Food & Drink

London’s 11 best independent pubs

Published On 12/10/2014 Published On 12/10/2014
Well & Bucket
Thrillist

​London has a lot of pubs, but all too many of them have ended up looking the same, stocking the same beers, and using the same suspiciously sticky carpet, thanks to the fact that they're almost all owned by a very small bunch of breweries/bar groups/corporate overlords. At a time when delicious craft beers are taking the country by storm, there's never been a greater need for London's independent pubs...

Canton Arms

Canton Arms

Oval
Once you get past its rough-looking exterior, this not-so-hidden gem knocks people's socks off with blindingly good food (Foie Gras Toast? Um, yes please.), a solid drink selection, and table football. With plush furniture, bare wooden floors, and an open plan layout, this is a sister to Great Queen Street in Covent Garden and The Anchor & Hope in Waterloo, only this time around, they really focused on the drinkers, which we’re totally okay with.

The Haggerston Pub

The Haggerston

Haggerston
Known for its epic Sunday night jazz sessions (which always somehow innocently turn into a 3am school night deal), it also has cheap and tasty pizza, a tiny outside garden, plus some serious craft brews like Delirium and Crystal on tap. It gets packed, but somehow the East London attitude gets checked at the door.

Pelt Trader

Pelt Trader

The City
The guys from the Holborn Whippet are on a mission to help educate those hard-working suits in the glorious world of craft beer and fresh pizza; with 16+ rotating brews on tap, they frequently have local presence from the likes of Camden Brewery, The Kernel, Redemption Brewing, and more, plus other guest beers from all around the world. They kept the furnishings to a minimum -- this is definitely a man cave -- but it gives you more attention bandwidth to focus on that wonderful beer.

The Hunter S

The Hunter S

De Beauvoir
Tucked off Balls Pond Rd, this sister joint to The Hemingway ticks all the boxes -- it's got a vast collection of brown spirits that Mr. Thompson would be proud of, classy nudes adorning the gents, and some eye-popping taxidermy to keep you company. Plus its tiny kitchen busts out some pretty high-class eats like seared beef fillet & Guinness rarebit and Beef Wellington for two.

The Eagle

The Eagle

Hoxton
Situated on the edge of cooler-than-thou Hoxton, but still spitting distance from Old Street Roundabout, The Eagle has a Cask Marque accreditation, thanks to a fantastic range of beers from the big names to the small batch brews from down the road, and seasonal specials to boot. When the weather gives us a minute, there’s a good-sized outdoors bit as well, which is perfect for their massive Sunday roasts.

Thrillist

The Holborn Whippet

Holborn
Sure, Holborn may seem a bit like no man's land, but the Whippet might change your mind -- it's rocking a 20-strong, regularly rotating collection big enough to keep you challenged, but not so much as to overwhelm you. Purely to provide ballast, they've also thrown in a surprisingly good food menu filled with everything from burgers and sandwiches to salads and pizzas, too.

Old Fountain

The Old Fountain

Barbican
This place is all business in front and a party up top, with a classic ale house room at ground level and a swank and modern roof terrace that's perfect for summer. Its menu leans heavy towards real ales, but its list is comprehensive enough to please everyone. Just slightly out of the way, it draws in some serious beer-heads, while still remaining very family friendly.

The Hops & Glory

The Hops & Glory

Islington
A classic neighbourhood boozer, but with a touch of class. They really went OTT with their craft selection, with a rotating cast of draft beers, plus a huge selection of bottles hailing from everywhere, with Mikkeller (DK), Lagunitas (US), Beaverton (UK), and many more making appearances. Plus, they’re starting up their own brewery and have an off license, so if you fall in love with something you can grab a couple bottles for the road.

Thrillist

Well & Bucket

Brick Lane
Once upon a time, there was a pub on this site, and it was classic. After a couple decades detour, it was semi-recently refurbed, bringing it back to the glory it deserved, plus they added a whole slew of beer, cider, oysters, and other must-have edibles, like their oxtail chilli cheese dog. Oh, and no big deal, but they have one of the city's best cocktail bars sitting right below them, too.

Flickr/Ewan Munro 

The Queen's Head

Piccadilly
All the more impressive for its centre-of-town location, The Queen's has managed to stay independent for a staggering 280 years, an asset it exploits to pull in a range of globe-spanning craft brews from Brooklyn to Notting Hill to Butcombe. Pairing this is a regularly changing menu, and the occasional guest chef. It's everything an independent pub should be.

The Culpeper

The Culpeper

Spitalfields
When the dudes from Forza Win went and opened a pub in East London, we thought it was going to be fantastic, and lo and behold, it was fantastic. Besides having high ceilings and a slick, old-school vibe, they’re growing a damn working farm up top, from which ingredients make an appearance in literally every single dish. It's roof-farm-to-table, East London-style, and a whole lot of booze.

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1. Canton Arms 177 South Lambeth Rd, London, SW8 1XP

Once you get past its rough-looking exterior, this not-so-hidden gem knocks people's socks off with blindingly good food, a solid drink selection, and table football.

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2. The Haggerston 438 Kingsland Rd, Dalston, London, E8 4AA

This Dalston haunt has everything you could want in a pub: cheap and tasty pizza, and outdoor area, and kick-ass jazz on Sunday nights.

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3. Pelt Trader 3 Dowgate Hill, London, EC4N 6AP (The City)

Located in The City, this central spot is a great pub for an endless list of brews and above-average pub grub.

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4. The Hunter S 194 Southgate Rd, , London, N1 3HT (Islington)

Promising to put you in a state of brilliant incomprehensibility: The Hunter S. From the team that bought you "membership-less members club" The Hemingway, it's a dark, elegant gonzo watering hole fitted with a venerable mahogany bar, high-class nudes plastering the gents, a table covered with a whole bearskin, and a herd of animal heads that will start babbling incoherently as soon as the midget hands you a silver platter of adrenochrome.

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5. The Eagle 2 Shepherdess Walk, London, N1 7LB (Shoreditch)

"Possibly the only pub you'll ever frequent that's famed for its name-check in a nursery rhyme: 'Up and down the City road, in and out The Eagle. That's the way the money goes. Pop goes the weasel...'" If this isn't enough to lure you in, at least pop in for a continental selection of lagers in their heated beer garden.

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6. The Holborn Whippet 25–29 Sicilian Ave, , London, WC1A 2QH (Holborn)

The boys behind Euston Tap are also behind The Whippet: Holborn's first independent pub, with a "less paralyzingly large" choice of brews -- 20 rotators, served from a bar wrapped around a huge slated pillar.

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7. The Old Fountain 3 Baldwin St, Hoxton, London, EC1V 9NU

This place is all business in front and a party up top, with a classic ale house room at ground level and a kind of swank and modern roof terrace that is perfect for summer. Its menu leans heavy towards real ales, but its list is comprehensive enough to please everyone. Just slightly out of the way, this family-owned pub draws in some serious beer-heads, while still remaining very family friendly.

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8. The Hops & Glory 382 Essex Rd, Islington, London, N1 3PF (Islington)

Hops & Glory Pub and Dining Room offers a slice of country pub living on Essex Street. The daily changing menu of British fare has both small plates and large plates stocked with local produce, meat from the family owned Walter Rose farm in Wiltshire, and fish fresh from the day boats of Cornwall. Entrees tend to be meat-centric and are definitely meant to keep your bones warm in the chilly British winters, like the Hops & Glory beef burger, with Welsh rarebit and beef dripping chips. While the wooden décor and amber lighting make Hops & Glory excellent for snuggling up, warmer days bring the glass double-doors wide open, with brass fans swiveling from the ceiling. Wash your plates down with the house-made pale ale.

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9. Well & Bucket 143 Bethnal Green Rd, , London, E2 7DG (Shoreditch)

Well & Bucket is an ancient Bethnal Green boozer that shut down in '89, and is now back in action, totally refurbed w/ copper bar-tops, cast-iron seats, and wooden tables recalling the industrial age that birthed it.

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10. The Queen's Head 15 Denman St, Piccadilly, London, W1D 7HN

The Queen's has managed to stay independent for more than 280 years, an asset it exploits to pull in a range of globe-spanning craft brews from Brooklyn to Notting Hill. Pairing this is a regularly changing menu, and the occasional guest chef. It's everything an independent pub should be.

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11. The Culpeper 40 Commercial St, Spitalfields, London, E1 6LP (Shoreditch)

This multistory playhouse in Shoreditch ticks all the boxes: stylish pub vibes on the ground floor, dining room with next-level fare on the first, and a seasonal roof terrace up top for catching those temperamental London rays. There’s always a good selection of beer, the rotating food menu offers delicious British fare, and the cocktail game here is better then some actual “cocktail” bars.

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