A look at some of the capital’s finest drinking establishments, for whatever occasion.
My cousin George is heading into town tomorrow. Now that he’s legally old enough to drink, I can tell he’s like I was at that age – a wide-eyed teenager standing in the doorway of the candy shop of life. God that last line made me sound really old. And slightly strange.
Still, I digress. He has just sent me a link on Facebook of Time Out’s best bars in London. Now, I had a look through the list. I’m not gonna lie to you, I had only heard of three of them and none of them would be the sort of place I would frequent. They all seem “swanky”, “upmarket”, and some even bordering on “pretentious”. But they are all certainly “pricey”. I don’t know why I’m talking like “this”.
Now, as somebody with thirteen years’ experience of drinking in London, I thought I’d put together my own list to show George that we don’t need Time Out to have a good time in the big city. The word “best” has a different meaning to everyone when it comes to places to go, especially where to go for what sort of occasion. Take “the best pizza place on earth“, for example. Great for pizza, but if you wanna see some boobs you’re gonna be out of luck.
People generally tend to look for different things in pubs and bars. As a rule of thumb, my mum and stepdad like a place that does cocktails and live music, and my friend Dean likes somewhere with a quiet corner he can hide in. And we’ve all got that friend who, upon entering a pub makes a beeline for the fruit machine.
I asked George what makes a good bar. His answer, which I agreed with, was “girls, people, cleanliness, style, good staff, location and good prices”. Somewhere in there is the formula for the perfect bar.
But these are good generic qualities to look for in any bar. Bearing these in mind, I thought I’d come from a different angle and talk about the best places to go for certain specific needs.
For A Really Cool Bar…
…that pretty much ticks all of the above, Try The Pipeline.
The Pipeline is fast becoming my favourite place to hang out in London. Situated just off of Liverpool Street, this place boasts two pool tables, a dartboard, a handful of pinball machines, a fantastic jukebox, good beer, friendly staff and a live music venue in the basement. What’s not to like??
For Rocking Out…
…Try The Big Red.
I happen to know a little bit of trivia about the Big Red. It was originally supposed to be called the “Bridge”, but the sign fitter put the letters up in the wrong order. Actually, that’s not strictly true. But the Big Red is the place to go if you love your heavy metal. Kind of reminds me of the roadhouse from that film, umm… “Roadhouse”. Just with less violence. And they do FANTASTIC ribs and nachos!!
For A Really Good Beer Selection…
A charming little family-run place staffed by people who really know their beer and can recommend the perfect thing for anybody’s taste. The main feature of Quinn’s is a blackboard behind the bar detailing the extensive selection of Belgian and German beers. At one point they had well over a hundred, and although I think that number has dwindled in recent years, it’s still worth checking out.
For A Proper Irish Session…
…Try The Auld Shillelagh.
Having spent a couple of weeks in Ireland and also having been to Irish pubs all over the world, I can safely say that this pub is the closest thing you’ll get to Ireland without actually going there. “Cosy” is the word I would use here. As you can see it’s in a prime location, nestled between two off-licenses. For a proper traditional Irish session, go on a Friday evening where they will have a table set up for the musicians. Proper good craic. Here’s an example of the kind of scene you’ll normally find on a Friday.
For Watching The Game…
…Try The Famous Three Kings.
Numerous big screens showing a wide range of sporting events. There’s always something going on here. It can be a bit of a maze in here, particularly on match days. I managed to get myself lost in here once, this was even before I’d had a drink. Don’t be surprised to find two or three matches being shown at the same time. Although…
If You’re A Baggies Fan…
…Try The Albion.
Yes, who would have thought it? There is a West Bromwich Albion supporters pub in London. And on my doorstep, of all places. In an area which is traditionally torn between Arsenal and spurs fans, there is a little haven for baggies. Situated on a quaint little street which it shares with Hackney City Farm, The Albion has some really good draught cider and lots of football memorabilia on the walls for fans of all teams. But mainly West Brom.
For Cheap Booze In Central London…
…Try The LSE Student Bar.
If you want cheap drinks, but don’t fancy sitting in a Wetherspoon’s, and you don’t mind drinking in a student bar, come here. The prices are actually cheaper than a Wetherspoons on most drinks, and there’s normally some form of entetrtainment going on. There’s a basement nightclub here too. It’s worth mentioning that, as an outsider, the place may feel a little bit clicky, but at least it has some kind of atmosphere, unlike any Wetherspoons I’ve ever been in.
If You Wanna See Some Boobs…
…Try The Griffin.
The blacked out windows make this pub look a bit dodgy, but there is a reason they are blacked out, as you will find out when you enter to see a bunch of topless young ladies strutting about the place with jars. You put a pound in the jar before a private dance (It used to be 50p but it looks like the recession has hit us all hard in the pockets. Except for the dancers at the Griffin, who don’t have any pockets).