WRITTEN BY TWO BOOZE-LOVING RESIDENTS
Finding a pub in Clapham is one of the easiest tasks you can give someone – they’re everywhere. Finding a decent one isn’t hard either, for there are plenty of good’uns. The difficulty lies in heading to a space suited to your taste – there’s little better than walking in and knowing it’s for you.
Two of us used to live in the area. We’ve put our heads together to create a shortlist to rival the best of them.
Have a butcher’s and enjoy.
Old Town Tavern
OUR PICK OF THE BUNCH
Old Town Tavern is exactly the sort of decor I want my local to have. It’s an old-school tavern given a new lease of life. Be it via the statement bar, panelling or reclaimed tables, this is a place where wood reigns. There’s exposed brickwork and tiled walls. It has a historical feel without feeling forced. All in all, it’s a great place to settle in for a bit of poison.
Whilst I love the decor – think old English meets Wild West saloon – it’s a little misleading but in the best possible way. I didn’t expect them to have such a wide beer selection: we’re talking over 20 on tap that includes local brews and unique brand collabs. I’m a big Guinness lover and they served a great pint of the stuff: smooth, creamy and cold – the golden Guinni trifecta.
Old Town Tavern is full of surprises but none more so than its food offering: Mexican cuisine by authentic Mexican chefs. I’ve had nachos, chilli con carne and quesadillas – and I’ve been blown away by both the quality and flavour, particularly given its pub food. I guess it isn’t really pub grub; it’s what you’d expect from a trendy London restaurant. My favourite dish is their hot wings with Frank’s Hot Sauce. Not for the faint of heart but so damn delicious.
Friendly faces, incredible food and a place I wish was my local, Old Town Tavern is one of my favourite pubs in Clapham.
The Pig’s Head
GASTROPUB WITH A CONSCIENCE
CLAPHAM OLD TOWN
A pub with a conscience sounds like an oxymoron, but that’s where The Pig’s Head will fervently disagree. Why can’t a pub be carbon neutral? In fact, why can’t a gastropub aim to be carbon negative? By using 100% sustainable electricity, working with farmers who prioritise regenerative farming, removing middlemen and butchering on site, installing in-house composting and cleaning with biodegradable chemicals, The Pig’s Head is changing the narrative.
This isn’t a new venture for the owners. Having once been the proprietors of the Pig & Butcher in Islington, Smokehouse Islington and The Princess of Shoreditch, they’ve got a history for taking okay places and turning them into powerhouses; each venue having built reputations for championing UK farms and delivering high-quality food in rustic settings.
On the topic of rustic, The Pig’s Head is replete with distinct furniture: every chair, table, cabinet – heck, every coaster – has been handpicked from thrift shops and antique fairs. This results in a really cosy and comfy environment.
As for food, the menu changes daily but standards remain high. I’ve been twice and have had a mixture of sharer plates and go-it-solo dishes. My first visit involved a mutton shoulder – tender, rich and oh-so-satisfying. The second started with a scotch egg, followed by scampi, and topped off with an absolute beaut of a wellington.
Drinks-wise, we’re talking local craft beers, sustainable wines and small-batch spirit producers.
A unique gastropub on a mission to no longer be unique. This is a proper gem.
Prince of Wales
ECCENTRIC. DARE WE SAY, MAGICAL
EDGE OF THE OLD TOWN
If you like your pubs to have neutral tones and minimalist interiors, skip this; if you like them to ooze eccentricity and boast an expanding set of bric-a-brac, this Clapham pub could be the one.
It’d be rude to ignore the Prince of Wales’ best trait: the interior. Dark red lighting creates an intimate setting (it might sound a bit Red Light District; it isn’t), and an ever-expanding set of trinkets, antiques and bric-a-brac adorn the walls, ceiling and anywhere with a modicum of space. It sounds like a hoarder’s paradise but it’s much more than that – they’ve somehow managed to create a unique and, dare we say, magical setting. It’s like The Churchill Arms pub in Notting Hill with a more personal, less ‘made for Instagram’ feel.
As for bevs: ales and bitters have found a forever home with the likes of Harveys, Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and Wandle on keg during our most recent visit. They also serve a wide range of lagers, bottled beer and a lovely pint of the dark stuff. Wines are aplenty, as are your standard spirits. Best of all, service is swift and you’ll never feel an outsider – the qualities of a top boozer.
All in all, this is a proper charming and characterful pub. Any place that steals your gaze time and time again is a winner in our books. We adore this place.
The Northcote Arms
YOUR LOCAL BREWDOG
The Northcote Arms has been serving happy locals for over a decade; its most recent incarnation is at the hands of Brewdog. With this comes a typical Brewdog-esque space and menu: expect to see their trademark blue colour and an extensive food list that includes pub classics, beer food (think crispy squid,mac & cheese bites, nachos, etc.) and, unsurprisingly, Brewdog’s signature wings.
Drinks-wise, you’re in a Brewdog pub, so craft beer flows like no tomorrow with over 10 Brewdog and 9 guest draughts to sink your way through. There’s also a vast array of bottled beer, cider, wines and a cocktail menu.
On the topic of cocktails, there’s a 2-4-1 deal every day between 4pm – 8pm which includes an Espresso Martini (a staple of the Clapham contingency’s diet), Negroni, Dark & Stormy and Pornstar Martini.
The Northcote Arms does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s a charming corner pub, less than a 10-minute walk from Clapham Junction station with a wicked selection of beers.
Is it my favourite pub in Clapham? No, but it’s still a great place to settle in and catch up with friends.
CLAPHAM’S BEST BEER GARDEN
The Landor, just a short walk from Clapham North station, has a different vibe compared to its Clapham counterparts.
There’s not a huge difference but everything feels slightly more relaxed. Perhaps it was the mood I was in, but I felt immediately disarmed as I walked through the doors – this might’ve been down to the large front windows which let in a shed load of light or the busy pool table just in front of them – whatever it was, bottle that up and give it to me every time.
Truth be told, the beer selection isn’t extraordinary. That’s not to say it’s dire, just what you’d expect a pub to have. I’ve also eaten here twice: the first time for a Sunday roast which was very good; the second after work which was pretty average. But The Landor isn’t on this list of Clapham pubs for its food or drink selection, it’s all down to its beer garden.
Beer gardens in Clapham (even London) are very hit-and-miss: I hate concrete-riddled ‘gardens’ that have you playing a game of ‘spot the greenery’ – I find them miserable and unconducive to a relaxing pub visit. The Landor is the opposite. They’ve managed to create an intimate garden setting despite it being rather large. There’s ample seating, not to mention plenty of well-positioned plants and overhanging trees, resulting in a lil’ escape from the concrete hustle that is city life.
So if the sun’s out, head over to The Landor and nab a garden seat.
The Clapham Tap
CRAFT BEER & GIN HEAVEN
CLAPHAM COMMON / CLAPHAM NORTH
Fan of craft beer, gin, and a helping of board games? The Clapham Tap will probs become your new bestie.
First off, this is a place of variety – 21 draughts/casks and over 50 types of gin are testaments to this. It’s in the site of what was Craft Beer Co but The Clapham Tap has taken things up a notch – the menu feels more curated and varied; the space way more personal.
I stumbled upon this Tardis one sunny afternoon. I say Tardis because what looks tiny from the outside turns out to be an Aladdin’s cave of cosy corners and inviting sofas.
There’s also a beaut of a beer garden – they’ve put effort into making it feel like an escape from the chaos that Clapham can bring. With plenty of cover for sunny afternoons and fairy lights come the evening, it’s one of our favourite beer gardens in Clapham.
Oh, and they’re dog friendly – another plus point for this charming space.
A SPORTS PUB WITH HISTORY
The Alexandra has been presiding over Clapham in various forms for over 150 years, gaining a reputation for being the sporting steward: whatever your love, be it football, rugby, golf – heck, even hurling – The Alexandra’s probably showing it.
It’s a quirky pub containing many nooks and crannies, bric-a-brac and old-world items collected over the years (think vintage farming equipment and naval memorabilia). It’s a little bit of fakery that smartly captures the pub’s history and, dare we say, legacy. And if that was ever in doubt, thick wooden beans give a less-than-subtle nod to it.
I must admit that it can feel a little sausage-heavy: tin adverts for tyres and cigarettes set the tone, not to mention its dedicated darts area upstairs. I don’t mind this – it’s a pub that knows its audience and pulls it off magnificently, but it’s something to be aware of. Though, Mrs Butler has always had a great time, so perhaps I’m talking rubbish.
On the topic of darts, The Alexandra is a self-professed darts pub, offering an evening of classic cocktails, pizza, and oche with an electronic scoring system. You’re able to select a variety of games to choose from and the system will tally scores and display leaderboards. A little something to carry on your eve should you so wish.
Drinks-wise, it’s your standard pub offering. On the food front, they’ve started pumping out classic romana-style pizzas. I’m yet to try one but the other Butlers speak highly of it.
All in all, I’m a huge fan of The Alexandra – it’s got a unique interior, feels olde without forcing it down your throat and has such a friendly team behind the bar. If you’re in the mood for something a little different and/or want a helping of live sport, this is the Clapham pub to visit.
Let us know if you’ve been to any and what you thought via the comments below.
After more Clapham tips? The Butlers have written guides to the best coffee shops in the area, where to get brunch in Clapham, one of the Butler’s experience of Clapham massages and, last but not least, a delve into Clapham’s clubs for craving a BNO.