Avoid getting trapped in the wrong watering hole with Jonny Ensall’s guide to London’s public houses.
The craft beer pub
It used to be a dingy boozer full of gambling machines and regret. Now – following a back-to-barebrick refurb – it’s the hippest place in Hackney. Already the Nightsoilman’s Arms is packed with bearded men of indeterminate age, sporting statement glasses and sleeves of tattoos. On the wall: antlers. On tap: 30 excessively potent and pricy craft ales. The pork scratchings are ‘artisan’, which means ‘expensive’.
The yummy mummy local
Half gastropub, half Wacky Warehouse, this place ends up looking like a Hieronymus Bosch painting by Sunday lunchtime. Crayons and fish-finger sandwiches are indiscriminately stuffed into toddlers’ mouths. Don’t panic, though: all art materials are nontoxic. And organic. In fact, between the paraben-free drinking straws and soya babyccinos there’s nothing to upset small stomachs. Grown-up ears, on the other hand…
First you had to call a number and pretend to be a Dutch TV salesman called Ruben. Next you needed to locate the magic platform at King’s Cross (the one that’s harder to find than 9¾). Then you had to play, and win, a game of chess against Death himself. Finally you’ve made it inside London’s hottest secret bar. It looks like your gran’s living room with the dimmer switch turned down to ‘sexy’, and the cocktails are served in jam jars. Totally worth it.
The City boys’ bar
The targets have been boshed, so now it’s all down to the Guff & Gobble to celebrate with pints of weak lager until Jonesy from Mergers passes out (classic Jonesy). What’s that? Stevens has ordered the sharing platter!? Doesn’t he know that eating’s cheating? He does now that everyone’s shouting at him about it. Oi, Jonesy, watch your pint! Oh well, that’s another one for the thick shag to soak up. Get it? ‘Thick shag’! Bants.
The only place that’s open
You swore you’d never go again. Not after last time. Yet here you are, on a dancefloor so densely packed it’s a wonder a black hole doesn’t open up in the middle of it. There’s no alternative except to drink luminous shots and sing along to that song you usually hate, while collecting clothing stains you’ll later not be able to identify. The next morning you wake up certain of one thing only: that was definitely the last time.
Illustrations by David Ziggy Greene
Take a look at our map of London’s best bars and pubs.