7 West End Pubs That Aren't HorribleNot a sticky surface or a Kardashian in sight.
The West End is densely populated with a very specific, very sticky, type of bad pub experience. Pints of lager easily approach a tenner, the Guinness is poured with less care than a McFlurry, and there are pools of unidentifiable liquid everywhere. Throw in a portion of partially defrosted onion rings and you have the quintessential quick pint-and-run West End pub experience. However, in and among these Nicholson’s hellholes, there are good pubs to drink in.
The French House has been around since 1891 and we’d wager it was still a nightmare to squeeze into then. Soho’s most-loved and lauded drinking hole is always packed to the rafters after work, and often before too. But that really is part of its character, and this is a pub that’s steeped in tradition. Only half pints are served, screens are frowned upon, and taking a bar seat when it says reserved is the act of a witless tourist. Many of The French’s regulars have been posting up for a few decades and, as long as you aren’t fussy about standing and have the street smarts to grab a nook or a cranny when you see one, you’ll get comfortable very quickly.
There’s a reason that The Cross Keys is so often the trusted pin drop on the group WhatsApp when meeting in central. The Covent Garden pub is easily walked past, or equally identified, by its foliage-covered exterior and the happy mass of people drinking outside. Step in and you’ll find a maroon-toned, carpeted, and knickknack-filled boozer of the most quintessentially British variety. After work you’ll be lucky to squeeze through to the bar but, time it well or rely on lady luck and you can pitch up for a few of the cosiest pints you can get in the West End.
Aside from pouring one of the best pints of Guinness in London, The Guinea Grill is the kind of pub that can very easily be leaned into. The Mayfair boozer is a favourite among bolshy city boys, young and old, and its dining room is also famed for hearty pies and gargantuan steaks. While getting a stool or a seat inside means you can really settle in with some chips and oysters, it’s during good weather this pub thrives. Bruton Place, the almost pedestrianised-feeling road The Guinea lives on, becomes a sprawling beer garden in the middle of Mayfair. Pints are sunk, cigarettes are smoked, and everyone stumbles home.
Look above the sign of The Coach & Horses and you’ll see the name Norman’s—a tribute to the Greek Street pub’s former antagonistic landlord. This Soho pub has long been a social club for local journos and though they (nor anyone) can no longer share barbs with a landlord who was famous for both giving and taking it, it remains one of central London’s go-to drinking holes. From around 5pm every day, it’s a scrum. Weighing up your best entrance (on Greek or Romilly) is essential but, if you’ve got an afternoon off in Soho, finding a quiet corner to have a couple of pints and while away the day is a joy.
There are lots of pubs with the same name around the West End and The Blue Posts is one of them. Although there’s the cleaner cut one of the same name on the edge of Chinatown, it’s The Blue Posts on Berwick Street that’s the one to go to. In recent years this red-carpeted boozer has become something of a home to hypebeasts given its vicinity to Palace and Supreme stores (the former launched their collaboration with Stella Artois here). But it’s still one of the OG Soho pubs of character that also draws in some of the area’s most long-standing characters. Expect geezers, three-piece suits, and pints of lager all around.
New-ish pubs usually lead more miss than hit, but The George is an excellent exception to the rule. There are no shiny metallic surfaces or confusing dining and drinking etiquettes at this spot in Fitzrovia. The Grade II-listed building has been beautifully restored—all deep browns and flashes of red carpet, as a pub should be. And you can even forgive their zanily branded pint glasses given that they pour quality beers. If you’re after an all-rounder of a West End pub—for friends, for family, for some good food perhaps—this is a good bet.
This Grade II-listed Fitzrovia pub is the crème de la crème of Sam Smith's options in central. During the day, light shines through the magnificent stained glass windows on to your pint of Taddy Lager and in terms of picturesque pub scenes, there are few that do it better. Given that it’s just off of Oxford Street, it’s surprising that a seat or a table is more often than not an option at The Champion. So if a few not totally familiar drinks and a pie suits, this is your pub.