Posted by: cgratton | February 5, 2009

Pub Crawling

The best way to get fully acquainted with a London neighborhood for a 20-something college student, like myself, definitely includes checking out the local pub.  And I’m not just saying that due to my love of beer and dark wood paneling.  It’s true–London pub culture is one of the country’s pride and glories (right next to Buckingham Palace and the ol’ Queen Mum herself).  Pubs and Londoners go together like Fish n’ Chips, like William and Harry and like tea and crumpets.  Spending time in pubs introduces you to the locals–what they eat and drink, their vernacular, who’s going to win the Chelsea/Man. U game this weekend, what Gordon Brown is doing that’s got them ‘bloody mad.’

A traditional pub scene

But don’t get the wrong idea, pubs are no longer the exclusive haunt of old, drunken British men who sip stouts all day and yell obscenities at the rugby match playing on TV (well, these still do exist).  But for the past decade or so, a  new breed of trendy pubs have been cropping up everywhere in London: the gastropub.  These new hotspots have truly transformed the perceived concept of British food.  “Pub grub”–greasy, fried, unidentifiable foods that are all strangely brownish-grey and covered in gravy–is not the only option.  Now, patrons can choose from a range of food–everything from pad thai to shrimp quesidillas.  Although most of the time the food still missed the mark a little for my taste, after a few beers, bar food always has a tendency to taste a little better.

Some of my favorites in the Clerkenwell and Holborn areas include:

The Clerkenwell House: A trendy lounge atmosphere always offering great nightly specials.  It is best for happy hour, and draws in a slew of young professionals from around the financial district area. The cocktail list is long and much fancier than any pub I’d been to, equipped with a plethora of candy-colored martinis to choose from.  This is the one gastropub with great food.  I stuck to the appetizers–the vegetarian mediterranean mixed plate is only 7 pounds for a good amount of food.Inside of the Clerkenwell House

*This is also a great place for free Wi-Fi during the day.  It’s practically empty during lunchtime, and the couches provide a comfortable atmosphere to get work done on (and if you’re a college student, like me, it’s a nice departure from the library or my microscopic flat).

Cittie of Yorke: Opened in the 15th century, this landmark pub has kept true to its historic roots.  When walking in its cathedral-like entrance, you can tell its maintained its original interior decor.  With its magnificently high, wood-beamed ceilings, wrought-iron coats of arms, massive wooden casks shelved since who-knows-when towered above the bar, and original brick floors, this pub is worth a look even if you’re not a beer drinker.  But if you are, you’re in luck, as their extensive, delectable selection of Sam Smith original ales make it hard to choose just one.

The Historic Cittie of Yorke

King of Diamonds: With an extensive beer list, a cheap food menu and an upstairs, outdoor deck (that’s even heated for colder nights), this pub is popular for happy-hour.  The inside can get crowded, however, so be sure to stop by on a nice evening to be able to sit outside and enjoy a drink.

King of Diamonds

These are only a few of the many, many up-and-coming gastropubs in the Clerkenwell area.  But experimenting can only lead you to find your own favorite.  Stopping in to any place that catches your eye can never be too much of a disappointment!

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