ot every pint of Guinness is poured equal.
The beloved Irish stout is a delicate thing; a decent jar needs an experienced hand. There’s a little pub science in it, something to do with the nitrogen, pressure, temperature, the cleanliness (or not) of the lines. The glass counts. And then there’s all the theatre of pouring, the 45 degree angle, the famous pause, the chance to let it settle. Does it all matter? Perhaps not on its own, but maybe altogether — no-one argues about where to find the best pint of Heineken, after all.
While a reported 40 per cent of the world’s Guinness is brewed in Africa, every drop the UK drinks comes from St James’s Gate in Dublin, which can turn out some three million pints a day. And while the stuff across the sea will always have a better reputation than what we’ve got here – and there is a difference, all to do with the pumps and the pressure and the gas — London certainly holds up its end, especially if you know what to look for. The Guinness Guru and @ShitLondonGuinness have some tips here.
Before we get into our definitive list, we should make a few honourable mentions. The Tipperary on Fleet Street, which claims it was the first pub outside of Ireland to sell Guinness, has the pint-pouring credentials to back up such a boast, but it’s been shut since the pandemic and now looks permanently shut. We’re also fond of the Trader’s Inn on Church Street, just off Edgware Road, as well as Flynn’s on Holloway Road, both of which are worth a pitstop if you’re passing through. There’s a little more research to be done at both before they make it on the list below.
Still, after countless pints, many consumed on our quest to find London’s 50 best pubs, here are the spots to head to for best of the black stuff across town.
The Auld Shillelagh
shot from google maps, stoke newington pub The Auld Shillelagh
Stoke Newington might be a bit of a trek from anywhere that’s not Stoke Newington, but the Auld Shillelagh is convincing enough reason to visit. Young for a pub – born 1991 – the place is an old soul. Curled into a tight corner and tiny from the outside, inside it opens up, though the space is kept cosy with old photos and newspaper clippings, alongside the odd sports trophy.
Owned by Roscommon brothers Aonghus and Tomas Leydon, and run day-to-day by Tomas and wife Iwona, the Guinness really is quite perfect, rich as anything. Its reputation runs not just through London, but across the Irish sea, where the press there cite it as London’s best pint of the black stuff (although pole position is sometimes granted to the Coach & Horses, below, too). Accordingly, everyone from Shane McGowan to Brendan Gleeson has swung by, though there are countless stories of Irishmen in town heading up to test the stuff against their exacting standards. At present, it seems as though they’re sticking to table service, so expect hands going up every 20 minutes or so for the next lusted-after round. There’s always another round here.
105 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UD, theauldshillelagh.co.uk
Coach and Horses
Ewan Munro/Creative Commons
Though one or two American accents can be heard barking in the one room bar, this devoutly old-fashioned boozer has managed, despite sitting at the east mouth to Covent Garden, to avoid a life as a tourist hell-hole. Guinness lovers will be drawn in from the bragging signs outside, that boast of being the best Guinness in London, as per the Irish Post. Inside, the walls are a ragtag of old newspaper clippings and pictures, and old-fashioned mirrors, while staff are friendly, chatting to their regulars, and service is quick. it serves as a reminder of why Freehouses can be so good. Pints here really are something special — they’re beautiful, actually, and entirely unrushed; the team is dedicated to giving it time to rest before topping it up for the proper head. A must.
42 Wellington Street, WC2E 7BD, @coachandhorses_coventgarden
The Guinea Grill
The Guinea is a decidedly English spot, and so perhaps appears as an anomaly on this list. Nevertheless, the legacy of former Irish landlord Oisin Rogers remains strong, and there are few places better for a pint of Dublin’s most famous export. Though he’s since moved onto other projects, Rogers is a rare breed who can adequately explain why the 119.5 seconds pouring time is more than advertising bluff, and passed this on: his former team — many who remain at the Guinea — are particularly good at the pour (look out especially for Tony). The pub pours some 2,700 pints of the stuff a week, in part boosted by the Guinness Guru’s rating of the place as the best Guinness in central London.
30 Bruton Place, W1J 6NL, theguinea.co.uk
An unassuming spot in Camden, this locals favourite proudly boasts a regular Guinness tap alongside the more usual extra cold one. The barstaff here tend to always ask if there’s a preference and, if you haven’t before, go for the regular. Being ever so slightly warmer means more of that Guinness flavour is apparent, and the pints here are reliably creamy and always have the all-important dome. Sat in one of the booths, it’s the sort of place one could spend hours and hours in, while, if it’s not too busy, the team bring the pints to the table once they’re ready. Decent whiskies there, too.
2 Mornington Street, NW1 7QD, sheephavenbaycamden.co.uk
Gaelic charm: Homeboy on Essex Road will extend its Irish hospitality to a new hidden pub
A gleaming den of utter joy. A neighbourhood bar executed with disarming charm, Homeboy comes from top Irish bartenders Aaron Wall and Ciarán Smith, who’ve stuck to a premise that should be foolproof – good drinks, fair prices – but which seems to befuddle so many others. The duo are dry, game for a laugh and expert at cocktails, but know their pints too. The pair and their (presumably long-suffering) Guinness rep spent a long old time fiddling with the taps for the right pressure, playing with the pipes to stop the beer coming out shiveringly cold, and are exacting about when the lines get cleaned. It may seem fussy, but their pints are near perfect. Those gasping for a Guinness on the other side of the river should head to the newer Homeboy down in Nine Elms, which cheerfully offers more of the same.
108 Essex Rd, N1 8LX, homeboybar.com
Gibney’s / Daffodil Mulligan
Down beneath the fine food of Richard Corrigan’s Daffodil Mulligan is the bar space, Gibney’s. Named for famed Irish landlord Tony Gibney and run by his son, Cormac — he who figures he poured his pulled his first pint around 11 — the bar is warm and happy; walking in is like coming over an old photo of a good time. Brass taps shine at the counter, where the Guinness toucan perches. They pour slowly here, carefully, taking care of the pint; it comes out utterly silky. They’ve a dangerous amount of Irish whiskey to drink down with it.
70-74 City Rd, Old Street, EC1Y 2BJ, daffodilmulligan.com
The grand exterior of this fine old Irish pub in Rupert Street is pretty unmissable, but it’s inside where the place really comes alive. Go through the Mayfair boozer’s doors and you’ll find a wonderfully ornate interior, a fantastic atmosphere and a top pint. The pub quite rightly prides itself on the quality of its beers, and when the pub comes alive on match days there are few better to enjoy a few pints in W1.
14-16 Rupert St, W1D 6DD, waxyoconnors.co.uk
The Faltering Fullback
Finsbury Park institution the Fullback is one of the most popular sports pubs in North London and the cosy front room makes for a great place to gather on weekends. It’s also one of the best Irish pubs in the area, and doesn’t disappoint when it comes to Guinness. It’s true that the post-lockdown quality of its black stuff hasn’t been unerringly good, but it’s still worth a visit.
19 Perth Rd, Finsbury Park, N4 3HB, falteringfullback.com
The Twelve Pins
/ Erik Jacobson/Unsplash
Alongside the Fullback, this boozer down on Seven Sisters Road helps to make Finsbury Park something of a Guinness goldmine, says @shitlondonguinness’s Ian Ryan, the all-knowing black stuff fanatic based nearby. In fact, the Twelve Pins muscled any of the local competition out of Ryan’s top five, and while it might not be the cosiest of places — and its proximity to the Emirates Stadium means it gets packed out whenever Arsenal are playing at home — there is something self-effacing about the place, which ticks over as a local boozer that’s quietly nailed the art of a Guinness.
263 Seven Sisters Road, N4 2DE, the-twelve-pins.business.site