This pub was voted the best pub in central London by Londonist readers.
CAMRA National Pub of the Year 2010/2011, London Cider Pub of the Year 2011
We know from bitter experience (pun only vaguely intended) that it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge to find a traditional pub serving excellent real ale in the West End, which is why it’s worth knowing about the Harp.
The pub’s flower-adorned exterior immediately identifies it as rather cosy and old-fashioned. While the frugal or impoverished may prefer the cheaper (and much poorer) beer on offer in the nearby Chandos, the Harp seems much prettier from the outside, at least to our eyes. Of course we’re almost certainly biased, because we know the riches that lie within.
Despite the diminutive frontage, the premises extend far enough back from the street to accommodate a reasonable crowd. This is fortunate, as the pub can get quite busy at times – seats (or stools) were at a premium during our last Monday evening visit, but we found that the constant ebb and flow of clientele ensured a suitable seating vacancy before too long. If not, there's a small room upstairs and a passage out the back to stand in. The atmosphere is unpretentious, in keeping with the traditional décor – wooden fittings, old portraits on the walls, stained glass windows that can open fully when the weather permits and a sign declaring 'football-free zone' on the back door.
One glance at the hand pumps at the bar and you immediately know this place means business. Enjoy several Dark Star ales, or a magnificent American Pale Ale (an English golden ale made with American ingredients and inspiration). We also appreciate the ever-dependable Proper Job from St Austell (a session IPA, if there is such a thing) and Titanic’s Engine Room (yet another lively and strongly-hopped pale ale). Of course the offerings were not all of our favoured pale variety, with nicely balanced best bitters, toasty amber ales and pleasant milds also on offer, and Harvey’s Sussex Best and Sambook’s Wandle listed as regulars. Although this place is now owned by Fuller's (since 2014), it continues to offer a broad selection.
We noted the availability of sausages, cooked to sizzling-point on a hotplate behind the bar and served in a baguette, although it looks like their availability at any given time is heavily dependent on the laws of supply and demand. Saltier, lardier, pre-packaged pork products are also available, as you would expect.
All-in-all, the biggest problem we could find with the Harp was that the beer was just too good. Once we had worked our way through all of them, we were sorely tempted to start again at the beginning. This can be a difficult pub to leave.