A May 2005 trip
to London by pepperpot
Quote: I'd already seen all the tourist sights in London, so what was there left to do on this visit but get sozzled? I armed myself with Ted Bruning's excellent Historic Pubs of London and went off in search of a good pint—or two or three.
Attraction | "Ye Olde Mitre Tavern"
But fear not—I’m here to help. Here’s what you do: Find your way to the first block of Hatton Garden, between Holborn and Greville Street (the nearest tube stops are Farringdon and Chancery Lane). Walk along the east side of the street and keep your eyes peeled for a tiny passageway tucked among the jewelry shops. It’s only as wide as an ordinary doorway, but walk a few steps down it and you’ll emerge into a little open courtyard, where, with a giddy sense of finding hidden treasure, you’ll discover the Olde Mitre in all its obscure glory.
Make no mistake, however; the secret is definitely out on this adorable (there’s no other word for it) über-historic pub. Its location in the heart of the city inevitably makes it a favorite haunt of the suits who work nearby, and on our weekday-afternoon visit, most of the other patrons were lawyers and businessmen quietly talking shop. But no matter: we were far too taken with the place to quibble over its clientele. The moment I got my first glimpse of the exterior—the ground floor done in gleaming polished wood, with ivy spilling over the large, many-paneled windows—I was charmed.
A nearby door led into a tiny front lounge, but we chose instead to make our way along the side of the pub, down another lovely narrow passageway adorned with flowerboxes, to a separate door that led to the slightly larger back room. And… wow. But for the men in suits and electric lamps, we might have been back in the 17th century. The walls were paneled in dark wood, an ornate carpet covered the floor, and the furniture was of the solid-old-fashioned-wooden variety. I half expected to catch sight of Henry VIII off in a corner, necking with Anne Boleyn.
Stepping up to the bar, we ordered pints and their specialty snack, "toasties"—toasted cheese sandwiches with ham or tomato, only £1.50 a go. A staircase led to an upstairs room, but it was closed, so instead we took over "Ye Closet," a snug little nook off the main room. There we sipped our pints, wolfed down our toasties (which turned out to be quite good), and repeatedly remarked to each other what a very, very nice place this was. In between times, I fantasized that I was Queen Elizabeth, or possibly Nell Gwyn. The time to leave came all too soon, and I had a remarkably hard time tearing myself away. Now that I’ve been to the Olde Mitre (pronounced "MY-tur," by the way), I don’t think I could ever come to London without making a stop here—nor should you.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 5, 2005
Ye Olde Mitre
1 Ely Court
London, England EC1N 6SJ
+44 20 7405 4751
The white-painted exterior, with its Tudor windows and cheerfully overflowing flowerboxes, gave us an immediate clue as to what we’d find inside. Stepping through the door, we found ourselves in an inviting, intimate bar area. The decor was nautical without being overprecious, and in one corner, a fire burned merrily in a large fireplace. The dark wooden beams, booths, and wall panels were decorated with quotes from authors and other famous figures, most of them extolling the joys of good food, good drink, and convivial surroundings.
The place was busy but not overly crowded, even though it was a bank holiday; and mounting the stairs to the pleasant upstairs dining room, we found ourselves for a time its only patrons. I couldn’t fathom why, because the food was delicious. The regular menu featured traditional English fare and variations thereupon, and scrawled on a large blackboard was a more extensive menu of specials, with seafood an obvious specialty. We had steak-and-cheese pie, spinach-and-feta pie, and a tuna steak, all of which were thoroughly enjoyed.
Sated, we repaired to the patio, where we enjoyed a couple of pints and gazed out at the river until a chilly breeze chased us back inside. We slid into the booth nearest the fireplace and warmed ourselves over another pint, mildly excited by the thought that our own forefathers might have sat on this very spot, fortifying themselves with a final drink before setting sail for the New World. (The Puritans may have considered most forms of pleasure ungodly, but alcohol, fortunately, was not one of them.) Fellow Yanks will enjoy making the pilgrimage here, and anyone will find it a lovely place to while away a few hours in good company.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 5, 2005
117 Rotherhithe Street
London, England SE16 4NF
020 7237 4088
Old-fashioned even when it was first built, it’s done up in a florid Baroque style. Plush carpeting covers the floor. The cream-colored walls drip with gilt—that is, when they aren’t covered with enormous mirrors. Chandeliers grace the high ceilings alongside carvings of scantily clad nymphs. Okay, so it ain’t quite the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, but it’s still more splendid than a pub has any right to be.
The large room is scattered with tables and chairs and lined with fireplaces and bookshelves, giving it an agreeably cozy feeling in spite of its grandeur. A sizable balcony overhangs the bar at one end, and the staircase sweeping down from there to the main level is so perfect for making a grand entrance, you can only think it was custom-designed for the purpose. I could almost hear the awed hush, followed by an appreciative murmur, that would drift up to my ears from the dancers below as I began my regal descent.
On our visit, Hamilton Hall was filled with an eclectic and reasonably numerous patronage that seemed to encompass everything from casual passersby to devoted followers. The bartender was never short of people to wait on, but when one of my friends asked him about the selection of ales, he took the time to pour out samples of each one so my friend could make an informed decision. The beer isn’t really what this place is all about, though—it’s the atmosphere you come to drink in.
Unit 42, The Concourse
London, England EC2M 7PY
020 7247 3579
But don’t come here expecting an intimate, underground atmosphere. The place is enormous. There’s a front room that looks like your typical small local pub, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. From there, a short corridor takes you to a huge back room with another bar in the center. In one corner, a staircase leads down to a small basement-level dining area (food is served at lunch - and dinnertime). Tables and chairs are sprinkled along the walls. The ceiling is two stories high, and there’s a balcony covering part of the room, which makes a great vantage point from which to watch the activity below.
That’s where we sat when we came here, and we were having such a good time just sipping on pints, listening to the kick-ass music, and enjoying the excellent people-watching that we got through a good deal of alcohol without really noticing. But that was okay too: we descended back to ground level and, wandering drunkenly from one end of the pub to the other, found plenty to remark upon and plenty to amuse.
The World’s End isn’t just a pub, either: underneath it is a music venue called, appropriately, the Underworld. Throngs of concertgoers further swell the crowds at this agreeably chaotic haven for good old ass-kicking rock.
The World's End
174 Camden High St.
London, England NW1 0NE
0871 332 2673
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