Tag Archives: The Swimmer

The fire at The Swimmer

Top 5… Cosy Pubs in London

As I have said before, rather recently, I love cosy pubs at this time of year. I love nothing more than heading to a warm pub, settling into a nook and drinking wine, chatting with good friends and watching people come and go.

I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 pubs to do this in, incase you want to do similar.

1. The Swimmer at the Grafton Arms

The fire at The Swimmer
The fire at The Swimmer

This pub is pretty close to where I live, and very much makes up part of my regular pub list. It’s tucked away behind the grim Seven Sister’s road, and is an absolute gem. It has board games, generous and yummy food, a good wine list, an open fire and even a sort-of adopted pub cat called Tallulah.

A pic of me and one of my besties (he'll love being called THAT!) last Christmas
A pic of me and one of my besties (he’ll love being called THAT!) last Christmas at The Swimmer


It lacks any pretension and is just a good, honest boozer without being stinky or too local. I absolutely love it here and will no-doubt be having Christmas sessions in here before long.

13 Eburne Road, N7 6AR

2. The Flask, Hampstead


A few of us have a traditional walk on Hampstead Heath on New Year’s Day. Nothing blows the cobwebs away like climbing Parliament Hill to enjoy the view!

After a chilly walk, we normally head to The Flask in Hampstead for a mulled wine and a chat about our resolutions. It’s a small pub, but always has a lovely warm welcome. Again, it’s nothing fancy but I love that about it.

14 Flask Walk, NW3 1HE

3. Smokehouse

A shot of the pass, open to the formal dining room
Smokehouse, Islington

You can read a more extensive review here, but this pub is the epitome of cosy. A friendly welcome, lots of people have a good time, and again, an open fire. It helps that the beer and wine list could have you busy for several days of non-stop drinking and the food is amazing – all conspiring to make you say, “I’ll just have one more, then I really must go…”

63-69 Canonbury Road, N1 2DG

4. The Hunter S Bar

roomwide1 (2)

Low lighting, fun decor and a warm, bustling atmosphere help this pub feel super-cosy. The taxidermy animals dotted about and the various different seating layouts make it quirky without staying into tedious hipster territory. The food is also great, with everything made fresh in-house every day and a wide and interesting menu.

194 Southgate Rd,  N1 3HT

5. The Dove


I’ve spent many an evening here, growing foggy while enjoying the wine list. However, The Dove’s forte is Belgium beers, and their list is probably one of the most impressive in London. The pub itself is cosy and constantly busy, with the tables set close together and the unisex loos – everything is very intimate.

24/28 Broadway Market, E8 4QJ

My London… with Sam B

La Fromagerie, Highbury Barn is the most incredible cheese shop in London

Sam (or Blainsing Squad as I prefer to call him) is a very good friend of mine. Sam and I live very close together in Islington, and neither of us really like venturing too far out of North London. Therefore, Sam and I spend a fair amount of time together, normally in the pub mocking each other and our lives.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who loves London quite as much as Sam does. Therefore, it was a no-brainer for me that he should tell us about his favourite spots in London…

Name Sam

Job Lobbyist

Neighbourhood Holloway (most of the below is quite North London centric)

© Katherine Leedale
© Katherine Leedale

I love London because... all human life is here. And pubs, lots of pubs. Also, The Arsenal play here.

London is at its best when… it’s 5pm on an unusually warm Thursday before the long Easter weekend and roughly 78 per cent of London’s population is standing outside a pub.

My ideal day off in London would be… a long run on the Parkland Walk between Finsbury Park and Highgate to make me feel smug (also to look at dogs). Then lunch at Piebury Corner on the Holloway Road, before going on a long walk somewhere – it doesn’t matter too much where but I like the walk along Regent’s Canal from Islington to Mile End. Plenty of places to stop and drink. Impractically I’d then have to double back to meet friends at the Earl of Essex in Islington and get really drunk at one of the best pubs in North London.

Piebury Corner, Holloway Road would make the list for Sam's ideal day off.
Piebury Corner, Holloway Road would make the list for Sam’s ideal day off.

I absolutely love this little-known place… I doubt you can call the Swimmer in Holloway little known, as it’s always busy, but it’s a lovely pub off the fairly horrible (and I live there) Seven Sisters Road. I also recommend the Scooter Caffe on Lower Marsh behind Waterloo, which is a nice bar tucked away in an uninspiring bit of town.

Sam and me in The Swimming (our local) just before Christmas
Sam and me in The Swimmer (our local) just before Christmas

The best night I’ve ever had in London was… difficult to know, since I end up not remembering them. The night after a win over Sp*rs a few years ago when I met Ray Parlour in a pub on the Holloway Road is difficult to top.

My favourite restaurant is… Asseistte Anglais in Islington

Assiette Anglais, Liverpool Road is one of Sam's favourite restaurants
Assiette Anglais, Liverpool Road is one of Sam’s favourite restaurants

If I had £2000 to blow, I’d spend it all in… La Fromagerie in Highbury. ALL THE CHEESE.

La Fromagerie, Highbury Barn is the most incredible cheese shop in London
La Fromagerie, Highbury Barn is the most incredible cheese shop in London

My favourite museum/gallery/theatre is… I’ve not seen it since they’ve completed the refurbishment but the Imperial War Museum in Kennington is brilliant (the permanent exhibition on the Holocaust is very good indeed). Also, the relatively new Jewish Museum in Camden is worth a visit.

One thing I didn’t know about London until I lived there is… This is difficult to answer since I grew up in Essex and was in London lots before I actually lived here. Perhaps the surprise is how much you see when you just wander around with your eyes open – as alluded to above, I love just walking about town, even if it’s without a plan or any real idea where I’m going.

The other thing about London is how quickly it can change. If you’d have told someone ten years ago that the area around King’s Cross would become one of the finest sights (and sites) in London, they’d have pointed to the sex shops and laughed in your face. You can see the changes (avoiding the loaded word gentrification) in my own area, Holloway, too.

London is great, but one thing that really annoys me is... have you ever been on a nightbus sober? Christ.

I’ll leave London when… I’m in a coffin.

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