The capital has a population of around nine million, and is made up of 32 boroughs (and the City of London). So, with a population somewhere upwards of 250k, each borough dwarfs Oxford. Sorry to pick on you Oxford, but you were recently referenced in the excellent Moon Under Water podcast (with landlord John Robins and pub regular Robin Allender) as one of the best pub cities (and I’m sure you are very good).
Of course, size and population isn’t necessarily an indicator of the number of pubs, let alone the number of great pubs.
But London has the quantity and the quality, from historical taverns to the growing number of craft beer taprooms, and from a shrinking collection of Wetherspoons to venue/theatre/pub hybrids.
Here we pick out some of our favourites in just two of the boroughs - Camden and Islington (joint population around 500k, roughly the size of Edinburgh).
The north London boroughs have a rich cultural history - and music, theatre and sport all feature here.
But so does good beer and good company.
So cheers! And do let us know your favourite.
1. Camden and Islington pubs
Pubs in north London are a hotbed of culture - and are also often the perfect places to catch the football, a great play or an up-and-coming band. (Photos Getty/André Langlois)
2. The King’s Head theatre bar, Upper Street, Islington
With a theatre out back, Upper Street’s King’s Head (not to be confused with the apostrophe-free Kings Head in nearby Essex Road) has a slightly strange rhythm.
The room experiences a rush in the half a hour before performances, often beginning at 7pm, before relaxing again.
The theatre itself is independent of the pub and in coming years the two will separate further, with the theatre moving into a bespoke space in the adjoining, rather swanky Islington Square. The pub has permission to expand with a dining room. For now, theatre-goers and pub patrons can enjoy the beautiful bar area decorated with theatre posters and photographs of stars who have graced the stage. The King’s Head has a limited food menu, screens only for the rugby and very occasional music. What it is really for is a civilised and sociable drink.
3. King William IV, Hampstead High Street, Camden
Another great north London pub whose walls are plastered with photos of famous patrons is Hampstead’s William IV. From Peter Cook to George Michael, everyone has passed through there and familiar faces are still a regular site (I once saw Mads Mikkelsen work through a couple of pints with his head buried in a script). But this isn’t a celeb members club, rather it is the beating heart of Hampstead, the last remaining pub on the high street. Residents and visitors of all ages make it the most buzzing spot north of Chalk Farm.
4. The Good Mixer, Inverness Street, Camden
It has its critics but The Good Mixer is still there - beer, pool tables, music, regulars, rock stars and wannabe rock stars.
Built in the 1950s on the bomb site of another pub, it apparently got its name from a cement mixer that was trapped in the cellar and buried during its construction. But it was in the 1990s that the pub really made its name as Britpop ground zero. Oasis’s Liam and Noel Gallagher, Blur, Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, Camden Town’s very own Suggs, Elastica, Menswear and hundreds of other indie next-big-things made it their home-from-home. And while the hype down, the pub remains a Camden classic.