Cosy Pubs For A Winter Pint Near Our Barbershops
There’s a lot of places that become less appealing in the Winter - the beach, the park, anywhere outside really - however, there is one place that comes into its own in the colder months. A safe haven that welcomes you in with a warm embrace, comfy seats and a near endless supply of something to warm the cockles. Yes, you guessed it, we’re talking about the pub (again).
Few images can be more appealing than shedding layer upon layer of clobber before reclining into a well worn wingback in front of a borderline uncomfortably hot fire with your favourite tipple in hand. Bear in mind though, it has to be the right sort of boozer to fulfil this idyllic notion.
We’re not talking about cheap shots in a clinical, cavernous pre-club bar. Nor are we romanticising thoughts of sipping a meticulously crafted cocktail by a painfully hip mixologist. No, for this article we’re here for the traditional tavern, the alehouse who’s carpets can be threadbare and who’s bar stools can be frayed. Today, we are championing cosy.
Thankfully, one thing our capitals aren’t short of is a decent pub or two but, of course, they don’t all fit the brief of extreme cosiness. You could traipse around forever trying to find that perfect spot. Well, fear not for we at Ruffians have done the research for you, it was a hard job but someone had to do it.
So, without further delay, here are our favourite cosy pubs for a winter pint near to each of our barbershops.
If the East End is renowned for one thing, it’s probably the pub (AKA “rub-a-dub”, “nucleur sub”, “battle cruiser”). Alas, it comes as little surprise that there are plentiful watering holes within staggering distance of our Shoreditch outpost.
If you want to follow in the footsteps of such London art royalty as Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin or Gilbert and George then head for The Bricklayer’s Arms or The Golden Harp. However, if it’s cosy you’re after then there’s somewhere even better.
Perfectly positioned to be close enough to the action for convenience, but far enough away that you wouldn’t know it, is the unassuming The Griffin. This narrow slither of a pub often sits on the corner of two narrow streets and its low lighting and excessive wood panelling somehow manage to be welcoming rather than gloomy.
Pull up a pew on the long bar or grab a window seat to enjoy the varied and ever-changing selection of beers on tap. There’s everything here from the trusty favourites (Guinness, Camden Helles) to the niche small batch stuff (Siren, Gyspy Hill).
Soho is an area that is almost as well known for its partying as its rich history. As a result, you won’t struggle to find a good-time boozer with an eclectic past and patrons to match. However, for us, there is one legendary establishment that stands (fuzzy) head and shoulders above the rest; The French House.
First of all let’s cover the all important cosy-factor. The pub area is bloody small; a central bar with half a dozen or so stools, maybe the same again dotted about the perimeter and not a single table taking up vital floor space. The owners have then decided to minimise space further by packing the walls with all manner of erratically hung pictures, memorabilia and chalk boards. The result is as cosy as your Nan’s kitschy living room.
Next up, the history. Charles De Gaulle made The French House his workplace during World War Two. It was the drinking establishment of choice for Francis Bacon and Dylan Thomas. Legendary St. John’s founder Fergus Henderson used to run the upstairs restaurant. Need we go on?
Finally, in case you needed any further reason to pay a visit, the quirkiness. They only dish out half pints, it’s been the same for as long as anyone can remember. It’s a rule allegedly introduced by a former landlord around a hundred years ago following a vicious brawl amongst sailors where pint glasses were used as weapons. And it was all sounding so charming, ah well, it is Soho after all.
In an area where pre-theatre drinks are the order of the day you may think it more difficult to find somewhere to settle into for a few leisurely ales, rather than a glass of champers in swanky surroundings. Fear not though, for there are still some snug gems hidden in plain sight, even here in the West End.
One such establishment is The Cross Keys - a name more typical of your archetypal British pub would be hard to find - and it fits the bill perfectly.
All sorts of mismatched ornaments, pictures and beer-related memorabilia (or tat, if you prefer) line the walls and hang from the ceiling. The beer taps offer a refreshingly un-crafty, mass-produced fayre and the heavily adorned carpet looks like it has a thousand unsavoury stories to tell.
Chuck in a bag of Scampi Fries and you’ve got yourself the perfect recipe for a nostalgic daytime drinking session, and we’re here for it.
Though central enough to warrant house prices with more digits than pi, Marylebone somehow manages to keep some of that village-y vibe that Londoners harp on about almost as much as the weather.
This means all of the clichés of the modern urban hamlet can be found here - obligatory over-priced farmer’s markets, more than the odd Barbour jacket and, more importantly, decent pubs.
One such spot is the excellently named The Jackalope. Founded in 1777, this charming mews pub has been lovingly restored to its former glories in recent times. It has all of the telltale signs of a cracking traditional tavern; loads of wood, leather clad booths and a host of excellent tap and cask options.
“What could possibly make this setup any better?” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you, the ridiculously spicy Chongqing noodles flying out of the kitchen, that’s what. Best get another beer readied to cool you down.
Those north of the border would argue that London never really gets cold enough to warrant the solace of a cosy pub. In Edinburgh, however, such places are deemed a necessity rather than a mere fancy. For this very reason, the Scottish Capital does cosy very well.
One of the many places near our West End outpost in which to hunker down is The Queens Head. The unassuming entrance is at lower ground level, below the cobbles of a typically picturesque street.
Once inside the fact that it sits beneath street level makes it feel even more nest-like. Perch yourself on one of the well-worn Chesterfields, surrounded by the thousands of books that line the walls, and sample one of the local cask ales or a dram or two from their extensive range of malt whiskies. You’ll feel a world away from the hustle and bustle going on only feet above you, even more so when the Scotch kicks in.