Not every pint of Guinness is served the same way.
The beloved Irish stout is a touchy subject; A decent glass needs an experienced hand. There’s a bit of pub science in there, something to do with nitrogen, pressure, temperature, the cleanliness (or not) of the lines. The glass matters. And then there’s the whole theater of casting, the 45-degree angle, the famous pause, the chance to let it settle. Does everything matter? Maybe not alone, but maybe overall – after all, nobody argues about where to find the best pint of Heineken.
While 40 per cent of the world’s Guinness is said to be brewed in Africa, every drop Britons drink comes from Dublin’s St James’s Gate, which can produce around three million pints a day. And while the stuff across the sea will always have a better reputation than what we have here – and there’s a difference, it’s all to do with the pumps and the pressure and the petrol – London is certainly meeting its end stood, especially if you know what to look for. The Guinness Guru and @ShitLondonGuinness have some tips here.
Before we get to our final list, we should make a few honorable mentions. Fleet Street’s Tipperary, which claims it was the first pub outside Ireland to sell Guinness, has the pint-pourer credentials to back up such a boast, but it’s been closed since the pandemic and now appears to be permanent to be closed. We also like the Trader’s Inn on Church Street, just off Edgware Road, and Flynn’s on Holloway Road, both of which are worth a stop if you’re passing through. Both need some more research before they make the list below.
Still, after countless pints, many consumed on our search for London’s 50 Best Pubs, here are the places to find the best of black stuff in the whole city.
The Auld Shillelagh
Stoke Newington may be a bit of a hike from anywhere that isn’t Stoke Newington, but the Auld Shillelagh is compelling reason to visit. Young for a pub – born in 1991 – the place has an old soul. Curled up in a tight corner and tiny on the outside, it opens up on the inside, though the space is kept cozy with old photos and newspaper clippings alongside the odd sports trophy.
Owned by Roscommon brothers Aonghus and Tomas Leydon, Guinness is run day in and day out by Tomas and his wife Iwona. It’s really quite perfect, rich like everything else. Its reputation stretches not just across London but across the Irish Sea, where it’s been dubbed London’s finest pint of the black stuff by the local press (although pole position is sometimes given to the Coach & Horses below). Accordingly, everyone from Shane McGowan to Brendan Gleeson has dropped by, although there are countless tales of Irishmen in town heading out to test the stuff against their exacting standards. At the moment it looks like they’re sticking to table service, so expect hands to go up every 20 minutes or so for the next round of lust. There’s still a round here.
105 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UD, theauldshillelagh.co.uk
trainers and horses
Though you’ll hear an American accent or two barked in the one-room bar, this pious old-fashioned drunkard, despite being on the eastern estuary to Covent Garden, has managed to avoid a life of tourist hell. Guinness lovers will be drawn to the bragging signs outside bragging about being the best Guinness in London according to the Irish Post. Inside, the walls are a motley heap of old newspaper clippings and pictures, and old-fashioned mirrors, while the staff are friendly, chatty 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 really gorgeous and completely understated; The team strives to give it time to rest before topping it up for the right head of foam. A must.
42 Wellington Street, WC2E 7BD, @coachandhorses_coventgarden
The Guinea Grill
Guinea is a distinctly English place and so perhaps appears as an anomaly on this list. Still, the legacy of former Irish landowner Oisin Rogers remains strong, and there are few better places for a pint of Dublin’s most celebrated export. Though he’s since moved on to other projects, Rogers is among those rare people who can adequately explain why the 119.5-second pourtime is more than a publicity bluff, and pass that knowledge on: His former team – many who are in Guinea stay – are particularly good at casting (pay special attention to Tony). The pub churns out around 2,700 pints of the stuff every week, which was partly bolstered by the Guinness Guru’s rating of the venue as the best Guinness in central London.
Brutonplatz 30, W1J 6NL, theguinea.co.uk
…Where did Rogers go? Here more as a consultant than as a landlord, but he’s there often enough to keep a watchful eye and practice his dexterity with the gas. Although the quality can drop from time to time when the place is particularly busy, for the most part the pub has settled in and found its pace. It’s a beautiful space and buzzes pleasantly throughout the day; It’s best to come in the early afternoon for a pint and whiskey, or maybe a calvados. Something about it – probably that ceiling mural – gives the Audley a sense of occasion.
41-43 Mount Street, W1K 2RX, theaudleypublichouse.com
A local favourite, this unassuming Camden spot proudly boasts a regular Guinness tap alongside the more usual extra cold. The bar staff here tend to always ask if there’s a preference, and if you haven’t already, head over to the regulars’ table. Being a little warmer means more of that Guinness flavor is evident, and the pints here are reliably creamy and always have that all-important dome. Sitting in one of the booths is the kind of place you could spend hours and hours while, if it’s not too busy, the team bring the pints to the table as soon as they’re ready. There are decent whiskeys too.
2 Mornington Street, NW1 7QD, sheephavenbaycamden.co.uk
A gleaming den of absolute delight. A neighborhood bar run with disarming charm, Homeboy is run by top Irish bartenders Aaron Wall and Ciarán Smith, who have stuck to a premise that should be foolproof – good drinks, fair prices – but which seems to confuse so many others . Dry, laughable and expert in cocktails, the duo also knows their pints. The pair and their (probably long-suffering) Guinness rep spent a long time fumbling with taps for the right pressure, playing with the pipes to keep the beer from shivering cold and being exacting when the lines are cleaned. It may seem fussy, but their pints are near perfection. Those groping for a Guinness across the river should head to the homeboy down in Nine Elms, who happily offers more.
108 Essex Road, N1 8LX, homeboybar.com
Gibneys / Narcissus Mulligan
Below the fine dining of Richard Corrigan’s Daffodil Mulligan is Gibney’s Bar. Named after famous Irish landlord Tony Gibney and run by his son Cormac – who believes he poured his first pint around 11am – the bar is warm and cheerful; Entering is like an old photo from a good time. Brass faucets gleam at the counter where the Guinness toucan perches. They pour slowly, carefully and take care of the pint here; it comes out absolutely silky. You have a dangerous amount of Irish whiskey to drink with it.
70-74 City Street, EC1Y 2BJ, daffodilmulgan.com
The grand exterior of this fine old Irish pub on Rupert Street is pretty obvious, but it’s inside that the place really comes to life. Walk through the doors of the Mayfair Boozer and you’ll find a beautifully decorated interior, a fantastic atmosphere and a first class pint. The pub rightly prides itself on the quality of its beers and when the pub comes alive on match days there’s little better place to enjoy a few pints at W1.
14-16 Rupert Street, W1D 6DD, waxyoconnors.co.uk
The swaying full-back
A Finsbury Park institution, Fullback is one of North London’s most popular sports pubs and the cozy front room is a great place to meet at the weekend. 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 quality of the black stuff wasn’t exactly great after lockdown, but it’s still worth checking out. Be warned it can get a little busy.
19 Perth Rd, N4 3HB, falteringfullback.com
The twelve pins
Alongside the fullback, this booze down Seven Sisters Road is helping make Finsbury Park something of a Guinness gold mine, says @shitlondonguinness’s Ian Ryan, the know-it-all black stuff fanatic who lives nearby. In fact, the Twelve Pins have ousted each of their local rivals from Ryan’s top five and while it might not be the coziest of spots – and its proximity to Emirates Stadium means it’s always packed when Arsenal are at home – there’s something reserved about it this place acting like a local drunk who’s quietly nailed the art of a Guinness.
263 Seven Sisters Rd, N4 2DE, the-twelve-pins.business.site