This pub was editorially chosen for inclusion by Londonist, just because it's really rather good.
In an area now defined by the O2 dome and the nearby cable car, The Pilot Inn and her adjacent cottages are among the last local reminders of the true seafaring days of the Thames. The pub first opened in 1801 under the name ‘The Pilot Inn and Ferry’, when the only way to reach central London was by boat. The adjoining cottages were originally built to house labourers, and today back onto a deliciously dark alleyway that leads directly to the pub.
What would those labourers make of the place today, with its French moisturiser dispensers and extensive wine list? Who knows, but The Pilot remains the oldest building, and only proper pub on a peninsula slowly sinking under the weight of chain bars.
One of the crowns in Fuller's portfolio, The Pilot recently underwent a major revamp, and is transformed both inside and out. (Mostly) gone are the ubiquitous nods to maritime heritage in favour of patterned floors, soft-padded chairs and the usual tropes of a superior gastropub. Yet the charm of the place remains. The lower dining area (or 'dinning area', as the website has it) is well appointed and comfortable, if nothing revolutionary. But the upper drinking space still hits the spot, with a snug side room, tasteful decor and super-friendly bar staff. One table sports a faux-antique globe with 'here be dragons' flourishes. For the summer time, the sizeable beer garden has also been upgraded, and the benches out front offer views of the malingering gasholder and sci-fi skyline of the upper peninsula.
Beer runs along the usual Fuller's lines, with a good selection but no surprises. The food — mainly British classics — clocks in at £12-£15 per main, but all four diners in our group (including a vegetarian) reported back favourably. Sunday roasts of beef, pork and duck were all cooked to perfection, though quality over quantity seems to be the ethos here. Ditto the pumpkin tortellini.
Finally, it's worth noting the pub's Britpop credentials. In the very early 1990s, before he catapulted to infamy, a young Damien Hirst rented one of the neighbouring cottages, and the video for Blur’s ‘Parklife’ was also filmed here. If you feel all this heritage overwhelming, and just want to bask in the memories, The Pilot also has ten boutique hotel rooms on offer.