Taking a bit of inspiration from Peter Ackroyd’s documentary about London, I decided to start off this article by talking about fire. I normally refrain from using something seemingly negative to begin an article, but I realized… The thing about modern-day London is that it has an undeniable relationship with fire. As Ackroyd mentioned, London seems to get stronger every time it burns.
Strong as it is today, much of modern-day London is the way it is because of the Great Fire of 1666, which leveled 4/5 of the city. In this regard, despite London being an ancient metropolis, it is almost impossible to find places that are authentically pre-1666.
During our trip, however, we were incredibly fortunate to find one of the few pubs that were spared during the Great Fire, The Seven Stars (Holborn). Quaint, eccentric, and teeming with lawyers, this pub is officially listed as a historical institution (it dates back to 1602). Like a true London local, I decided to have a pint of beer. The Bitburger Ale I had was big, crisp, and perfect while basking in the ancient ambiance.
As I’ve said, 4/5 of London had to be rebuilt. One of the pubs we went to did just that: Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (Fleet Street). Initially built in 1538, this pub is legendary for having catered to literary greats: Oliver Goldsmith, Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens (although he did have a reputation for frequenting a TON of London pubs), W. B. Yeats, Ben Johnson… And a parrot named Polly (its death in 1926 was such a big deal, hundreds of newspapers wrote about its passing). The interiors are fascinating… We’ve had to go down three flights of stairs to get to our table. That being said, it was imperative to reward ourselves with yet another pint: A Double Four Lager. Named so because of its double fermentation, this seemingly light beer has interesting malty, herbal notes towards the end.
Indeed, the relationship between pubs and London is so strong that it couldn’t even be taken away from the proximity of the house of parliament. A hop, skip, and a jump away from Westminster Abbey is a pub appropriately named Westminster Arms. Its clients are primarily MPs (it has a “division bell” so that MPs can run back to the House and vote), but given its distance with the Abbey, it’s not unusual to see tourists there.
Starving and in dire need of a pint before church service (yup, I had a beer before going to church), we decided to slip in for bangers and an Oranjeboom.
Our last pub-crawl stop was the Thirsty Bear (Stamford Street). It wasn’t a tourist destination (far away from historical spots and not built with any historical significance), but because #bear. Guests could order from a tablet on the tables.
During the night we were there, rowdy locals were all about the rugby game going on. It was a perfect last stop… And what better way to end it than with a Pilsner Urquell. It had notes of citrus, caramel, and malt.
“Pubs are what we’re good at”, remarked a friend of ours from London. Indeed, they are superb at it, and no visit to London is complete without sampling some of their finest.
What London pubs have you visited? Cheers!