10 Years of… top drinking in top London Pubs (part 3 – Borough)

Published on 11 October 2009 in , , , , ,

Over the last two days I’ve been talking about my favourite pubs in London, starting with those in the London’s West End, before moving on to the City of London.

Borough Market

Photo by Magnus D. Creative Commons licensed.

In the final part it’s time to cross the Thames and pop to Bankside – specifically one area of Bankside. Borough.

Borough’s perhaps best known for it’s market, but there’s plenty for the beer lover too.

There are a lot of pubs to choose from and most will head to the Market Porter which I was a big fan of for many years, but now just seems far far too busy all the time. I then went to the Wheatsheaf but that lovely little pub has closed temporarily thanks to the Thameslink rebuild programme. The owners have taken the pub elsewhere but I’ve yet to go in.

Still, there’s other pubs in the area that are more than worth a visit.

The Rake, Borough Market

The Rake claims it is the smallest pub in London, and it’s certainly puny. It’s tiny, just a small room in the ground floor of a small building behind Borough Market. It’s so small that it doesn’t even have its own gents toilets – you must use the Borough Market ones in the market car park. It does, at least, have an outdoor area which doubles the pub size.

Rake, Borough, SE1

Photo by Ewan-M. Creative Commons licensed.

The Rake is owned by the same people who run the Utobeer stall in Borough Market. Utobeer has a huge range of bottled beer from around the world, and naturally the Rake shares this beer passion – behind the tiny bar are several huge fridges just full of beer bottles. In many ways The Rake is like a tiny version of the Porterhouse.

There’s also an ever changing collection of beers on tap, including two on handpull. You’ll always find something on that you just don’t see anywhere else, and if you go in hoping to find Stella you’ll be disappointed. No fear though as the knowledgeable staff will find you something far superior!

It is on the pricey side, but for the taste of something different, it’s well worth checking out.

You’ll find the Rake at 14 Winchester Walk, London Bridge SE1 9AG. Nearest tube and National Rail is London Bridge.

Brew Wharf, Borough Market

Just over the road from Rake is the Brew Wharf. Part of the ever increasing wine-based Vinopolis empire, this place is all about the beer. Situated under the railway arches, it houses its own microbrewery and a decent sized range of bottled beers from Britain and across the world.

Brew Wharf

Photo by drewm. Creative Commons licensed.

Even better, it’s one of the few outlets where you can find most of the Meantime Brewery range, either in bottles or on tap. Whilst Meantime don’t do much in the line of cask ale, their beers are very good and probably owe more to the American craft beer movement in their flavours and styles.

The food is excellent as well, although televised sport has a habit of getting in the way in the main bar area and the prices are on the expensive side. Still it’s a good one to check out – especially as its the only remaining brewpub in Central London!

Brew Wharf is at Stoney Street, London SE1 9AD. On the tube or National Rail alight at London Bridge.

Royal Oak, Borough

A little way from the market is another pub that’s well worth a visit. It’s not huge, and it’s not tiny. It’s not got beers of the world, but it does have some mighty fine beers of Sussex.

Window of the Royal Oak, Borough SE1

The Royal Oak is owned by Harveys and usually has their full range of cask beers on tap, along with a recent addition of a Fullers beer. The latter was added as part of a reciprocal arrangement which sees Harveys Best on tap in the Lewes Arms in Lewes where Harveys is based. There’s a long story about that one but basically the pub’s former owners, Greene King, took Harveys off tap and caused a major uproar.

Anyway back to Borough, the Royal Oak is a Victorian corner pub that was given a very loving restoration some years ago. It’s a single room, with a large bar in the middle which splits it in two and a former off sales hatch on one side.

The beer is always most excellent and is one of the few London pubs where you’ll always find a mild on tap although for me, the Old Ale is always a firm favourite.

It’s a great pub to while away a few hours in. It’s warm and friendly, the beer is most excellent oh and and food is pretty top notch too. My throat is feeling parched just thinking about it.

The Royal Oak is at 44 Tabard Street, Borough, London SW1 4JU. The nearest tube station is Borough and the nearest National Rail station will be London Bridge.

Other top pubs

So that’s your lot. When you’re doing a list of “top pubs in Central London” you have to define what is Central London, and I was a bit lazy and opted to go for Travelcard Zone 1 which is what Transport for London declare is central.

I hadn’t actually worked out what the pubs would be when I defined the zone, and when I started I realised Notting Hill Gate ends up being defined as “Central” – although the station is Zone 1/2 border and it doesn’t feel central to me. So in the end I opted to define the area as out of scope. But it’s alright as the two pubs I wanted to include, I’ve already reviewed. You can find a review of the most excellent Windsor Castle in my Notting Hill Pubs post, and a review of the brilliant Churchill Arms in the follow up More Notting Hill Pubs.

Outside Zone 1, if you’re in Ealing check out the most excellent Red Lion which is a pub that I still miss five years after leaving Ealing. In Merton, The Traf and The Sultan are well worth going out of your way for. Putney has the Bricklayers Arms – only went once but been desperate to go back so many times. Ditto the Jerusalem Tavern which is back in Zone 1 in Clerkenwell which is the pub of St Peter’s Brewery. Up near Old Street, I thoroughly recommend the Wenlock Arms.

There’s plenty more great places to go, but I can’t list them all. You have to stop somewhere don’t you? But if you think I’ve missed any great places in Borough, leave a comment below and let me know!

That is also the end of this series on 10 Years in London – if you missed any, you can see what you missed


  • Alan Connor says:

    Good stuff! The Rose on Weston St is very much a proper pub, so long as “wonderful jukebox” is part of your definition of “proper pub”. The Kings Arms on Newcomen St is a nice light spot, and two alley-based pubs off Borough High Street – the Kings Head and the George – give you a Chaucer / Shakespeare vibe, if that’s what floats yours. Oh yeah, and the Glad is trying something interesting along the lines of small-scale live music and pies.

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    I’ve been to the George a few times, and whilst it’s nice to be able to sit outside, I’ve never really got on with it inside. Given it’s supposed to be an old coaching in, it sometimes feels too modern inside. Partly it’s the tables – I can’t help but feel they should have dark wood ones!
    Will have to check out the Rose, The Kings Arms and the Kings Head next time I’m in the area!