It’s the classic scenario. Tourists coming to London and visiting places like Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden, only to have their heart set on the idea of finding a traditional British pub for a spot of lunch and a locally brewed ale. The worst part is that because so many of the central London pubs are still housed in historic buildings, this gives visitors the illusion that a historic pub equates to a good one! So why is it that none of London’s best pubs are in the centre?
1. Continuous passing trade. This is definitely the main reason why pubs in the centre fall short of the mark. Their customers aren’t locals, they’re tourists and this means a steady influx of new faces every day of the week. Even if they haven’t enjoyed their meal or experience, they’ll be back off to Timbuktu the next day so who cares?
2. The menus are for tourists.
We all know that you won’t find ‘traditional fish and chips’ in a pub, but because this classic British dish is sought after by tourists, it means that you’ll see a great big sign in most of the central London pub windows offering battered fish, mushy peas and chips. Unfortunately, the majority of establishments are actually serving classics like these straight from the freezer to the oven, as opposed to the hand battered, deep frying methods that make them so damn tasty!
3. There are no locals. Part of what makes a pub so nice is walking into a community. Think of those village pubs where you walk in and the barmaid knows all the locals names and everyone is in high spirits hanging out with their loved ones. Now reverse that image and that’s what the atmosphere is like in a central London pub. Most of central London is devoted to retailers and office space and fewer residents means that these pubs don’t benefit from much local love. Head up to Hampstead however and you’ll find that village pub feel within seconds.
4. They’re expensive. Everyone knows that London is an expensive city anyway, but who wants to pay £6.00 for a pint of lager? And it’s not just the booze, the food menus are often the same prices if you went to a restaurant and yet the quality is much poorer. The more residential the area, the cheaper you’ll find the pub prices, so expect to pay through the nose for a round in somewhere like Oxford Circus.
So, as a rule, any area that doesn’t have a local community probably isn’t going to have a local pub with cheap beer and homemade food. If you’re set on finding a traditional British pub, you’ll need to step outside zone 1! Our favourite has to be the Spaniards Inn, in Hampstead Heath, dating back to the 16th century and eternalised in writing by Charles Dickens.