St Patrick’s Day 2024: London’s best pubs for a pint of Guinness

Guinness: possibly the most velvety drink in existence  (Josh Barrie)
Guinness: possibly the most velvety drink in existence (Josh Barrie)

Not 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, so too the storage of the barrels. 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 definitely 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 on the African continent, 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, is one, though remains closed for now (it is due to reopen). 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

Stoke Newington might be a bit of a trek from anywhere that’s not Stoke Newington, but the Auld Shillelagh is a 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, as well as 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). 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. There’s always another round here.

105 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UD, theauldshillelagh.co.uk

Coach and Horses

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 Blythe Hill Tavern

 (Blythe Hill Tavern)
(Blythe Hill Tavern)

Between Catford and Forest Hill is the Blythe Hill Tavern, a glorious Victorian local but also a pub worth travelling to. Inside, it is a traditional corner spot with a roaring fire, circular tables, low stalls and dark blue banquettes, as well as a solid pint of Guinness. Overseeing the place is Con Riordan, who moved to London from Limerick in 1974 to run the place. And so no wonder the Guinness is good. Enjoy a pint or two next to live music and top sourdough pizzas from Van Dough, a visiting food van that parks just outside.

319 Stanstead Road, SE6 4US, blythehilltavern.org.uk

Skehan’s

 (Helen Abraham Photography)
(Helen Abraham Photography)

“Purveyors of craic” is an amusing tagline for a place — not least because said out loud by uncultured British drinker it leaves some room for misunderstanding. Still, that’s about the only criticism of this Nunhead freehouse there is. Skehan’s earned a prestigiously high spot in our most recent list of top 50 pubs for good reason: it roars with music six nights out of seven, and there are quiz nights, karaoke, and writers’ meet-ups. It’s no surprise its following is so loyal: this is somewhere working for its crowd, who love them for it. And of course you can’t be a truly good pub without good Guinness.

1 Kitto Road, SE14 5TW, skehans.com

The Devonshire

 (Clare Menary)
(Clare Menary)

Here it is. The pub that is always busy. It only opened late last year and yet it is already famous across the UK and Ireland, not least because co-owner Oisín Rogers and his exceptional team put so much effort into ensuring the Guinness is golden. There are many reasons as to why it’s such a clean and crisp pint. One of the foremost is down to the amount The Devonshire gets through, which is a lot. But much credence must also go to Ross Culligan and Sam Donohoe, bar manager and assistant bar manager respectively and who moved from Dublin stalwart Kehoes for the gig — there are no better pourers in London today.

17 Denman Street, W1D 7HW, devonshiresoho.co.uk

Tir Na NOg

 (Flickr/Ewan Munro)
(Flickr/Ewan Munro)

This Irish pub in Wandsworth — absolutely not the posh side — is an ideal location to enjoy a Guinness or two. It has been for some time a classic south London bolthole, one filled with live music, sports, and warm hospitality. There’s a lovely little garden out the back as well, so if the weather is fine, there are few better locales. Guinness can vary a bit here but is usually on point. Anyway, it is as much about the setting as the drink.

107 Garratt Lane, SW18 4DW, tirnanogwandsworth.co.uk

The Audley

 (Simon Brown)
(Simon Brown)

The Audley opened only at the tail end of 2022 but has already becoming an attraction. In part this is down to decent Guinness. The quality can, from time-to-time, dip when the place is particularly busy, but mostly the pub has settled in and found its pace. It is a beautiful room and hums nicely throughout the day; the best time to come is early afternoon, for a pint and a whisky, or maybe a Calvados. Something about it — probably that ceiling mural — lends the Audley a sense of occasion.

41-43 Mount Street, W1K 2RX, theaudleypublichouse.com

Sheephaven Bay

 (Sheephaven)
(Sheephaven)

An unassuming spot in Camden, this locals’ favourite is one of those pubs with a regular Guinness tap alongside one of those extra-cold ones built for unknowing Brits. The bar staff here tend to ask if there’s a preference. Only a fool wouldn’t go for the regular. The classic pints here are reliably creamy and always have that all-important dome. Sat in one of the booths, it’s the sort of place one could spend hours and hours in. Do. And when quiet, the team will bring the Guinness to the table, which is an old school move but always a lovely one. A cracking pub.

2 Mornington Street, NW1 7QD, sheephavenbaycamden.co.uk

Homeboy

A gleaming den of utter joy. A neighbourhood bar executed with disarming charm, Homeboy comes from top Irish bartender Aaron Wall, who has stuck to a premise that should be fool proof — good drinks, fair prices — but which seems to befuddle so many others. Wall is dry, game for a laugh and an expert at cocktails, but knows his pints too. Wall and his (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 is exacting about when the lines get cleaned.

108 Essex Road, N1 8LX, homeboybar.com

Gibney's / Daffodil Mulligan

Down beneath the fun 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 silky. They've a dangerous amount of Irish whiskey to drink with it.

70-74 City Road, EC1Y 2BJ, daffodilmulligan.com

Waxy O’Connors

The grand exterior of this fine old Irish pub in Rupert Street is unmissable, but it’s inside where the place really comes alive. Go through the Covent Garden boozer’s doors and you’ll find a wonderfully ornate interior, a fantastic atmosphere and an agreeable 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 Street, W1D 6DD, waxyoconnors.co.uk

The Faltering Fullback

Finsbury Park institution the Faltering 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 tend to 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. Be warned, it can get a little busy.

19 Perth Road, N4 3HB, falteringfullback.com

The Twelve Pins

Stock image (Erik Jacobson/Unsplash)
Stock image (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 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

The Black Horse

 (The Black Horse)
(The Black Horse)

The Black Horse is a relatively bonkers British boozer. The first iteration of a pub on the site dates back to the 1680s, when it was a traditional coaching inn, and it was for centuries owned and operated by long-standing East London families. Today, it is a lively spot, with rock music, darts, rugby, and regulars who are often up for a shot or two. As for the Guinness, it does the job. Take the time to visit.

The Black Horse, 40 Leman Street, E1 8EU, 020 7488 1406