London's Best Food Pubs
There aren't many things on this planet that I enjoy more than drinking good beer and eating good food with good people. That coincidentally means that there aren’t many things on this planet that I enjoy more than sitting down for a meal in a good pub. Yet, although I am a simple man with simple pleasures, I am also – as you’ll probably be aware of if you’ve read anything I’ve ever written – a very fussy git who is very particular about what he puts into his body.
So while I’ll never turn down a packet of salt and vinegar crisps and a pint of cold Amstell, I’m more interested in the pubs that serve a wider range of craft ales sourced from independent brewers; the pubs that use words like “seasonal” and “fresh produce,” and can serve you a better meal than a good many restaurants that claim to specialise in cooking food.
There’s a lot of pubs in London, though, MOB. A 2016 pub audit suggested that there were as many as 3,615 pubs knocking about the city. Out of all those pubs, I’d be willing to say that a solid 80% of them do not serve very good food. And that's okay. That doesn’t mean they’re bad and not worth visiting, all I’m saying is that it’s probably best to make sure you’ve got something lining up your stomach before you visit those haunts and that you’ve got a decent kebab shop en-route for your tipsy totter home.
Among those 3,615 are, however, some very good pubs serving some very good food. Pubs where you can arrive with an appetite and leave satisfied having eaten a substantial meal that’s a lot more exciting than a tepid scotch egg. To save you from finding out which pub curries are nothing but a medley of curry powder, coconut milk, and Bernard Matthews turkey bits the hard way, I’ve rounded up the very best food pubs in London for you to peruse at your pleasure. You're welcome.
These are the best pubs in London to have a good feed and feast yourself on great pints and plates of food. The best London food pubs where you can eat, drink, and be merry, basically. Don’t forget to drink responsibly, and eat well.
The Compton Arms
The Compton Arms is an Islington boozer where the talented Four Legs (the chef duo of Jamie Allan and Ed McIlroy) have taken up a permanent kitchen residency. Take a waltz down Compton Avenue and you can pair your pints of lager with plates of some of the freshest seasonal dishes around. The menu changes on the daily to reflect whatever produce Four Legs have got to hand, but you can always rely on what comes out the pass to be really, really fucking tasty. Allan and McIlroy are hugely talented boys and The Compton Arms is probably the best food pub in London because of them.
4 Compton Avenue, N1 2XD
The Guinea Grill
It’s hard to beat the classics, and when it comes to classic pubs that also happen to serve an excellent iteration of classic pub food? Well, let’s just say The Guinea Grill has got a first-class Classics degree from a reputable redbrick. Award-winning pies and dry-aged, grass-fed, British beef are the calling cards of The Guinea Grill with this Mayfair pub really living up to the grill in its name. Be prepared to eat well at The Guinea Grill with a pint of perfectly poured Guinness for company. Maybe leave the vegetarians at home though.
30 Bruton Place, Mayfair, W1J 6NL
The Camberwell Arms
South London is full of great pubs but The Camberwell Arms might just be its very best when it comes to serving high-quality fare to pair with your pints. Chef director, Michael Davies, has made The Camberwell Arms a gourmand’s dream with his regularly changing menus based on seasonal and quality ingredients. Everything from the charcuterie, sausage, and smoked fish to the pickles, pasta, and bread are all made in-house at The Camberwell Arms. The Sunday lunch here absolutely bangs but visit the Arms on any day of the week and you won’t be disappointed. Who could resist a pub that serves plates of oak-roasted lamb cassoulet and semolina gnocchi with cavolo nero, chanterelles and pecorino? Not me.
65 Camberwell Church Street, Camberwell, SE5 8TR
The Prince Arthur
Dalston’s The Prince Arthur is a royally good local E8 institution that’s just been given a breath of fiery fresh air in its kitchen thanks to Hot 4 U. Eddy Tejada and Matthew Scott’s pandemic project became one of the hottest properties in the London pop-up scene over lockdown and the duo have now set up camp permanently at The Prince Arthur. Expect small plates and big vibes with an ever-changing menu of options. Past dishes have included sheep’s milk dumplings with whey and pumpkin as well as BBQ beef tongue with endive. Hit up Hot 4 U for a truly memorable meal.
95 Forest Road, Hackney, E8 3BH
The Harwood Arms
As the only Michelin-starred pub in London, The Harwood Arms has got a hefty reputation to live up to. Thankfully, it’s one of those pubs that rarely disappoints. The menu is a real who’s who of British seasonal produce and changes on a daily basis. So although I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to be on offer, I can pretty much guarantee that it’s going to be cooked to perfection. Whether it’s a traditional roast sirloin of beef or a Porthilly oyster and English sparkling soup jazzed up with seaweed and oyster beignet, every dish that The Hardwood Arms serve has been pored over to the last detail. If you’re up for a west London pub lunch with a difference, this is where you should be going.
Walham Grove, Fulham, SW6 1QP
The French House
I’m going to be honest with you now and confess that I’ve been absolutely battered at The French House more times than I can count. Or remember. The French House is a legendary Soho haunt that’s seen more debauchery and potential tabloid scandals within its walls than most other pubs in the area put together. More than that, though, it’s also one of the best food pubs in London. The range of organic lagers on tap are just begging to be drunk alongside a plate of salt cod beignets and a rare rump steak served with piping hot french fries. You won’t find any frills on the menu at The French House but you will find seasonal produce that’s been allowed to shine in the hands of some talented chefs.
49 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 5BG
The Pig and Butcher
Craft beer, hand-pulled ales, and a good feed. That’s all you can really ask for from a pub and The Pig and Butcher is a pub that delivers that in spades. The meat is sourced from small farms across the country before being butchered on-site and deployed in the dishes that change at a 24-hour clip. Expect Paddock Farm Tamworth pork, Cornish pollock, Elwy Valley lamb, and Grass-fed Cumbrian Flank steak to all get a look-in. Just don’t forget to get a portion of the duck fat, triple cooked chips on the side. They’re doused in rosemary and garlic and the ideal partner for a pint of locally brewed beer.
80 Liverpool Road, Islington, N1 0QD
Marksman Public House
The Marksman is a ridiculously good pub that serves ridiculously good grub. Owned and run by chefs Tom Harris and Jon Rotheram, this Hackney road haunt has become a beacon point for seasonal British cooking delivered without any unnecessary hoo-hah. The pies are some of the best pies in London; the roast is one of the best roasts in London, and the Marksman Public House is quietly one of the best places to eat in the entire city. Come here for a lovely pint, a lovely meal, and a lovely little reminder of why it is that we all love pubs so much.
254 Hackney Road, E2 7SJ
The Bull & Last
There’ll be some out there who will tell you that fish and chips should only ever come from somewhere bu the sea and that the chips should always be soft and soggy. Those people have obviously never had the beer-battered haddock with triple-cooked chips from The Bull & Last. This beautiful pub – which is nestled a stone’s throw from Karl Marx’s tomb in Highgate cemetery – does some of the best pub grub in London. The aforementioned fish is a craggy masterpiece but even the smaller plates like the home-cured Gravalax and homemade ham hock terrine are worth taking the tube up north for. Bring an appetite and a thirst for fresh beer.
168 Highgate Road, Highgate, NW5 1QS
The Anchor & Hope
The Anchor & Hope is a real old school kind of spot; the sort of pub where you can tuck into a suet-crusted steak pie for two with a pint of real ale. That being said, it’s also the sort of pub where you can sip on a Provençal style crab broth, bobbing with aioli and Comté croutons, alongside a chilled glass of skin contact wine. It’s a pub of multitudes, basically. And it’s one of the best food pubs in London because of that versatility.
36 The Cut, South Bank, SE1 8LP
The genre-bending, Asian-inspired small plates from Satsu (the culinary project run by Jenny Phung, Reece Moore, and James Shepherd) are one of the main reasons to hit up The Gun in Homerton. The other reasons include beer from independent brewers, artisan spirits, carefully selected wines and classic cocktails. But, yeah, if you’re after one of London’s most exciting food pop-ups (and looking to get your chops around some tasty eats that don’t play by your traditional pub grub rules) then Satsu at The Gun is well worth your time and money. Plus, eating here will make you look very, very cool. And that, my friend, is never a bad thing.
35 Well Street, Homerton, E9 6RG
The Drapers Arms
The Drapers Arms in Islington is a neighbourhood pub with a garden, a private dining room, and a knack for serving up sublime food and drink. The menu unsurprisingly change daily, according to what’s in season, with both the midweek and weekend offerings boasting some mouthwatering pub classics. Think suet crust chicken and mushroom pie; onglet steak with dripping potatoes; lamb rump with peas and bacon; and a homemade tart to finish it all off. You’ll eat very well at The Drapers Arms. Very well, indeed.
44 Barnsbury Street, Islington, N1 1ER
The Old Queen’s Head
You know what goes great with a frosty pint of beer? A juicy burger. You know what goes even better with a frosty pint of beer? A juicy burger that’s been made with an aged beef patty and served with applewood smoked bacon. The burger barons at Lucky Chip are responsible for the glossy, meaty buns at The Old Queen’s Head and it’s honestly one of the best food and beverage partnerships in London. Long may it continue.
44 Essex Road, Islington, N1 8LN
The Eagle in Farringdon is a nice pub. Like, a really nice pub. It’s the kind of nice pub that uses the word “egalitarian” on its website without so much as a hint of irony and, to be honest with you, it pulls it off without a hitch. The menu at The Eagle is literally chalked up by the chef twice a day, roughly five minutes before service, and it’s that commitment to cooking with the freshest and best ingredients that’s earned them a spot on this list of the best food pubs in London. The draught beer list is just as locally focussed and the wine list has been looked after by Paul Boutinot. I simply cannot find a fault with The Eagle.
159 Farringdon Road, Farringdon, EC1R 3AL
The Red Lion & Sun
The Red Lion & Sun occupies a site on North Road that’s housed a public house of some sort since the 16th Century. Today, it’s a privately-owned pub with two beer gardens, a sizeable drinks list, a wood-burning fire, and a daily changing menu full of rustic British pub food. All the meats are supplied by the local Highgate Butchers and even the Yorkshire puddings, which are so glossy and enormous they barely fit on a regular-sized plate, are made with Clarence court eggs. Don’t forget that it really is one of the best food pubs in London, though, and make sure to book ahead to avoid missing out on a table.
25 North Road, Highgate, N6 4BE
Sun and 13 Cantons
Soho’s Sun and 13 Cantons is a boozer that’s played host to numerous successful restaurant pop-ups over the years. So much so that they’ve almost become known as something of a restaurant concept incubator. Asma Khan’s Darjeeling Express got its start in the Sun and 13 Cantons’ dining room, as did Mandy Yin’s Sambol Shiok, Budgie Montoya's Sarap, and Josh Levy’s Claw. Yes, this central London food pub has got a great pedigree and it’s always worth popping along to see who’s going to be gracing the kitchen with their presence. Speaking of: Rishim Sachdeva is taking up a six-month residency at the Sun and 13 Cantons from the 19th May with his (mostly) vegan concept, Tendril. Expect banging plant-heavy dishes like chipotle grilled oyster mushroom with smoked leek and peanut sauce or Tendril's signature ratatouille that comes served with a basil purée, ras el hanout, and herb crumb.
21 Great Pulteney Street, Soho, W1F 9NG
Great Guns Social
Getting in a load of guest chefs to cook at your pub is a great way of generating buzz to those who don’t already know who you are and ensuring that your regulars are offered a bit of change every now and then. Great Gun Socials does just that, featuring an ever-changing menu and hosting a constant string of pop-up residences and chefs. The likes of Maria Elia, John Gregory Smith, Chetna Makan, Jay Morjaria, Khalid Dhabi, and Rick Matharu have all made appearances but sometimes it’s the unknowns (the smaller chefs just starting to make a name for themselves) that bring out the best dishes. The best thing about the Great Guns Social is that it’s never the same twice.
96 Southwark Bridge Road, SE1 0EF
Pubs and pies go together like peas and carrots. For a brilliant food pub with brilliant pies, one needs to look no further than the Windmill on Mill Street. Run by the same team behind The Guinea Grill, The Windmill may be best known for its meat-packed, flaky pastry pies that thrum with flavour. But the upstairs restaurant – where you can find chef Nathan Richardson serving plates of British bangers like lamb rump with sweetbreads in a warming and unctuous tartare sauce – has been making some noise, too. You’ll find yourself well-fed whichever option takes your fancy and the charming front of house team, headed up by the safe and satin hands of Dominic Rowntree and Sujan Chowdhury, will make sure you’re looked after.
6-8 Mill Street, Mayfair, W1S 2AZ