The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) opened in 1987, and is now a well-established pillar of London's transport network. It's also a great enabler of pub crawls. Here we follow one of the earliest bits of track from Tower Gateway to Canary Wharf. Beers in!
The Minories (Tower Gateway)
64-73 Minories, EC3N 1JL. Website
If Tower Gateway really were a gateway, then The Minories would be its hinge. The pub is scooped out from rail arches immediately beside the station. Its cavernous interior is one of the more atmospheric in a part of town otherwise bereft of characterful pubs. The beer selection here is OK, if not outstanding. We note that Guinness is listed as a 'craft beer'. Hmm. That said, this place is big, attractive and has two outdoor seating areas. A good pub to start a crawl.
Jump on the DLR one stop to Shadwell.
The George Tavern (Shadwell)
373 Commercial Street, E1 0LA. Website
Just a five-minute hike up to Commercial Road, and you can't miss the George, standing proudly on the corner with Jubilee Street. Unusually, The George flies a trio of flags from its rooftop. Its beer yard is also a rarity, carrying its own road sign — Aylward Street, appropriately. Again, this place is small haven for ale fans. Our pint of Ghost Ship was distinctly on the turn, and lagers may be a safer bet. But the regulars come for the unmatched atmosphere of a genuine East End boozer that has stood the test of time. Centuries, in fact. As befitting a place mentioned by Dickens, Pepys and even Chaucer, the pub doubles as an arts and performance venue. One of the true jewels of the drinkosphere.
If you don't fancy the walk back to the DLR, hop on one of the many buses heading towards Limehouse.
Craft Beer Co. (Limehouse)
576 Commercial Road, E14 7JD. Website
This easterly stronghold of the beer-lovers' pub chain opened in 2017 in the old Railway Arms building. It's smartened up a lot. Smartest of all is the drinks choice. The bar supports more species of beer than we could reliably count after two pints. The small downstairs area is supplemented with a further drinking lounge upstairs, and what the pub bills (in large letters) as a 'secret roof terrace'. It's a tiny but welcome outdoor spot for those lucky enough to bag it. The place has very different vibe from the George, but is a cosy, well-stocked and welcome addition to the Commercial Road.
Limehouse DLR is next door. Scoot one stop east to Westferry.
The Ledger Building (Westferry)
4 Hertsmere Road, E14 4LA. Website
A short walk from the DLR and we're into the Canary Wharf Estate. Its first herald, and best drinking spot, is the Ledger Building, one of Wetherspoon's finest. It stands within an old commercial premises and is fronted by an imposing Doric arch. Inside you'll find the usual Wetherspoon tropes of cheap and varied beer, no music or sport, and a momentously awful carpet. I mean, look:
This is never the quietest place to drink, but it does offer surroundings of more character than most spots in these parts. Plus, the building has history, as related on various wall panels.
The Merchant (West India Quay/Canary Wharf)
25-27 Fisherman's Walk, E14 4DH. Website
We finish the evening in this neat corner house from the Fuller's group. It is the archetypal modern gastropub — geared up for the wealthy local workforce who feel the need to have an evening meal while they drink (heathens). It's smart and snazzy and not like anything else on the pub crawl (while, at the same time, being very much like many other upmarket pubs in commercial centres). The best seats here are not inside, but on one of the outdoor tables overlooking the quay. Enjoy one of the usual Fuller's ales while watching the world go by.
The DLR does, of course, extend further through the Isle of Dogs and on to Greenwich and Lewisham. Check out our 'best pubs in London' guide for tips on those areas.