Wetherspoons: love them or hate them, you actually love them. Not only does the prodigious pub chain keep many of the city's historic buildings intact, apparently it does cheap drinks too...
1. The Crosse Keys, The City
A flagship Wetherspoon, parping with pomp and circumstance, The Crosse Keys is all marbled columns, coffered ceilings, Victorian Baroque façade and a boozing arena large enough to house a fleet of Routemasters. It's the kind of place you can lord it up with an actually-affordable glass of fizz.
If you're not best pleased with Wetherspoon converting flashy old banks like this into pubs, know that The Crosse Keys was originally an ancient coaching tavern of the same name. During construction of the banking house in 1851, a girder gave way causing a portion of wall to collapse. Five workers were killed. Next time you're here, raise a toast to their memory.
9 Gracechurch Street, EC3V 0DR
2. The Mossy Well, Muswell Hill
A newer addition to Wetherspoon's London dynasty, The Mossy Well dispels the stereotype of manky carpets and sticky-icky tables. With its exposed-brick walls and great shafts of natural light, you might even say this is the London Wetherspoon that looks least like a Wetherspoon. The kind of place you might expect to see millennials and young families enjoying a cheeky Curry Club.
The pub actually brings the company back to its roots: as Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin once explained to us, he set up London's first Wetherspoon in the 80s, just around the corner.
The multi-level garden has a huge plastic cow, and a milk float converted into a mini-bar. This isn't random; the building was formerly an Express Dairy. And as for that name 'Mossy Well': not a euphemism, but a nod to the origins of the area's name: Muswell = mossy well.
The Village, 258 Muswell Hill Broadway, N10 3SH
3. The Knights Templar, Chancery Lane
The Knights Templar is named after the noblemen of yore who once hung out in the area, when they weren't busy Crusading. Women get to enjoy the pub's best bit though; the ladies toilets are a madly opulent affair, dotted with sofas and statues. It's worth ordering a pint of soda water, just so you need to use them. But back to the main pub: it's another former bank, these days thrumming with the barristers knocking back a stiff one after a hard day at the Royal Courts, and probably the odd defendant celebrating/commiserating their case.
95 Chancery Lane, WC2A 1DT
4. Hamilton Hall, Liverpool Street
Need a 7am pick-me-up? You won't be alone at Hamilton Hall. In this Wetherspoon that's part of Liverpool Street station, we're reliably informed some City workers keep thirst locked up till lunch, with a breakfast of four or so pints. It's also where travelling football fans drink off pre-match nerves on a Saturday.
Like the Knights Templar, the atmosphere is juxtaposed with aesthetics that wouldn't look out of place in the court of the Sun King (it was a ballroom after all). And it scores top marks for preservation: Wetherpoon tell us this place remained empty for 40 years, and that many of the fittings, now reinstated, had just been left here in bags.
Liverpool Street station, Bishopsgate, EC2M 7PY
5. The Ice Wharf, Camden
If you've got a 'thing' about being seen in a Wetherspoon, The Ice Wharf could solve your predicament. Order your drink at the relatively nondescript bar, then distance yourself, by perching on a lock outside — and calling out "lovely day for it!" at the narrow boats puttering by. If you suddenly find you've accidentally had one pint too many, The Ice Wharf neighbours with one of London's most interesting Starbucks — it's got battlements, and is also a miniature tourist info centre for Camden,
Camden Wharf, 28 Jamestown Road, NW1 7AP
6. The Rocket, Putney
Continuing our theme of boozing by the water, The Rocket in Putney has an outside terrace overlooking the Thames, and — importantly — Putney Bridge. As you absorb your poison of choice, swot up on the crossing's remarkable history, which includes prime minister Robert Walpole demanding the bridge be built after missing a debate in the Houses of Parliament, because the ferryman was busy getting sloshed in the pub; and the attempted suicide of feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. The bridge also happens to be the starting point for the Boat Races*. If you're banking on a seat, get there about a week early.
*A pedant would tell you that the Boat Races actually start marginally further upstream. We are that pedant.
The Rocket, Putney Wharf Tower, Brewhouse Lane, SW15 2JQ
7. The Capitol, Forest Hill
No prizes for guessing that The Capitol is a former cinema. Making way for the screen these days is a blockbuster of a bar, selling the usual range of well-kept ales, chilled wines from the tap and so on. OK, so it'd be nicer if this place was restored to an actual cinema (they still have the old seats installed in the higher tier), but this is second best. Wetherspoon has turned a few cinemas into boozers, including The Coronet in Holloway and The Montagu Pyke in Charing Cross. The latter screens major sporting events on a huge projector. You'll have to sneak in your own popcorn, though.
11-21 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3TW
8. The Rochester Castle, Stoke Newington
Open since 1983, The Rochester Castle is the oldest surviving Wetherspoon pub in London. Although the carpet's been changed a couple of times since then (we hope), it's got that 'classic' Wetherspoon vibe (fruit machines, mixed clientele, a homely-fusty kind of feel). It's a favourite of the Wetherspoon founder too — so if you fancy having a beer/Brexit debate with him, your luck could be in.
More than anything, The Rochester Castle completes Stokey's holy triumvirate of great Irish pub (The Auld Shillelagh), great craft beer pub (The Jolly Butcher's) and great Wetherspoon. Hallelujah!
145 Stoke Newington High Street, Stoke Newington, N16 0NY
9. The Ledger Building, West India Quay
While Canary Wharf's nightlife is mostly about shiny, identikit entertainment boxes teetering over the docks, The Ledger Building (where the ledgers of the West India Docks were once kept) is a delightful exception to the rule. The best thing about this historical building? Its sizeable cobblestone terrace, overlooking the moored-up boats — one of which is London's only floating church — Hallelu... oh, we've already done that one.
The Ledger Building is also neighbours with the Museum of London Docklands, which has its own 'fake' pub, The Three Mariners, which you'll find nestled in Sailortown. It's BYOB. Just don't tell the staff that's what you're doing.
4 Hertsmere Road, Poplar, E14 4AL
10. Wetherspoons, Victoria station concourse
If you thought the whole Wetherspoon using the word 'Moon' in its pub names was uninspiring, try this for size. This place is called simply 'Wetherspoons'. By the way, the chain seems to variously be known as Wetherspoon, Wetherspoons, Wetherspoon's and J.D, Wetherspoon. The name comes from a hapless teacher that Tim Martin admired.
Anyway, if you're waiting for a train here — or just looking for a decent pint in an area that's hardly flush with affordable bars — this Victoria Wetherspoon and its terraces, are worth considering.
Victoria station, Victoria Street, SW1E 5ND
11. The Beehive, Brixton
Did we hear someone yelp out in incredulousness? We submit that The Beehive is neither one of London's most historic, nor modern, nor spacious, nor comely Wetherspoons. Neither is it a waterfront venue (unless someone's doing something they shouldn't outside). But the atmosphere's a got a real local's feel — unlike many of the more grandiloquent Spoons. "It's a bit like Cheers," one Wetherspoon drinker told us, "Where everyone knows your name."
This is somewhere to order a crafty pint and tune into the surrounding dialogues. If you're after a pint of craft, on the other hand you can always call in at the Craft Beer Co. round the corner. It'll cost you, though.
407-409 Brixton Road, Brixton, SW9 7DG