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London’s best gastropubs

Discover pubs in London with something special on the menu

The best sunday lunches in London, Harwood Arms
By Time Out London Food & Drink |
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May 2019: We’ve added Three Cranes in the City, the rebooted gastropub from Francophile chef Henry Harris (following on from The Coach in Clerkenwell and The Hero of Maida in W9). And in Soho, the weeny dining room Upstairs at The French House is once again turning heads thanks to the arrival of chef Neil Borthwick (ex-Merchants Tavern in Shoreditch).

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.

London’s best gastropubs

Restaurants, Contemporary European

The Garrison

icon-location-pin Bermondsey

A lot of time and money was spent renovating this food-focused pub on Bermondsey Street and it shows – take a look at the vintage, up-styled and reclaimed furniture, the green tiling and the hotchpotch of curios including a stuffed antelope’s head above the door to the toilets. Everything is shipshape in the kitchen, too, judging by an eclectic menu that promises everything from trendy little plates of mackerel rillettes with blood orange and radish to gut-busting servings of cod with buttered cabbage or hanger steak with puy lentils, bone marrow and red wine sauce. To round things off, expect something simple such as coffee crème brûlée. With breakfast, afternoon snacks, bottomless Saturday brunch and Sunday roasts also on the cards, plus pints of unfiltered lager from the Battersea Brewery on tap and the option of private screenings in the little ‘cinema room’ downstairs, The Garrison has your social life sorted.

Bars and pubs, Pubs

The Green

icon-location-pin Clerkenwell

From the folks behind The Culpeper in Aldgate, this attractively airy spot just off Clerkenwell Green deals in the kind of hearty, fad-free seasonal cooking that turns heads and dominates conversations. There are big hits all the way in the upstairs dining room, from duck hearts with black pudding, broad bean purée and mint cress or octopus with chill, fennel and radish salad to pan-fried hake with kohlrabi and shellfish cream sauce or ribeye beef Wellington with creamy wild garlic mash and heritage carrots – a thumping dish that also challenges the roasts come Sunday lunch. Snacks such as Guinness rarebit get the juices flowing, and the kitchen usually knocks up a couple of desserts, perhaps budino with rosemary biscotti or bitter chocolate and blood orange parfait. Meanwhile, locally brewed cask ales and a list of three dozen low-intervention/organic wines get tongues wagging in the jolly ground-floor bar.

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Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

The Harwood Arms

icon-location-pin West Brompton

Is it a pub? Is it a restaurant? In truth, this upmarket backstreet boozer just off Fulham Broadway is a bit of both – although with a serious global wine list, a Michelin star to its name and backers including Brett Graham (of The Ledbury), we know where its priorities lie. Prime British produce is the key, with furred and feathered game receiving special attention in season – the venison Scotch eggs are to die for if you’re snacking in the bar, although it pays to trade up to masterful dishes such as roast muntjac with celeriac, kale and pickled pear in the chunkily furnished dining room. The menu changes each day, so expect anything from crab royal with peas and lovage to sea trout on toast with mussels cooked in cider or jowl of Tamworth pork braised in pale ale. Desserts such as a marmalade ice-cream sandwich are also designed to thrill.  

Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

The Horseshoe

icon-location-pin Hampstead

The Camden Town Brewery started out as a makeshift set-up in the cellar of The Horsehoe, before moving to its current premises down the road. You can still sup the full range of eight different Camden brews here (along with guest ales), but that’s not the only attraction at this handsome hostelry on Hampstead’s Heath Street. There’s also regular live music, Saturday brunch and a choice of mighty Sunday roasts, plus some very decent pub grub of the unchallenging gastro variety – from salmon and haddock fishcakes, pies, steaks and burgers slathered with cheese to more enticing, modish ideas including goat prosciutto, cuttlefish and bacon casserole with saffron potatoes or a veggie bonanza involving charred cauliflower, green lentils, dill, capers and black cabbage. They also serve gluten-free brownies for dessert, alongside old family favourites such as lemon treacle tart or cheesecake. Oh, and they welcome dogs and Heath-walkers too.

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Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

Jugged Hare

icon-location-pin Barbican

Mounted stag’s heads and stuffed birds in glass cases, plus huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ prints everywhere – yes, this swanky Chiswell Street gastropub from Ed and Tom Martin’s ETM group really is ‘ahead of the game’ (their pun, not ours). You’d expect nothing less from a handsomely remodelled hostelry that names itself after one of Britain’s most iconic dishes, although the famous jugged hare is strictly seasonal (beginning of August to the end of February). Otherwise, there are rich pickings to be had from a menu that rambles from potted Yorkshire rabbit via savoury pies, long-aged Cumbrian steaks and rotisserie-grilled Suffolk chicken to roast cod with crushed jerusalem artichokes, sprout tops and mussel chowder. Puds are old school and veggies get short shrift, although ale slurpers and wine buffs are in for a treat – and they also serve a ‘go low’ menu of alco-free drinks.

Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

The King & Co

icon-location-pin Clapham

The guys behind this offbeat, stripped-back Clapham local do things a bit differently. To start, they hand over their kitchen to street-food outfits who take up residency and also run occasional supper clubs (Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen is ruling the roost until the beginning of June 2019, for example). On Sundays, the in-house chefs move in and rustle up an all-day menu featuring a quartet of traditional roasts (slow-cooked pork collar, 28-day beef topside etc) plus burgers and a veggie/vegan option. To start, you might find deep-fried whitebait or mac ’n’ cheese bites; to finish, there could be cinnamon and apple crumble or triple chocolate brownie. Hop-loving Clapham hipsters also have a field day here, with a dozen craft beers from London’s microbreweries and beyond – everything from Hopadelic and Giggle Mug from Horns Brewing in Tooting to Czech Pravha Pilsner and Dutch Bavo wheat beer.

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Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

Lady Ottoline

icon-location-pin Bloomsbury

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed following its latest relaunch, The Lady Ottoline has retained its original Bloomsbury vibe, green walls and elegant old-school dining room while raising its game in the food stakes. The kitchen’s focus is on seasonal produce (watch out for consignments of Cotswold kid goat given the shawarma treatment), and the menu covers everything from pub-grub classics (prawn cocktail, beer-battered haddock, steak and ale pie) to more creative ideas for curious palates – think dressed kohlrabi and fennel salad with pomegranate and soy yoghurt, hand-rolled fettuccine with sweet-and-sour radicchio and roasted artichoke or grilled Cornish hake with calçots and bagna cauda. On Sundays, it’s all about hearty roasts, while desserts tend to be old faves such as chocolate fondant or sticky toffee pudding. A line-up of craft beers, quaffable wines and more than 40 gins keep the drinkers happy.

Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

The Marksman

icon-location-pin Hackney Road

If you’re torn between boozing and eating out in style on a Saturday night (or any other time, for that matter), fear not – this revamp of Hackney Road’s cherished Marksman has all the bases covered. Pitch camp in the gently refurbished bar for tip-top bottled brews, must-try on-tap offerings and a decent slate of wines, or head upstairs to the zanily decorated dining room for some high-calibre gastropub cooking. Nibble on curried lamb buns with lime yoghurt, share a massive chicken and chanterelle pie or go upscale with a combo of artichokes, chickpeas and monk’s beard followed by hake with white beans and brown crab or Aylesbury duck with mash and pickled prunes. To follow, there are British cheeses, savouries such as Welsh rarebit and jazzed-up British puds including treacle tart with buttermilk. Weekenders crowd onto the outdoor terrace on fine days, and praiseworthy Sunday lunches are on offer too.

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Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

The Norfolk Arms

icon-location-pin Bloomsbury

A cosy Bloomsbury boozer with a tiled facade, ornate plastered ceilings and legs of jamón hanging in the window? No, you’re not imagining it – this bona fide London pub on a backstreet just off thundering Euston Road has a taste for tapas (they even have a charcuterie slicer on the counter). All the usual suspects are here in abundance (patatas bravas, octopus and chorizo skewers, padrón peppers) but there are plenty of international hits too – from houmous and rollmop herrings to spare ribs and barbecue chicken wings. You can also keep things orthodox by ordering from the daily gastropub menu – vodka-cured salmon with beetroot and celeriac rémoulade followed by homemade tagliatelle with venison ragù, for example. For afters, try the galaktoboureko (a Greek custard pie made with lemony semolina). European wines take preference over beer in the drinks department, although a cold bottle of Sagres always goes down well.

Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

The Old Red Cow

icon-location-pin Farringdon and Smithfield

With Smithfield Market on its doorstep, there are no prizes for guessing that the food at this proper City boozer has a serious red-blooded streak – although the kitchen isn’t averse to jazzing up its pork ribs, steaks and burgers with trendy additions such as harissa coleslaw. Dip into the menu and you’ll also find thin crispy pizzas, full-crust pies and even the odd superfood salad. However, if you’re really into all things artisan and carnivorous, book up for the pub’s ‘bespoke menu’ – a meat-fest featuring whole suckling pigs, kid goat, beef sirloins, haunches of wild boar and massive fruit crumbles, all designed to serve ten hungry souls. Quaffing also goes hand in hand with scoffing at this self-styled ‘local beer house’, with a vast selection of craft brews on offer – anyone for Beavertown Gamma Ray, Gipsy Hill Beatnik or Mad as Hops from the London Brewing Co?

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