“If you need a simply notion of the magnitude of this metropolis,” reckoned Dr Johnson, “it’s essential to not be glad with seeing its nice streets and squares, however should survey the innumerable little lanes and courts”.
“Particularly those with nice pubs down them,” he might need added.
We have now nowhere close to as many “little lanes and courts” as Johnson might have surveyed within the 18th century. Pubs, too, are far much less quite a few. But the 2 nonetheless come collectively remarkably typically in central London. Certainly, among the metropolis’s most revered and atmospheric pubs can nonetheless be discovered down alleyways.
Right here, then, are 13 of our favourites, in alphabetical order. To qualify, the principle entrance to the pub must be off-street, down an alley or courtyard. It is not sufficient for them to have a minor facet entrance that is in an alley (although see honourable mentions). Cheers — and make mine a ginnel and tonic.
The Devereux (Strand)
20 Devereux Courtroom WC2R 3JJ
A compact pub stuffed with attorneys, the Devereux is a good-looking satan on the western fringes of Outer Temple. It reckons thus far again to 1677 and counts Isaac Newton amongst its former patrons (for those who occur to spill your cider, simply say that you simply’re recreating his apple experiment). It is located in a large, well-scrubbed alley from which you’ll be able to view the venue’s venerable vermiculation — a helpful tongue-twister to check your sobriety.
The Dove (Hammersmith)
19 Higher Mall W6 9TA
There’s a lot to suggest the Dove. It is correctly historical, has among the finest riverside views on the town, and claims that its side-room is the world’s smallest bar (verified by Guinness World Information). The pub is accessed by a really slender alley — a part of Higher Mall — through which you are not speculated to drink. Close by pubs the Rutland Arms, the Blue Anchor and the Previous Ship are additionally price a glance, and will nearly be counted as alley pubs, provided that they entrance onto the pedestrianised Thames Path.
The George Inn and Coach Home (Borough)
75-77 Borough Excessive Road SE1 1NH
As soon as upon a time, virtually each yard and alley peeling off from Borough Excessive Road contained a big inn. Their names are recalled in surviving avenue names like White Hart Yard and Talbot Yard. Most vanished with the arrival of the railways, which made teaching inns redundant, however the George has survived in its timbered glory, fairly in opposition to the percentages. It is amongst London’s most well-known pubs and options in each information guide, so we needn’t wax lyrical right here. Suffice it to say: ye olde, claims to be haunted, wonky picket inside, uncommon outdoors bathroom. Oh… and maybe extra seating area in an alley (actually a courtroom) than another venue.
For a much less apparent selection, we must always level you to the lesser-known Coach Home on the opposite facet of the courtroom. This not too long ago refurbed pub is affiliated with the George and constructed on a part of its historical footprint, however has a way more fashionable vibe (they do Sky Sports activities, for pity’s sake). The Coach Home has the uncommon distinction of nestling on three alleys: the yard of The George, the parallel White Hart Yard, and a small, fashionable communication that connects the 2. It would lack the allure of the George correct, however the Coach is alleyed as much as its proverbial eyebrows.
Jamaica Wine Home (Financial institution)
St Michael’s Alley EC3V 9DS
Lamb and Flag (Covent Backyard)
33 Rose Road WC2E 9EB
Probably the most well-known alley in Covent Backyard? Lazenby Courtroom is extraordinarily slender, requires a stoop from taller patrons and even comes with olde time weatherboard panelling. It is a proper bobby dazzler, as my outdated gran used to say. Historic, too. The Lamb and Flag’s facet alley was the spot the place poet John Dryden was mugged in 1679, as attested by two completely different plaques. You are unlikely to return a-cropper right here at the moment because the pub may be very well-known and consequently very busy (my tip, head upstairs the place you possibly can typically discover an empty desk).
Pedants may problem the Lamb and Flag’s inclusion as an alley pub. Though it has an entrance on Lazenby Courtroom, its predominant door is on Rose Road. I am bending my guidelines a bit right here as a result of Rose Road is cordoned off to autos at both finish, and is commonly used as a form of cobbled beer backyard… so I do not assume we are able to actually say it is “on a highway”.
Nell Gwynne Tavern (Covent Backyard)
1-2 Bull Inn Courtroom, WC2R 0NP
No arguments about this one being correctly on an alley. It stands close to the foot of one in all Covent Backyard’s longest and steepest passages (Bull Inn Courtroom, named after an earlier tavern on the location, which could in flip have been punning on the identify of one other royal favorite — Boleyn). Inside, the Nell is a kind of cosy, darkish picket pubs that London nonetheless does so properly. Bull Inn Courtroom is not notably properly used, which suggests individuals typically spill out into the alley. The inside is kind of small and liable to fill, particularly both facet of a present on the Adelphi, which is simply by means of the again wall of the pub.
Previous Physician Butler’s Head (Moorgate)
2 Mason’s Avenue EC2V 5BT
That is a kind of Metropolis taverns that dates again to the years instantly after the Nice Fireplace and, as such, is likely one of the oldest ingesting institutions within the Sq. Mile. The namesake Physician is a curious determine. From the pub’s personal description, he appears to have been a reckless charlatan, who made his identify promoting quack medication and pushing individuals into rivers. His ineffective potions have been generally disbursed from pubs, which might carry a dangling signal of his head. This one alone survives. It has a traditional picket inside, although maybe not as cosy as among the different outdated pubs on this record. The spacious alleyway outdoors is shared with a neighbouring department of El Vino, so you possibly can patronise each bars on the similar time.
Pink Lion (St James’s)
23 Crown Passage SW1Y 6PP
There are two Pink Lions in St James’s, each of them excellent. The one on Crown Passage is a timeless beaut, with darkish picket panelling, bar stools and that fashionable rarity, a carpet. You may drink out within the alley, however most individuals handle to search out area within the small inside (extra seating upstairs). Crown Passage is aptly named, because it connects King Road to the St James’s Palace finish of Pall Mall.
Samuel Pepys (Cannon Road)
Stew Lane EC4V 3PT
An often-overlooked Shepherd Neame pub close to Cannon Road station. Till not too long ago, it might solely be reached by following a dead-end alley (Stew Lane) down from Higher Thames Road. In 2023, the Thames Path was redirected to run previous its doorways, bringing passing commerce for the primary time. It deserves the customized, because of the excellent views from the eating room. And this nonetheless counts as an alleyway pub — the Thames Path goes by means of a passage contained in the constructing within the picture.
The Ship Tavern (Holborn)
12 Gate Road WC2A 3HP
This completely landlocked Ship finds itself on the confluence of three alleys, together with Little Turnstile (as soon as an precise turnstile to stop animals entering into Lincoln’s Inn). It reckons to return to 1549 although it is clearly been rebuilt since then. The pub’s web site claims every kind of historic associations, framing the pub as a one-time bolt gap for persecuted Catholics, but in addition a den of pirates! There’s much less jeopardy to be present in its mild picket inside at the moment.
I’ve to offer a shout out to Bar Polski, additionally on Little Turnstile, which has fuelled many a merry night. Not a pub although.
Ship and Shovell (Charing Cross)
2 Craven Passage WC2N 5NF
This pub is not simply down an alleyway, it is twice down an alleyway. For causes I’ve by no means fairly fathomed, the Ship and Shovell is cleaved in twain (like one in all Admiral Shovell’s shipwrecks), with bits of the pub both facet of the alley. You may typically hear individuals say “it is the one pub in two separate halves,” however a case may be made for the Euston Faucet, which has been recognized to commerce out of each the lodges in entrance of that station (although typically the japanese one is closed). Anyhow, the S&S is an enthralling, wood-panelled pub(s), whichever half you plump for. And if you cannot determine, then you possibly can perch non-commitally at a kind of barrels..
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (Fleet Road)
145 Fleet St EC4A 2BP
Though its murky home windows entrance onto Fleet Road, the one means you are entering into this well-known outdated pub is through Wine Workplace Courtroom, one of many many dingeworthy alleys within the space. The Cheese is an absolute treasure field inside, with quite a few archaic ingesting and eating areas over a number of flooring, and a roaring winter fireplace within the entrance room (look out for Polly the stuffed parrot). After many, many visits over many, a few years, this place by no means will get outdated (satirically).
Ye Olde Mitre (Holborn)
1 Ely Courtroom EC1N 6SJ
And eventually, the king (or bishop, a minimum of) of all of them. Ye Olde Mitre is commonly described as the toughest pub to search out in London, because of its location mid-way down a really slender and simply missed alley. Complete books may very well be written about its historical past, and its long-defunct claims to being a part of Cambridgeshire. Let’s simply say it is a gloriously charming place to drink whether or not you are contained in the cramped, cosy bar areas or having fun with the outside space, which makes glorious use of the alley.
A roundup of additional alley pubs, and ones which have necessary ones operating alongside.
Dovetail, Clerkenwell: This native stalwart’s been serving up Belgian tipples for the reason that Nineteen Nineties. It is so cosy and welcoming that you simply will not wish to be out in Jerusalem Passage, the alleyway through which it sits.
The Harp, Covent Backyard(ish): Award-winning craft ale pub that deserves to be in any record of excellent pubs, even when it would not fairly meet the standards. It has a again entrance (and tiny ingesting space) in Brydge’s Place (one in all London’s narrowest alleys). However its predominant entrance may be very a lot on a correct highway, so it would not make the principle record.
The Holly Bush, Hampstead: Beautiful outdated pub that feels prefer it’s up an alley, and one of the best ways to strategy it’s to climb the steps of the passageway known as Holly Mount. Sadly, although, the pub itself stands on a correct avenue so would not rely for our record.
The Newman Arms, Fitzrovia: One other well-known outdated pub on a well-known outdated alley (it appeared within the closing credit of Minder!), however misses out on the totally back-passage expertise by having its predominant entrance on Rathbone Road. We made it the topic of our badly-photoshopped prime picture.
The Previous Bell, Fleet Road: The primary entrance is on Fleet Road, however there is a door to an alley out again, which sits beneath the looming steeple of St Bride’s.
The Previous King’s Head: Wonderful, old school boozer off Borough Excessive Road and really near the George Inn.
The Olde Wine Shades, Cannon Road: As one of many Metropolis’s oldest ingesting dens, this one virtually made the principle record. It loses out as a result of it is extra of a wine bar, and the alley its on is a cycle route and never very alley-ish. I believe I might let it in for both of these demeanours alone, however not collectively.
The Ship, Eastcheap: One other alleyway pub known as the Ship, although not fairly as historic because the one in Holborn.
The Swan Tavern, Bishopsgate: Very near The Ship, and confusingly positioned on Ship Tavern Passage, this small Fuller’s pub has upstairs rooms above the alley
The City of Ramsgate, Wapping: The Wapping pubs deserve some form of point out, however all of them entrance onto Wapping Excessive Road. The Ramsgate has maybe one of the best declare to alleydom, provided that it is flanked by a snicket right down to Wapping Previous Stairs (and it has a side-entrance from mentioned alley).
Truckles of Pied Bull Yard, Bloomsbury: Maybe extra of a wine bar than a pub, Truckles will get the nod for being (a) spectacularly named; and (b) in an easy-to-miss enclave of retailers and bars that looks like a pocket of calm among the many sea of unsuspecting vacationers flocking to the British Museum.
The Yacht, Greenwich: A more-than-decent Greene King pub that suffers from mendacity between the higher recognized Trafalgar and Cutty Sark pubs. It is the one one of many three on an alley, although.