The Best Pubs For Good Food In London guide image


The Best Pubs For Good Food In London

21 pubs for when you want to eat as well as you drink.

A good pub is like a beloved best friend. They’re always there for you. You still like them even when they’re a bit smelly. And they’ll never judge you for getting completely smashed or wearing your ‘workout clothes’ for an entire weekend. That’s why we love them, even though most of them have some pretty mediocre food. But not these pubs. From an 18th-century Soho spot serving terrine, to excellent Thai food at a Paddington boozer, these are the pubs where you’re guaranteed a great meal. 


The French House

Few London pubs are as well known as The French House in Soho: this place is a classic and the food very much follows suit. While the downstairs of this drinking institution is still kept to just that, walk up the creaking 18th-century stairs and you’ll find a red-walled, yellow-lit dining room. This place is made for consumption. Specifically terrine, steak, coffee mousse and, of course, wine. You’ll be leaning over the table and stage whispering conversations before you know it.

For a pub named after a giant predatory bird, this old-school Farringdon joint is actually pretty laid-back. It’s got a dark green front, dark split leather, and a simple dining room with lots of mismatched wooden chairs—but don’t let the casual feel fool you. This place serves some truly excellent classic British dishes, and whether you come for lunch or dinner, you need to get involved in their steak sandwich. It’s basically a whole meal between bread. Be warned, this place is popular and they only take bookings for between five and 10 people.

The George is a delicious and decadent take on a pub. The downstairs bar is Fitzrovia’s usual mix of slurring suits and those trying to ignore the slurring suits, while the upstairs dining room is an OTT velvet boudoir of a dining room. The room gives off an energy that mixes the Tudors and the posh bit of the Titanic while the staff, who are friendly rather than fawning, will encourage you to eat foie gras. Indulgent? Yes. Silly? Certainly. The Sunday roasts? Very good.


The Baring has the feel of a serious restaurant that just so happens to be in a polished pub space, but come here in between service and you can sink a few jars at a clean-cut bar full of fellow Islingtonites. Really though, you should be booking a table for lunch or dinner, as the food has the potential to be excellent. The menu spans cloud-like ricotta gnudi to crispy chips with garlic mayonnaise. Well-heeled families tend to fill the room in the day, especially given their great Sunday roast, but come night the lights dim and things feel altogether more intimate.

After their storming success in the kitchen at the Compton Arms, the fellas from Four Legs have their own pub in the shape of The Plimsoll in Finsbury Park. What was once an Irish boozer that let Guinness rightfully rest and had Arsenal playing on the projector is now the kind of pub that lets Guinness rightfully rest while serving a whole lemon sole from the kitchen. The bar area is still ideal to perch in with a pint but make sure you book ahead if you want dinner in the week (there’s a limited menu on weekends) because the popularity of their famous cheeseburger hasn’t waned.

If you’re looking for a great, reasonably priced wine list from a pub then St John’s Tavern should be close to the top of your list. But if you’re looking for damn near perfect Sunday roast, then this Archway spot should be right at the top of your list. You’ll also find oysters, pickled cockles, and potted shrimp on the menu in the spacious and woody dining room at the back of the pub. They serve solid plates of food like a whole plaice with brown shrimp butter, or a suckling pork shoulder and quince sauce to share. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the croquetas if it’s on or the desserts. Both are consistently excellent.  

The Clarence Tavern is another gastropub from a lineage of excellent London gastropubs. Older siblings the Anchor & Hope and the Canton Arms are two of the most consistently excellent pubs for food—that still maintain a feeling of comforting pub-ishness. There’s no danger of seeing a mini shopping trolley full of chips here. The Clarence on Stoke Newington Church Street is somewhere that feels like it’s been making fried pumpkin, roast brill, and slow-cooked lamb shoulder with dauphinoise forever and ever. It manages to make lots of effort seem effortless, and it’s as good inside as it is outside.

Some pubs stay with you for much of your life, like a compliment your art teacher once gave you, or a particularly ratty but sentimental pair of pyjamas. The Drapers Arms is one of those. It’s an Islington stalwart, down a residential street, that’s suitable for drinking, dining, and drowning your sorrows. The food is classic, comforting stuff. Baked camembert, sardines on toast, pies, chops, and the like. It’s stuff you could make at home but often can’t be arsed and is never as good as this. Whether you’re pitching up on a stool at the bar for pints and snacks, or you’ve booked a table for 10 on a Sunday, this is a pub that will always stay in your mind.

The Compton Arms is a little boozer off Upper Street that used to be frequented by Arsenal fans and is now frequented by Arsenal fans, as well as those seeking very good food. The residencies in the kitchen are generally very enjoyable and the latest one, Tiella, is a delicious and homely selection of Italian small plates. It's just as good for hunks of bread with honey and chilli-drenched sheep's ricotta, as it is for big plates of polenta and cuttlefish. Book ahead whatever you do, especially if you want a seat in the garden.

A pub, a pint, and a great big plate of roast beef overlooking Hampstead Heath is what you need, we need, everyone probably needs. The Bull & Last is easily the best gastropub around the Heath (though if you’re just looking for a pint and a pork bap, The Southampton Arms is down the road) and its menu is hard to resist. The scotch egg is strong, the fish and chips chunky, and the setting lovely.


If someone asked us to describe the Marksman in one word, we’d say “Dickens”. This old-school Shoreditch spot has been around since the Victorian times, with a proper mahogany bar, those little scallop lampshades that went out of fashion in the ‘50s, and a more modern dining room upstairs. These days you’ll find food like Aylesbury duck, salt lemon surf clams, and some of the best savoury pies in London. Plus, their three-course Sunday menu is always a good idea. 

Once an old boozer on Well Street but now a pub-cum-house party, The Gun is a pub for every type of east London head. It’s one of the few Hackney pubs that combines a DJ and blunt fringes with excellent food. Downstairs is often heaving, but head upstairs and you can sit with a bowl of steaming crab katsu rice, homemade five-spice tofu wontons, and more modern Chinese and Vietnamese-influenced dishes. Come summer, bagging a spot on their suntrap terrace is also a move.

Spitalfields isn’t an area lacking when it comes to food or drink, but The Culpeper is one of the few places that combines both very well. This is a very modern pub, in that it’s not just a pub. It has a rooftop, an upstairs restaurant, and also rooms to stay in if you have a few too many bevvies. Food-wise, the bar is where you come after work for a few drinks, padron peppers, and snacks like croquettes. The restaurant is a little more burrata and risotto with the family or a date.

Some pubs require tactics. Bar positioning. Table grabbing. What to order and what not to order. The Duke of Richmond in Dalston is one of these. Although you can have a full slap-up meal in the dining room, we think it’s best used as a beer and burger place because it’s extremely good at both. The more casual dishes, from a béarnaise-loaded burger to a crab and chip butty, are ideal boozing snacks and can also be ordered to their outside terrace.


EastEnders superfan or not, most people know that a pub is always at the heart of the action. At the Canton Arms on the South Lambeth Road, you won’t find any balding, perma-angry brothers or pints being thrown. But you will walk into a boozer that feels a little like it’s from another era. Where old boys todder in for a glass of red and a haggis toastie, and families get together in the front bar, in the back dining room, or wherever they can fit. The food is a touch European and a touch British—think a plate of peach and stracciatella, only combined with a pint.

Anchor & Hope is not only the name of our eventual sailor rom-com, but it’s also a cosy boozer in Southwark that serves some pretty amazing Mediterranean meets British food. From the outdoor picnic tables to the smoky dim lighting, this place feels like your quintessential British pub plus three cheese and hazelnut soufflé, crab beurre blanc, and chopped octopus salad. Once you’re sufficiently full and buzzed, go for a stroll along the South Bank and reminisce over how good that baked poppyseed cheesecake was. It’s great for dinner with out-of-towners. 

Ah, The Camberwell Arms. That smell of butter in the air. That big old-school dining room. Those inevitable three pints you weren’t planning on but oh well, you were just having such a nice time. This spot in Camberwell does have excellent food from huge pork chops to banging pasta dishes, but it still very much feels like a boozer where no one’s going to judge you for getting smashed on a Tuesday. The seasonal menu changes daily but whatever they’ve got going on on their blackboard, you know you’re in safe hands. Our game plan is to start things off with a pint at the bar before going full three courses. Yes, even if it’s a Tuesday. 


This show-stopping pub on the King’s Road is glamorous on the eye but simply delightful when it comes to the food. The ham, egg, and chips could easily end up being one of the top 10 pub meals you ever eat, or a massive golden brown chicken kiev served with a shaved fennel salad that manages to feel both reserved and decadent at the same time. There’s pie, steak, and grilled fish on offer too, but whatever you do, make sure you get extra chips on the side—they’re excellent. There’s also an unmissable trifle which is a brilliant ‘80s dinner party throwback.

From the outside, The Heron looks like the sort of pub that doesn’t so much indulge in lock-ins as live by them. It’s a wide bungalow-like spot in Paddington that’s full of football, fellas, and fantastic Thai food downstairs. The restaurant space is the budget karaoke room of your birthday dreams. It’s a not-often-seen combination of pink walls, neon lights, and TVs flashing lyrics, plus food that will blow your socks off. If it sounds slightly bizarre, that’s because it is. And if it sounds brilliant, that’s also because it is.

You might think that a pub called The Cow would specialise in beef, but you’d be wrong. Plot twist: this upmarket pub and dining room near Notting Hill actually specialises in seafood. One of the go-to orders here is oysters and Guinness, but you’ll also find a £98.50 seafood platter and fresh crab tagliolini on the menu. When it comes to the space, it looks like it was designed by a super-fan of both Moulin Rouge and The Apprentice. Basically, it’s a bit luxury, a bit retro, a bit French, and a lot of bright red leather. 

If your idea of a pub involves fruit machines, sticky floors, and drunk locals that have been sat on their stool since the ‘80s, then think again. The Harwood Arms in Fulham is about as close as you can get to being an upmarket restaurant while still being a pub. It’s on a little street that feels more Cotswolds than city and once inside, you’ll find neutral walls, deer antlers, sophisticated furniture, and a posh 1920s bar that we absolutely cannot picture Peggy Mitchell standing behind. You can expect dishes like whole baked lemon sole, strawberry and lavender trifle, and plenty of things involving fresh game.

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photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

The Best Pubs For Good Food In London guide image