It’s winter, embrace it. London’s not short of cosy pubs if you know where to go. Fireplaces are basically good for drinking next to in a pub/bar in London’s a little freezing weather. Helping you out with the winter, here are the best spots in town to warm your cockles with some liquid refreshments.
There’s lots to like about the Antelope in Tooting, not least its good gastropub food. With three fires to choose from (two coal-burning options in the bar and dining room, and a wood fire in the games room) there’s every chance you’ll find a spot near the hearth – just be prepared to do battle for one of the pub’s fireside chesterfield armchairs.
Add: 22 Eaton Terrace, London SW1W 8EZ
2. The Holly Bush, Hampstead
An itsy bitsy pub with character by the barrel-load: an ornate glass back-bar, dark wood panels and pew-style seats contribute to a look which has barely changed since the 19th century. An added quirk is the chalked-up weather forecast on a blackboard, perhaps to help customers decide whether to leave the pub or not; we’d say it’s probably best to assume it’s cold and wet and stay put by the fire. It’s a Fuller’s pub, which gives you an idea of the beer list, and if you get hungry some half-decent pies are on hand.
Add: 22 Holly Mount, London NW3 6SG
3. The Old Red Lion, Kennington
Located a stone’s throw from Kennington Tube station, on bustling Kennington Park Road, The Old Red Lion has been described by one of their locals as an ‘oasis of a pub’. Once you enter their beautiful mock Tudor building, the world outside seems to fade away. It’s not just the crackling fire or the whiff of mulled wine as you walk into this Antic-owned pub that makes it a perfect winter spot. It’s also the way they’ve converted old toilets to provide tight alcoves to cosy up in and make your own. Should you need to venture out into the garden for a cigarette (or the pub’s packed) blankets are provided to keep you snug. There’s well-above-average pub food, a regularly changing ale selection and a friendly welcome to boot.
Add: 42 Kennington Park Rd, London SE11 4RS
4. Earl Spencer
This much-loved neighbourhood pub consistently manages to conjure up the kind of seriously good seasonal dishes that do justice to its stature as a grand Edwardian boozer. This inviting Southfields gastropub becomes even more enticing come winter, when its huge wood fire comes roaring to life. The pub’s rustic kitchen style is cemented by farmhouse dining tables and shelves packed with cookery books and jars of colourful pickled savouries.
Add: 260-262 Merton Rd, London SW18 5JL
5. Prince George
Once a mellow backstreet local, the George now swarms with rowdy, slumming-it art students in ridiculous outfits on Fridays and Saturdays, to the point where the landlord has even hired a bouncer.
As the pub’s popularity has risen, so have the prices; you can drink for less in Mayfair. Still, catch it on a quieter night, and this remains a great pub, a mixed coterie of longtime Dalstonians and recent arrivals shooting the breeze over pints (Pride, Seafarer, George Gale HSB) and a jukebox-led soundtrack of classic cuts and hipster-friendly obscurities.
The raffish decor (yellowing walls, stuffed animals) will be familiar to anyone who’s drunk at Stoke Newington’s Shakespeare or the Royal Inn on the Park in Victoria Park, two of the dozen-ish pubs under the same umbrella, but the George retains its own identity to the last.
Add: 40 Parkholme Rd, London E8 3AG
6. The Southampton Arms
The bulbs are bare and the floorboards worn at this Kentish Town pub. It’s sparse, it’s simple and it’s really rather splendid. The regulars are more mature than in most pubs, and some bring along their canine companions. Purchase some traditional snacks, a pint of scrumpy (this is a cider and ale house, after all) and seat yourself and your dog beside the wood-burning fire.
Add: 139 Highgate Rd, London NW5 1LE
7. William IV, Shoreditch
Big, comfy chairs and roaring flames are the staples here, but for anyone needing more persuasion you can throw in great home-cooked food, a regularly-changing ale selection, board games and newspapers. An ideal place to bed down for a day.
Add: 7 Shepherdess Walk, London N1 7QE
8. The Gun, Docklands
Part of the ETM group, The Gun is consistently voted among London’s very best gastropubs. It’s not all because of the sophisticated yet hearty dishes that the kitchen churns out, but also the atmosphere in this pub which sits next to Admiral Nelson’s one-time home. Several open fires punctuate nooks and crannies to cosy up in, and if you can brave the chill, pop out onto the terrace for impressive views over the Thames and Canary Wharf.
Add: 27 Coldharbour, London E14 9NS