Fun London Nightlife
February 21, 2012 7:52 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I will be in London in two weeks and would love your suggestions on great pubs, gastropubs, bars and other nightlife activities. We are interested in fun places with local flavour, not touristy places. Inexpensive is preferred but not mandatory.
posted by cjets to Travel & Transportation around London, England (23 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
There is a pub at Blackfriars tub station called Black Friars. They served the best meat pie I have ever had in my entire life, and I lived in Britain (land of meat pies) for 2 years. Also, awesome art deco monks.
posted by jb at 9:37 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I never would have found this pub except for the awesome London Walks tours. Tours are, of course, touristy, but these particular ones do show you hidden bits of London I certainly would never find otherwise, including one of England's oldest Catholic churches (a medieval church which was restored to the Catholic Church) and a bit of Cambridgeshire within London - the premises of the old palace of the Bishop of Ely (Ely Place), where there is also another very good pub (no food, but a "closet" you can drink in) - the Mitre.
posted by jb at 9:45 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

more about the Black Friar Pub.

I also had the most amazing Indian fushion/tapas in Soho at Imli, but that was not the cheapest place (£70 for three people, and no drinks as I recall).
posted by jb at 9:49 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go hang out in Camden Town after dark. Lots of live music.

And if you're going to do one touristy thing, let it be the Tower, it really is the dopest thing ever.
posted by devymetal at 10:52 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I mostly know pubs. Here are some my friends and I go to:

The Gunmakers (Clerkenwell)
The Betsy Trotwood (Clerkenwell)
Crown Tavern (Clerkenwell)
Jerusalem Tavern (Clerkenwell)
The Fox and Anchor (Smithfield) - bonus: ale in tankards
Seven Stars (Chancery Lane)
Southampton Arms (Kentish Town)
Jolly Butchers (Stoke Newington)
Mason and Taylor (Shoreditch)
The Bree Louise (Euston)
Euston Tap (Euston)
Cask (Pimlico)
The Royal Oak (Borough)

If you want to save money, you might want to try ordering in halves instead of pints. Usually it's less than 2 pounds per glass.
posted by toerinishuman at 10:59 PM on February 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

The Charles Lamb near Angel. Amazing food, some cool maps and a pub dog called Sasha (maybe Sacha).
posted by jujulalia at 11:22 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're in central, Mildred's is very satisfying gastro-pub food (vegetarian but sooo good I even prefer it to other meaty places- better than most other gastro-fare in Soho, before I left I ate there nearly every week). Oh and of course the oldest patisserie in London, Maison Bertaux, which is a great place to eat proper French sweets (and be sat among staff effortlessly switching between French and English and making you want to live in Paris). Although, a lot of really nice Italian places have opened up on Greek Street too, so it's going to be a tough choice. Oh, which brings me to Amorino, which does gelato that will make your toes curl. And also: drop into Paul A Youngs newly opened chocolate shop (there's also one in Angel) and try his award-winning sea-salted caramel chocolates, or if you're feeling more adventurous, his marmite ones (!) A pleasant surprise.

If you're not, Rasa in Stoke Newington (Hackney) does really amazing (and deceptively filling) south Indian food. Stokey is a really nice villagey place with lots of little independent shops and a big park so walking around the area is a bonus, and Church Street has many, many cafes and restaurants that are very good - such as the incredible and massive Sardinian pizzas at Il Baccio and just at the end the award-winning Yum Yums. Green Papaya in central Hackney might be some of the best Vietnamese food I've ever tasted. I get hungry just thinking about it.

The Dove on Broadway Market has a really great selection of ales and beers if you like that sort of thing. The food's not bad and they have chocolate fondue desserts too... mmmm.

I heartily suggest going to OhmygodImissyou, a kind of circus/carnival/burlesque night where everyone seems to put a lot of effort into their costumes - just being in there is entertaining even if you're not dressed up yourself. The next Wills-Moody Rock N' Roll Jumblesale in on the 5th March - will you be there then?

Seconding Devymetal about Camden, The Good Mixer is a lot of fun, and The Monarch do a good 90's indie night that'll blow the cobwebs away.
posted by everydayanewday at 11:41 PM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh and pretty much everything I do is cheap-to-mid-price, BTW. Ah, I miss London!
posted by everydayanewday at 11:47 PM on February 21, 2012

I enjoyed The World's End in Camden Town. It's a classic.
posted by neushoorn at 12:32 AM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Euston Tap and The Monarch. If it's good pie and a beer you're looking for, get yourself to the Newman Arms Pie Room. Caveat: not open on weekends.

If you're going to hit up Borough Market at any point, do yourself a favour and don't go on a Saturday. There's far less of a crowd on Thursdays and Fridays.
posted by 9000condiments at 1:49 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

you might want to try ordering in halves instead of pints.

And remember to order at the bar.

When I lived in London, I spent many a lovely hour at The Hollybush in Hampstead. Just a short walk from the Hampstead station on the Northern Line. On your way, grab a crêpe from the stand on the high-street. You can't miss it.

One touristy thing: the British Museum. Like all museums in London, it's free to the public.
posted by three blind mice at 2:01 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding 9000condiments - Borough Market is a Thurs/Fri thing only. If you have any interest at all in veggie burgers, The Veggie Table, in the market, has the best ones I've ever had anywhere. They are right near a stand that sells awesome iced tea, too.

Also seconding London Walks - the Saturday and Sunday "From the Repertory" walks vary from week to week, and the crowd for those is usually at least 1/2 Londoners. They either cover residential neighborhoods that tourists generally aren't interested in or take unusual angles (history of communist activism, history of particular canals, connections to Indian independence, famous slums, etc.) on central London. They are almost uniformly worth your time.
posted by Wylla at 2:41 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I bloody love pubs.

Some good suggestions, seconding especially the Mitre and the Southampton Arms, though the latter is a bit self-consciously trendy at times. The World's End in Camden Town is an overpriced tourist trap in my opinion.

I'd say give a pub quiz a go - not touristy and relatively cheap. You combine pub, entertainment and meal all in one place. A slong as you like quizzes, of course.

The Prince of Wales in Highgate has a famous and notoriously difficult one, and is also a blinding boozer which is surrounded by a load more good pubs if you get bored.
posted by ComfySofa at 3:20 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

toerinishuman: "Cask (Pimlico)"

Came in to recommend this spot, but was beaten to the punch.
posted by Grither at 3:48 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I went to Gordon's when I was in London last week. It smells like ass when you walk in before you head down the stairs since the entrance goes immediately past the lavatories, but downstairs is really cool with low stone arched ceilings and piles of casks of wine behind the bar. Wine only so no good if you're looking for a pint, but I was entertained (and the wine was excellent).
posted by olinerd at 4:08 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you find yourself in Soho, look up The Bricklayers Arms in Fitzrovia, or in fact any pub that is part of the Samuel Smiths brewery set.

They all offer fair prices, a choice of their own brews and refuse to play loud music. Also, while they get busyish at peak times, the management is very strict about noise and disruption, so you don't get as many yobs.

The rule of thumb in London is aim early - every nice pub will be full by 5.30-6.00 with the after-work crowd.

Someone above mentioned Highgate Village. Well, if you're still in the nightlife mood after last orders, head down to The Boogaloo on Archway Road for rockabilly music and hipsters galore. It's a slice of Shoreditch in N4.

(Sorry, phone = no links)
posted by dumdidumdum at 4:45 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: toerinishuman has a solid list that's worth repeating.

The Euston Tap – Great selections of international beers with substantial US microbrew (e.g. Lagunitas IPA in bottle or Old Foghorn on draft) representation.

Ye Old Mitre – Olde school pub tucked away in the City of London.

The White Horse – Ah, sloane rangers in a natural habitat. Great beer selection.

The Lowlander Grand Cafe – Upscale Belgian cafe in Covent Garden. Great people watching inside and outside.

Gordon's – Great location; gets (very) crowded after 6pm or so. Suggest arriving early.

Terrior – French wine bar/restaurant. Suggest having a bottle of hand-made red (little horse icon on the menu) in the downstairs vault.

The Arts Theatre Club – Rustic and comfortable lounge bar with music most evenings after 9. Have one of their special teapots.

Cafe Boheme – Comfortable place to sit (indoor/out) if you arrive early. Great people watching, especially on weekend nights. You could start with a table here at 4pm and not move for some time, nice drink flowing continuously.

Cocktail bars
Nightjar – Brilliant basement speakeasy near Old Street.

Experimental Cocktail Club – The door is unmarked, save a bouncer and a lass with a clipboard. Early arrival and decent dress suggested. Wonderful cocktails, and chic lounge.

Upstairs bar at Ronnie Scotts – Old-school jazz feel with luxurious surroundings and a crowd that's up for it.
posted by nickrussell at 4:47 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I say go to to Fulham or Putney -- it's super simple to get there, and they have some really fun pubs. Tourists rarely visit. I really enjoyed The Coat and Badge, especially on the weekends for football matches.

It may not hold the same sway if it's not nice and sunny, but The Crabtree has stupendous outdoor space, and is far enough off the major roads that you won't feel touristy at all.
posted by undercoverhuwaaah at 6:51 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ok, this is a bit out of scope of your question, but if you are doing some daytime sightseeing in "the City" then I'd highly recommend stopping by St. Mary-le Bow and checking out their cafe--Cafe Below--which is in the crypt. Great atmosphere and really good food, coffee and desserts and when I went a few years ago, most of the patrons seemed to be city workers rather than tourists.
posted by kaybdc at 7:32 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I forgot the most important link: Cafe Below.
posted by kaybdc at 7:54 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Meatliquor is highly rated by foodie types at the moment, though the queues are long outside office hours, and I don't know what it's like for people who've been to actual American diners. We went for an office lunch and loved it. It#s behind Debenhams on Oxford St so fairly central. There is an extensive cocktail list. I haven't linked the website as it gives the impression it's more of a hipster place than it is.

Seconding Gordon's - unique place.

Also! Beas of Bloomsbury on Theobalds Road does nice cakes. If you're around the British Museum or the Charles Dickens museum, it's not far away. Down the road is the Fryer's Delight, a very nice chippy and I'd imagine tons nicer than the tourist ones in Leicester Square.

Sam Smiths pubs are generally cheaper. The Chandos on Charing Cross Road is near a bunch of tourist attractions, but it tends to be less busy than you'd expect. (There's a nice road - Colet Court, I think? - nearby with interesting bookshops.) Not far from The National Gallery.

MrM and I love Taro - there are branches in Soho and Chinatown. Cheaper than chain noodle places like Wagamama's, quick and tasty. MrM lived in Japan for a year and rates it highly.
posted by mippy at 8:54 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks everyone! This is great stuff. I wish I had more time to spend in London to do all of it.
posted by cjets at 9:02 AM on February 22, 2012

Response by poster: By the way, I LOVE London Walks, JB, and though it is sightseeing, I have trouble calling it touristy because it is so well done.
posted by cjets at 9:07 AM on February 22, 2012

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