By day, I love a café. By night, I like a proper boozer. A good old-fashioned watering hole with cracking banter, a lively atmosphere and tasty beverages. The East End has a generous offering of such pubs, the perfect places to procrastinate that essay, unwind and have a giggle with the regulars. Here’s where you can find a good ‘Near and far’:
The Bow Bells, 116 Bow Road, E3 3AA
The Bow Bells stands proud, and very orange, just next to Bow Church DLR station. It’s a proper east end boozer, with cockney rhyming slang around the bar and friendly regulars. There’s a quiz every Wednesday night at 9:30pm and there are prizes for last place, second place and the winning team. In addition to ales on tap (my favourite is Hophead), there is a range of bottled craft beers and a good ol’ jukebox, making for a warm and dynamic atmosphere. Peggy Mitchell would be proud. The pizzas are also pretty good and reasonably priced. So go on, have a butcher’s, but beware of the ghost.
The Blind Beggar, 337 Whitechapel Road, E1 1BU
Most famously associated with The Kray twins, The Blind Beggar oozes history. The pub takes its name from the legend in which Henry de Montfort (son of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester) lost his peepers in the Battle of Evesham and became known as the ‘Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green.’ In the 1960s it was a popular meeting place for local gangs and in 1966, gangster Ronnie Kray shot a rival gang member whilst he was sitting at the bar. Aside from the historical interest, the beer garden is one of the best in London and the burgers are to die for. Pop in for a little shant, like a geezer.
The Grapes, 76 Narrow Street, E14 8BP
More cosy than cockney, The Grapes is over 500 years old and is owned by none other than Sir Ian McKellen. I guarantee that if you’re in the area during the winter months, ‘you shall not pass’ this little gem by. With a roaring fire and a range of traditional ales, The Grapes is a proper old-fashioned boozer, a deliciously warming haven on a cold night. The menu is slightly pricey but well-varied, offering usual pub grub such as fish and chips as well as the more upmarket calamari for the toffs. Charles Dickens was a regular and the pub pays him homage with paintings of his literary characters. Many of his novels are crammed on the bookshelves, which adds to the homeliness of the place. If it was good enough for Charlie, it’s good enough for me. Your great expectations will be exceeded.