5. The Dove, Hammersmith
The Dove is right on the River Thames, and its riverside terrace is one of the best places from which to watch the annual Oxford vs Cambridge boat race. Regularly frequented by Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwynn, and rumored to be where James Thompson wrote “Rule Brittania”, this Fuller pub (with associated excellent beer selection) dates from the early 18th century, and serves an excellent Sunday Roast.
4. The Viaduct Tavern, Holborn
The Viaduct Tavern is another historical tavern owned by Fullers. Opened in 1869 across from the viaduct bridge that was finished the same year, the tavern is on the site of the old Newgate prison, and although the rumors state that there are prison cells in the cellar, they’re likely just coal and storage cellars. A gin palace style pub with etched glass and brass details, this pub has a wide range of gin on offer and serves it in a copa glass with ice chipped off a huge block in the center of the bar.
3. Spaniard’s Inn
The Spaniards Inn is a lovely little bar on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Built in 1585 it is essentially a country pub in the city, with low ceilings, dark furniture, and crooked wooden beams and doorways. It is mentioned in Dicken’s “The Pickwick Papers” and Stoker’s “Dracula”, and Byron and Keats were visitors. The famed highwayman Dick Turpin also supposedly frequented the pub. Outside, the pub has a lovely garden, where Keats reportedly wrote “Ode to a Nightingale”, and these days they hold BBQs and “Pimms O’Clock” every hour. There may not be the greatest variety of beer on tap, but the atmosphere more than makes up for it, and the Sunday lunches are worth a stop in.
2. Prospect of Whitby, Wapping
The Prospect of Whitby is an old smugglers tavern, with a history dating back to 1520. Formerly known as The Pelican and the Devil’s Tavern, it was a common meeting spot for sailors and pirates. The “Hanging Judge” George Jeffreys used to drink here and there is a noose hanging on the balcony as a reminder of the hundreds he judged guilty of treason in the 1680s. the interior has old barrels and masts built into the structure and an unusual pewter-topped bar. Turner supposedly painted the view of the Thames from here, and Charles Dickens (yet again) was a frequent visitor. A Taylor-Walker pub, they serve a great range of cask ales.
1. Ye Olde Mitre, Holborn
If you can find it, there’s good reason that Ye Olde Mitre is at the top of our top 10 list. Tucked in amongst alleyways, you may have to wander Holborn for a bit to find it. The barman likes to tell the story of a local who worked in the area for six years before he found it. Originally built in 1547, the current structure dates to around 1772. The interior is broken up into three small rooms on the main floor, accessed by two different doorways from two different alleys. One of the rooms is called “Ye Closet” and has space for six people around a table. There are Tudor beams, cozy coal fires, and whisky water jugs hanging from the ceiling, although on a busy night you may end up standing outside in the alleys around barrels and kindly provided heaters. A cherry tree once grew on the corner, and is now incorporated into the bar, and was supposedly used as a maypole by Queen Elizabeth. Surprisingly, Dickens is not rumored to have been a patron of Ye Olde Mitre, but perhaps he couldn’t find it.