The Best Boozers in Town

Submitted by: James Cracknell

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The Warrant Officer

THE WARRANT OFFICER
Higham Hill Road, E17 5RG
Hand pumps: 5
Cheapest pint: £3.00

It’s named after the former rank of its owner, retired Warrant Officer Rob Richier, who’s served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. As you might expect, it’s a well drilled pub, with a successful darts team and, I’m told, “the biggest WI group in London”.

The beer’s cheap and cheerful but it’s the live music scene that elevates this pub, in the depths of Higham Hill, to cult status.

WO Richier describes it as “everything from death metal to urban folk” and in summer there’s even an outdoor stage for mini music festvals. As if that weren’t enough, a microbrewery, Back to Back, is due to open in summer.

The Chequers

The Chequers

THE CHEQUERS
Walthamstow High Street, E17 7BX
Hand pumps: 8
Cheapest pint: £3.80

I first encountered this pub three years ago, when it was under different ownership. I was going to go in, but the police had cordoned it off.

Thankfully The Chequers has changed. The decor inside is now rather splendid, with a fine selection of armchairs. The beer’s not bad either, with plenty of local brewers such as Wild Card and Five Pints regularly represented on the pumps.

It’s big, too, with a surprisingly large outdoor seating area. TV screens show sport, but it’s easy to avoid if necessary. The Chequers also has an excellent food menu.

Ye Olde Rose & Crown

Ye Olde Rose & Crown

YE OLDE ROSE & CROWN

Hoe Street, E17 4SA
Hand pumps: 6
Cheapest pint: £3.30

When I first walked into this boozer, Andrew Lloyd Webber was at the bar. He’d come to see a play that was headed for the West End. Since being bought by five friends seven years ago this pub has gained a strong reputation for its upstairs theatre, as well as a comedy club that’s welcomed Alan Carr, Phil Jupitus and Robin Ince to name a few.

But don’t be too distracted, because this pub doesn’t need actors and comics to win favour with locals. In 2011 Ye Olde Rose & Crown was quite rightly named East London Pub of the Year.

The reasonably-priced selection of ales always impresses, while a box of scrumpy has pride of place behind the bar. Peppe’s Pizza, stone-baked Wednesday through Saturday in a tent outside, invariably attracts a long queue.

The Nags Head

The Nags Head

THE NAGS HEAD
Orford Road, E17 9LP
Hand pumps: 8
Cheapest pint: £4.10

It’s the attention to detail that makes this a great pub. The Nags Head is home to cats Billie and Herman (who are “married”) and dogs Buddy and Bruno. On the walls you’ll find art from God’s Own Junkyard and a history of the Barbie doll, if that’s your thing.

In the patio garden there’s a palm tree and upstairs there’s Madame La Zongas, where you can bring your own vinyl for a spin. A jazz band entertains the punters every Sunday and twice a year there’s a beer festival.

Snacks include curry popcorn and the kitchen, E17 Scullery, serves up chilli hotdogs and homemade ice cream. There’s a good selection of real ale, but it’s pricier than most in the area.

The Village

The Village

THE VILLAGE
Orford Road, E17 9NL
Hand pumps: 5
Cheapest pint: £3.50

The Village is boosted by its generous garden, which in summer comes alive with a cocktail bar and film screenings. There’s a good selection of real ale but a large fridge stuffed with craft beer wins it extra points.

A weekly schedule including two pub quizzes, Wednesday night poker and acoustic music every Thursday also makes The Village stand out. A Sunday roast, including a veggie nut roast, is a necessary antidote to the late licence on Friday’s and Saturday’s.

The Bell

The Bell

THE BELL
Forest Road, E17 4NE
Hand pumps: 8
Cheapest pint: £3.50

The Bell is another Walthamstow pub that’s been transformed by a change of ownership. It used to be somewhere to walk past in a hurry in case you were hit by a chair flying through the window. Now, it’s one of the most family-friendly pubs around thanks to its good food and comfy seating areas.

The pub is also a great supporter of local breweries with regular guest ales including Brodie’s, Wild Card, Five Pints, Upstart and Tap East.

The weekly quiz night is probably the most popular in Waltham Forest and rolling jackpots sometimes reach four figures. A Simpson’s pinball machine near the gents is a nice touch.

King William IV

King William IV

KING WILLIAM IV
Leyton High Road,
E10 6AE
Hand pumps: 22
Cheapest pint: £2.60

If you haven’t had a pint here yet you’ve not lived. This is the cheapest and booziest pub I know in London. I guess it helps when the beer is made in the microbrewery out back. Brodie’s Beers has been producing a hoppy selection of quirky ales for seven years and has earned The Billy, as it’s affectionately known among my friends, a sterling reputation.

Typically you’ll find a selection of 10 different Brodie’s for sale, both from casks and kegs, but there’s 22 pumps and eight taps altogether and at Easter there’s the legendary Bunny Basher festival, when all 30 are called into action.

It’s totally beertastic, trust me. Favourites include Shoreditch Sunshine, London Fields Pale Ale and Hoxton Special IPA. Many are fruity or sour, while others, such as the Elizabethan, will knock your socks off. It’s 22 per cent and served in thirds.

There’s live music, football, an antique billiards table and cheap home-cooked food at The Billy too, but you’ll probably be going for the beer.

The Birkbeck Tavern

The Birkbeck Tavern

THE BIRKBECK TAVERN
Langthorne Road, E11 4HL
Hand pumps: 6
Cheapest pint: £2.95

Surrounded by a graveyard, this hidden gem was saved from closure a few years ago following a local campaign. It would have been a tragedy had it gone, as this is a proper East End boozer.

The garden is huge, and the live music – including blues, rock and folk – is superb. The beer selection isn’t the biggest, but it’s all cheap. There’s a pool table where you can play a round of “killer” for free on Monday nights, plus a dart board.

It’s a Leyton Orient pub, so it’s always busy on match days.

North Star

North Star

NORTH STAR
Browning Road, E11 3AR
Hand pumps: 5
Cheapest pint: £3.40

Like The Birkbeck Tavern, North Star is somewhat off the beaten track. You’ll find it nestled in among some of Leytonstone’s oldest cottages, and the pub itself reflects its surroundings by offering a cosy, nostalgic atmosphere.

It’s a great real ale pub, cheaper than most, with friendly bar staff serving a good range of local beers. Pizzas are now cooked outside Thursdays through Sundays in a specially-built stone-baked oven. The summer beer festivals here are always good fun.

Red Lion

Red Lion

THE RED LION
Leytonstone High Road, E11 3AA
Hand pumps: 10
Cheapest pint: £2.95

This is one of two pubs in Waltham Forest run by Antic London – a small pub company mainly dealing in ‘hipster’ joints – the other being Leyton Technical in the old town hall. The Red Lion is the opposite of an old-fashioned boozer, with huge graffiti artworks surrounding the walls of an enclosed garden, which doubles as an outdoor cinema in the summer.

Whether that’s your sort of thing or not, you can’t argue with its range of beer, which is excellent and still pretty cheap. There are stacks of board games to play inside, a foosball table, an eclectic weekly quiz that includes a ‘creative’ round and live music on Sundays.