Some say you can't get a decent pint of the black stuff outside Ireland. We say: rawmaish. Whether you're after the perfect St Paddy's venue, or simply seeking good craic and a well-poured Guinness, these 13 boozers go above and beyond your usual Irish-themed pub. Sláinte!
1. The Auld Shillelagh, Stoke Newington
There can be few pubs in the capital as high-spirited as The Auld Shillelagh on Stokey's Church Street. And that's not just because of the gallons of Irish whiskey consumed here. The narrow space easily fills with laughter and high jinx, and you can expect regular live music alongside pints of Guinness, which are often declared the best in north London. Other highlights include friendly staff and a large (and well sheltered) beer garden.
The Auld Shillelagh, 105 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UD
2. The Boot, King's Cross
There's something enduringly charming about this boozer tucked away on the backstreets of King's Cross. Alongside some of the more standard Irish pub memorabilia, you'll find boot-related gimcrack, a papier mache seagull and a pair of skis hung above the bar. A fair chance of getting a seat even on a busy night and well-kept beers (including, naturally, Guinness) make this one of central London's best bets.
The Boot, 116 Cromer Street, WC1H 8BS
3. The Cow, Westbourne Park
This Westbourne Park local is a pastiche of an Irish pub rather than the real deal, yet it's not to be sniffed at. A fair few Belgian beers sit alongside well-poured Guinness, but the food menu takes this place to another level. Plump for half a dozen rock oysters, washed down with a pint of the black stuff, or a hearty beef and Guinness pie.
The Cow, 89 Westbourne Park Road, W2 5QH
4. Crown & Cushion, Lambeth
A stone's throw from Lambeth North station, the Crown & Cushion serves impeccable Guinness, Tayto crisps and that other Irish pub staple, Thai food. An open fire creates a cozily smokey setting (even in summer) while Irish street signs and the more tasteful end of leprechaun imagery line the walls. There's a small beer garden out back, too. The horse racing will probably be on.
Crown & Cushion, 133-135 Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7HR
5. The Faltering Fullback, Finsbury Park
The labyrinthine layout of this Tardis-like pub means you should be able to find a nook to settle into — apart from when the rugby's on, when you'll need to arrive early to nab a seat. It's more subtly Irish than some of the places on this list, but the Guinness is no less superb for it. The beer garden is an absolute gem.
The Faltering Fullback, 19 Perth Road, N4 3HB
6. Skehans, Telegraph Hill
'Purveyors of Craic' is how Skehans bill themselves, and who are we to argue. A regular on Deserter's World Cup of Pubs, this picturesque boozer perches on the corner of a hill overlooking New Cross, beckoning you in with its bright green facade, well-kempt flower baskets and the welcoming 'free house' sign. There's often live music on (jam sessions happen around a table), otherwise horse racing, football and pool tables will keep you occupied. Like some of the other pubs in this list, there is Thai food too — not just simpler noodles dishes though, but also spicy sea bass and salmon steak.
Skehans, 1 Kitto Road, SE14 5TW
7. Madden's Bar, Finchley
One of north London's most welcoming Irish pubs, you don't need to be one of the many regulars to feel at home in Madden's. Sport is a big thing here, as evidenced by the multiple screens dotted around the bar. There's also Thai food and a pool table upstairs. A good day out, basically.
Madden's Bar, 130 High Road, N2 9ED
8. The Sheephaven Bay, Camden
This green-fronted pub near Mornington Crescent station is one of London's more spruced-up Irish establishments — adorned with scarves, signed shirts, and framed photos of football and rugby teams of yore. You'd be correct in thinking that sport plays a major role in the life of this pub: come for the rugby and football, stay for the horse racing and darts.
The Sheephaven Bay, 2 Mornington Street, NW1 7QD
9. The Tipperary, City
The site occupied by The Tipperary on Fleet Street has been a pub since 1605 and an Irish one since 1700. That makes it London's oldest Irish pub and (probably) the first pub outside Ireland to serve draught Guinness. With a decorative tiled floor and vintage Jameson signage covering the walls, the history is palpable. So long as simple stereotypically Irish fare is what you're after, the cheap and cheerful grub is pretty enjoyable too. The incessantly Irish soundtrack divides opinion.
The Tipperary, 66 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1HT
10. The Porterhouse, Covent Garden
This behemoth of a bar deserves a mention for its sheer size, array of beers and the fact that it brews its own Irish stout. Catch it when it's quiet and you'll be able to taste your way through the biggest range of Irish beers in London (plus many from elsewhere). At other times it risks being uncomfortably busy with snail-pace service. If you're coming here on St Patrick's Day, good luck to you.
The Porterhouse, 21-22 Maiden Lane, WC2E 7NA
11. The Toucan, Soho
Rocking a design that screams Guinness galore (including bar stools shaped like massive pints of the stuff), this itsy pub just off Soho Square can often be rammed to the point of unpleasant. Find it when it's not, though, and it's a treat to behold — with toucans painted on the walls and everything. Decent Guinness goes without saying, and there are a fair few Irish whiskies to choose from. We'll let you discover the shortcut to the downstairs bar.
The Toucan, 19 Carlisle Street, W1D 3BY
12. Waxy O'Connor's, Soho
Named after a candlemaker born in Dublin in 1788 (hence the name), this rather epic drinking mall — there are four bars over six floors — is an impressive sight to behold. As well as a 'tree' in the centre, it features all manner of wooden pulpit-like areas and pew-style seating; appropriate for somewhere where drinking is like a religion. As well as being big, it can also be rather brash and touristy but it remains good fun all the same. Also try spin-off Waxy's Little Sister on Wardour Street.
Waxy O'Connor’s, 14-16 Rupert Street, W1D 6DD
13. Blythe Hill Tavern, Catford
Proof that you should never judge a book by its cover. The tired cream exterior and translucent windows suggest the kind of pub you're better off walking past. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Blythe's tie-wearing bar staff are unfailingly lovely and helpful, while the regulars all banter back and forth like the oldest of friends (which they possibly are). Sporting gimcracks and Irish keepsakes (the owner Con Riordan is from Limerick) pepper, but don't overwhelm, the pub. A cosy front bar holds around five tables, and encourages inter-group conversation. The rear area is larger, and more gregarious, especially when the rugby's on.
Blythe Hill Tavern, 319 Stanstead Road, Catford, SE23 1JB
Know an excellent Irish pub that’s not included in this list? Tell us in the comments below. And browse more drinking options in our huge pub database.