Could this be the ultimate London pub crawl? A boozy journey through the 12 days of Christmas. Can any readers manage to reach all 12 in one day? Read below, then follow our suggested pub crawl route for a seasonal drinking tour.
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me... a partridge in a pear tree.
Two options here. Londoners of a deep-south persuasion can try The Partridge on High Street, Bromley — a handsome redbrick Fullers pub favoured by younger drinkers. For a more adult affair, head to The Pear Tree, 14 Margravine Road, Hammersmith. Phone ahead for this popular gastropub — we turned up a few years ago, only to find the venue closed for a private Christmas do.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me... two turtle doves.
We have no hesitation here in recommending The Dove in Hammersmith, voted by Londonist readers as one of the best pubs on the River Thames. The cosy wooden interior and roaring fire are perfect for a sharp winter's evening, but be sure to check out the riverside terrace, too. To make it a pair of birds, head along to The Dove on Broadway Market, Hackney. The popular boozer has a sequence of small rooms and spaces to explore, and a fine selection of European beers.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me... three french hens.
There are plenty of Cocks around town, but not so many pubbish hens, and certainly no French ones. However, you can get into Gallic spirit by visiting The French House in Soho, where the limited selection of beers is served in half-pint measures, just to be awkward. Stick to the wine. Then it's on to the Hen and Chickens Theatre Bar in Highbury, a small but cosy option with its own fringe theatre.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... four colly birds
A 'colly bird' is an arcane way of saying 'blackbird'. It just so happens that there's a very prominent Blackbird pub on Earls Court Road, ran by Fullers. Nothing remarkable about it, but certainly a sound enough pub to sink a pint and tweet about being in a blackbird.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... FIVE GOLD RINGS
Let's suppose for a moment that your true love got you five tickets to visit a boxing ring, rather than a quintet of finger jewellery. In that case, The Ring on Blackfriars Road makes perfect sense. It gets its name from a famous sporting arena also known as The Ring, which stood across the road in the first half of the 20th century. The pub is a decent little place, no doubt packed with staff from Transport for London, who today occupy the vast Palestra Building on the site of the boxing ring.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... six geese a-laying
Do not go to the Crown and Goose in Camden Town. Unfortunately, its goose is cooked, and it's no longer open. Instead, have a gander at Old Tom's Bar in Leadenhall Market. This foody basement joint is named after the market's famous Victorian goose, who somehow managed to evade slaughter, living on in the market for 37 years. The bar is decorated in genuine 19th century tiles, which Old Tom might have seen with his own anserine eyes.
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me... seven swans a-swimming
A number of Swans to select from, if not quite seven. Perhaps the most prominent is the first-floor pub at the Globe, which serves lovely food and also doubles as the unofficial toilets for the nearby Rose Theatre. There's also a brash Swan in Hammersmith, a riverside Swan in Bayswater (albeit beside the buried River Westbourne), and a craft-ale filled Swan in Holborn.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... eight maids a-milking
There's a Milkbar in Soho, but it's all about the coffee there, and we want booze. Instead, try the Blue Eyed Maid on Borough High Street, a road with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to pubs. We don't know if she's tried a-milking, but the Blue Eyed Maid certainly supplies a decent pint of beer.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... nine ladies dancing
Lots of pubs are named after Lords, not so many for Ladies. The exception is the Lady Ottoline gastropub on the southern fringe of Bloomsbury. If that's too pricey (and, quite frankly, it is), you could chase the dancing by going for a tipple in the Royal Opera House bar. Also an expensive option, though, we fear. Or there's the Lady Mildmay on Newington Green.
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... ten Lords a-leaping
And here they are: Lord Abercornway in Liverpool Street, Lord Clyde in Essex Road, another Lord Clyde in Borough, Lord Hood in Greenwich, Lord Nelson on the Isle of Dogs, Lord Moon of the Mall in Whitehall, Lord Northbrook in Lewisham, Lord Palmerston in Dartmouth Park, Lord Raglan in St Paul's, and Lord Stanley near Camden Town. You can combine Lords and Leaping by heading to Lord's Tavern beside the famous cricket ground, in which players are occasionally seen to leap.
On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me... 11 pipers playing
If, for ladies dancing, you opted for the Royal Opera House, it is but a mere jeté to reach The Crusting Pipe. This subterranean bar is in the basement of the market complex, from where you'll probably hear brass bands and carol singers while you sup. They also did a pretty neat afternoon tea last time we were there.
On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me... 12 drummers drumming
Sadly, the Drum and Monkey in Archway has morphed into something called the Oak and Pastor, which is utterly useless for our present purposes, though we'll keep it in mind if we ever do an arboreal pub crawl. This means we'll have to point you towards The Drum in Leyton, which looks like a fairly typical Wetherspoon pub (sorry, never visited). We learn from the website that The Drum was one of the very first 'Spoons, and was converted from an earlier bar that had 'an eye-catching display of drums hanging from the ceiling'. Beat that.
Suggested pub crawl
We've name-checked way more than a dozen pubs above, and it would be foolhardy to attempt them in the correct order. So here's a plan to get you round one example from each of the 12 days, in a sensible route. We'd love to hear from you if you decide to take on this epic challenge. We tried it a few years ago, and are just about over the hangover.
1. Start at The Drum. It's a Wetherspoon, so opens at 8am, allowing you to set off early.
Catch the Overground from Leyton Midland Road to Gospel Oak and change for the Highbury train.
2. Hen and Chickens
Victoria Line to King's Cross, Piccadilly Line to Covent Garden.
3. Crusting Pipe
Walk to next venue (2 mins)
4. Royal Opera House bar
Central Line from Holborn to Bank
5. Old Tom's Bar
Bus over London Bridge and down Borough High Street
6. Blue Eyed Maid
Walk to next venue (5 mins)
7. Lord Clyde
Walk to next venue (5 mins)
8. The Ring
Jubilee Line to Westminster, change for District Line to Earls Court
9. The Blackbird
Piccadilly Line to Barons Court
10. The Pear Tree
Walk to next venue (10 mins)
11. The Swan
Walk to next venue (10 mins)
12. The Dove
All images by M@. See our Best Pubs in London website for more ideas.