Almost two millennia ago, the Thames-side area now called Borough was the thriving nexus of trade in Roman London, mainly thanks to its proximity to the river. The famed Borough Market continues this trading tradition today, offering all manner of ambrosial foodstuffs to the wandering traveller or foodie. Woven into the fabric of this hub of comestible commerce is a selection of historic pubs and elegant bars, and we’ve chosen 10 of the best.
For the historically inclined, there is no greater watering hole in Borough than The George Inn, which dates back to 1676. In 17th century London, The George Inn would have provided bounteous beverages to revive weather-beaten travellers arriving afresh in the Capital. Thirsty guests can choose from a range of Cask Marque Ales, including Greene King IPA, Abbot Ale, The George Ale, and a number of tantalising guest ales that vary from month to month. Whilst supping one of these fine ales, enjoy the same environs that none other than English literary giant Charles Dickens once enjoyed: The George Inn was one of his regular haunts.
Descend softly lit stairs and slide into one of Borough’s finest quaff-sanctuaries, Gordon Ramsey’s Union Street Bar. Located beneath the Union Street Café, this cosy corner of London is an excellent place to relax after a long day of work, or to engage in conversation with convivial companions. Diners from the café should sidle down to enjoy a postprandial cocktail or three, perhaps a North by Northwest, made with Ketel One Citroen vodka, St Germain, pear and lemon juices, sugar syrup, and some fresh basil, piquant and refreshing. Whilst imbibing your chosen drink, enjoy the aesthetic splendour of the specially commissioned artworks that adorn the bar’s walls, all depicting different aspects of London living.
Wine lovers should look no further than Borough’s Boot & Flogger wine bar. Hunker down in a richly upholstered chair and imbibe some fine wine whilst conversing cordially with friends. The Boot & Flogger also offers a variety of delicious dishes that one might munch on to complement the aromatic charm of the wines on offer. The fresh crabmeat is recommended, especially when coupled with a fine light white wine for maximum effect. This charming establishment can be booked for private parties and exclusive events.
Ascend 52 floors up the iconic Shard and tumble in through the doors of London’s highest bar, Gong. Enjoy the heavy Chinese flavouring of this lofty establishment, which is a part of the Shangri-La Hotel – the tallest in Western Europe. This cloud-dwelling lounge bar has been styled with an Asian modern theme, including the presence of dougong, the interlocking wooden brackets, from which Gong derives its name. Whilst gazing at the urban expanse of London, imbibe some of the finest cocktails one can procure under the concrete skies of the Capital. Lounge luxuriously and enjoy the striking London skyline, or immerse yourself in the bar’s pool.
Borough’s The Rake is a paradise for beer aficionados, with over 100 different kinds of bottled beer to choose from, sourced from all over the world. If draft beer is your thing then The Rake has seven keg pumps and three cask ale handpulls. The beers on each of these pumps are in a state of perpetual change making every trip to The Rake unique The bar stocks the produce of UTO Beer, which has a stand at Borough Market, just up the road.
For taste of the traditional, wend your way to the Royal Oak pub, nestled in the rambling heart of Borough. Bathe in the Victorian aura that is ethereally draped over the pub’s interior as you decide which of the cask asks to try. The pub is affiliated with the venerable Sussex brewery Harveys, the only one in the whole of London. Should your deliquescent pilgrimage have stirred up an appetite, then sample some of the Royal Oak’s hearty pub fare, including their robust roast. For drinkers looking for a quintessential London pub, the Royal Oak is an ideal destination.
Enjoy a fortifying glass of wine whilst being enveloped in the unadulterated mellifluence of Borough’s gig-infused pub, the Gladstone Arms. Live music takes place in the pub’s downstairs bar area, which plays host to myriad musical maestros on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday every week. If the music is too much for your world-wearied ears, retire to the serenity of the upstairs lounge where quiet conversation and delectable dining take precedent. The Gladstone Arms offers a multitude of delicious dishes, including the toothsome free range British beefsteak pie, cooked with real ale and cracked black pepper, all cocooned in fresh pastry. Budding musicians should get in contact if they wish to perform.
Sequester yourself away in Borough’s Hide Bar, where arid patrons are offered a startlingly broad choice of beverages to rehydrate their parched palates. The bar boasts a number of signature cocktails including the dangerous ‘Devil in Disguise,’ a heady melange of Vida mezcal, Weller bourbon, Perique tobacco liqueur, tamarind, egg, and tonka beans, a drink characterised as the ‘alcoholic equivalent of Elvis wearing a chocolate-covered velvet smoking jacket.’ Whilst Elvis jives his way down your oesophagus, peruse the food menu, which offers delights such as the duck with caramelised orange, beetroot pureé and pancake chips.
Steeped in history, the Lord Clyde pub in Borough, takes its name from Field Marshal Sir Colin Campbell, 1st Baron Clyde, whose venerated military career earned him the position of this warm and welcoming boozer’s namesake. Choose from a satisfyingly broad range of ales, including those from the Young’s, London Pride and Adnams breweries. The Lord Clyde also offers famished punters a range of food options to choose from, including sumptuous sandwiches, and mouth-watering mains. Recommended is the substantial hunters chicken and chips, a fillet of chicken slathered in barbeque sauce, paired with crispy bacon and oozing with melted cheese. The pub has been under the ownership of the Fitzpatrick family for 50 years, and is now run by the ebullient Martin Fitzpatrick, lending it a homely charm
Geographically contiguous with the celebrated Borough Market, Wine Wharfoffers drinkers an enormous assortment of wines, ranging from classic Cabernet Sauvignons to unconventional wines such as Albarinos. Wine Wharf run regular wine tasting sessions at which a multitude of different wines are presented, and guests are invited to compare and contrast. For wine-lovers with voracious appetites, there are four different menus to be scrutinised, including a canapés menu, a finger buffet, bowl food, and a daily menu. Pair a luscious glass of unoaked fresh white wine with the char-grilled butterfish with three tomato salsa, and a mixed leaf salad dressed in lemon vinaigrette.