one of them; although 2006 no longer qualifies as ‘recent times’, this smaller-than-it-looks corner pub retains its place among the best in the area.
Will Smith’s ‘Welcome to Miami’ is playing as I enter this north Hackney café. It’s no coincidence: everything at Clapton’s latest Instagram paradise is achingly stylised. From heart-shaped sugar cubes to strategically plated food, Café Miami is one big brunch-based photo-op. It’s incredibly well curated. The retro furnishings and hand-picked condiments are all guaranteed to look great on social media. There’s nothing wrong with that; but for me, substance well and truly trumps style. Alas, this place flew off on a golden-winged emoji and left behind an average menu of underwhelming toasted sandwiches. Elsewhere, a weekend ‘special’ of coconut pancakes was nothing special at all: flavourless and pedestrian. A waffle burger (heart-shaped, of course) was much more exciting, with chorizo, avocado and bright orange hot sauce, but too small for £9.50. Homemade strawberry pop-tarts completed the Americana party and, yes, they looked extremely clickable. So ask yourself: What does brunch mean to me? If it’s all aesthetics and uploading your waffles on the house wifi, then Café Miami is an ideal pastel-toned canvas. But if you like catching up with friends and eating tasty and cheap – albeit perhaps less photogenic – food, then go elsewhere. Actually, Miami #IRL is lovely this time of year.