If you’re in London on St Patrick’s Day (17 March), then you’re in for a treat as the city turns green with revellers eager to celebrate the Patron Saint of Ireland. Expect Irish dancing, traditional songs and a spectacular parade in Trafalgar Square.
But celebrating all things Irish needn’t be restricted to one day of the year in London—in this city you’re never far from an authentic Irish pub, famed for their friendly staff, hearty food and perfectly poured pints of Guinness.
The first bar to serve ‘the black stuff’ (Guinness) outside Ireland, The Tipperary in Holborn is London’s oldest Irish pub, built around 1605 with stones from a monastery which enabled it to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666. In addition to the iconic beer, you’ll find more than a dozen Irish whiskies to choose from. It’s small but quaint, the food is tasty and affordable, and the music is not too loud. 66 Fleet St, EC4Y 1HT.
Get lost inside The Porterhouse, a veritable maze of a pub in the heart of Covent Garden. Spanning 12 levels, it boasts everything a good Irish pub needs: live music, affordable Sunday roasts and a huge selection of Irish beers. The stout is handcrafted in Ireland and shipped over, so expect an authentic taste of the Emerald Isle. This is Irish pubbing at its most restrained, no shamrocks or novelty leprechauns here.
It might not look like much from the outside, but The Toucan on Soho Square is a cosy pub that manages to be both traditionally Irish and quintessentially London at the same time. Head here for a well-poured Guinness surrounded by Guinness décor with a packet of Taytos (Irish crisps). It can get very busy, particularly on a Friday night, but the outside area is usually heated so you can stay warm under the stars if there’s no room inside. Legend has it, Jimi Hendrix once performed in the basement. 19 Carlisle St, W1D 3BY.
The award for the most upmarket Irish pub must surely go to The Cow in Notting Hill, where the Guinness comes with a side of rock oysters, if you wish. This was a very popular, and cheap, combination in 19th-century Ireland, although it’s more of a luxury today. Try the beef-and-Guinness pie with spring greens and mashed potato, and if you can resist a pint of the black nectar, there’s some worthwhile wines to try. 89 Westbourne Park Rd, W2 5QH.