20 August 2014

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The 10 best Irish pubs in London


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London’s Irish pubs offer the most autenthic Emerald Isle experience short of taking an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin’s finest. If you’re in search of a smooth pint of Guinness, a steaming bowl of Irish stew or traditional folk tunes, these pubs are well worth a punt. The welcome is warm – especially if you’re willing to join in with that famous Irish party spirit – and the blarney at the bar will likely have you coming back for more.

The Auld Shillelagh

Stoke Newington’s rowdiest pub, The Auld Shillelagh, may just offer the best Guinness in north London, given the amount of pints of the black stuff coming thick and fast from behind the bar. The pub shows all major sports fixtures including big Irish rugby games, which draw an impressive crowd. Inside, the pub is like a rural Irish inn, but in summer months the windows are flung open and punters line the Church Street pavement.

Boston Arms

For a different kind of craic, venture north to Tufnell Park, where this rough-around-the-edges pub holds boxing matches. If the tough sport isn’t your kind of thing, you can also watch Irish Gaelic football or rugby across five large screens at this north London boozer. Don’t like the idea of partying within restricted pub hours? Good; you can also continue the Irish antics at either of the pub’s two separate, late-night music rooms.  

The Corrib Rest

Kilburn’s Corrib Rest is a traditional Irish pub far away from the Emerald Isle. This north London hostelry was once the site of an Irish community centre where Irish dancing was encouraged. The dancing still continues, but it’s a little less organised now. The Corrib Rest is traditional through and through, with dark oak furniture and a green and yellow colour code, which made it a first choice for Simon Pegg and co when filming Spaced around London.

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The Cow

Part of the Tom Conran Restaurant Group (Crazy HomiesLucky 7), this Westbourne Grove pub isn’t quite the Irish party destination, but it sure does justice to Celtic cuisine. While many of the dishes served in the dining room are British or European classics, the cornerstones of the bar menu are oysters and Guinness – you can order a pint along with ½ dozen rock oysters for £14.


The famous Dublin brewing company has a base in London’s Covent Garden, and it’s just as dedicated to a good drink as its Irish counterpart. The Dublin brewery ships its craft beer straight over to the London Porterhouse where it’s drunk across a jaw-dropping 12 levels. While shamrocks and signage are notably absent, all the atmosphere hallmarks you’d expect from an Irish-run pub are present and correct.


Less Guinness, more glitter, Shebeen is a Kentish Town speakeasy with plenty of Irish character. Instead of Irish whiskies you’ll find poitin, the traditional Irish liquor made from potatoes and barley. This heady spirit forms the base of many of Shebeen’s cocktails, including a leprechaun zombie or finnegan’s wake. Another cocktail on the list is called Irish shenanigans, although there will probably already be plenty of those at this fresh take on the speakeasy bar trend.


Fleet Street’s Tipperary is an oldie, but a goodie. Although it originally opened its doors in 1605, it’s only been an Irish hostelry since around 1700. Still, that’s pretty good going in London – in fact, the pub claims to be the first to serve Guinness by the bottle outside of Ireland, an accolade it announces proudly on a plaque by its entrance. The Tipperary is now fronted by Greene King and has been restored to emulate its 18th Century Emerald Isle look.

Tir Na Nog

While some of London’s Irish pubs can be overwhelmed by tourist traffic, Tir Na Nog is a locals’ spot through and through. Found in Wandsworth’s Garrett Lane, the pub takes its name from the mythical land of eternal youth, according to Irish folklore. But don’t let that put you off – all are welcome here, even if a pool table and large beer garden do lure in the young professionals of south-west London.

The Toucan

This central London pub pays serious homage to a pint of Guinness. You’ll see the brewery’s signage plastered on the walls of this Soho dive bar, and instead of shamrocks, toucans are littered all over the place. The pub’s dark and dingy interior attracted the likes of Jimi Hendrix in its heyday. It may not be as rock ‘n’ roll now, but you’re still sure to enjoy the craic. 

Waxy O'Connor's - Waxy_O'Connor's_2008_-_Wxy10a.jpgWaxy O’Connor's

Waxy O’Connor's is a labyrinth of a pub, with plenty of areas to settle in for a session. Although the food is mainly set for the purpose of lining stomachs, you will find a few traditional Irish staples in the form of ham and colcannon, Irish stew and steak and Guinness pie. And the Rupert Street pub knows how to see in St. Paddy’s Day, holding a week-long celebration that includes whiskey tastings, drinks promotions, live music and the required St. Patrick’s Day party spirit.

Outside London…

Kitty Flynn’s, Cardiff

Live music every Friday at Kitty Flynn’s means that Cardiff may feel like a home away from home for those fish out of Irish water.

Molly Malone’s, Brighton

This relatively slick Irish pub serves stout specially brewed for punters and holds a menu full of such Celtic culinary delights as Irish stew and mussels.

Mulligans, Manchester

Mulligans claims to sell more of the black stuff than any other northern hostelry. A bold statement that may be, but with live music three nights a week, major sports screenings and its very own St. Patrick’s Day festival, it’s easy to see the attraction.

Waxy O’Connor’s, Glasgow

A Waxy’s outpost in Glasgow, the pub spreads itself across three floors. With six bars in total, you won’t have to wait long to get stuck in Irish-style.

This feature was published in March 2014.

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