Bonnie and Clyde, Ant and Dec, journalism and alcohol… they’re just meant to be.
Journalism is a drinker’s game, or was, in any case. The current climate of multi-platform internet journalism (not to mention a more enlightened modern work ethic) seems to have killed the functioning-alcoholic status of the lowly hack.
Despite this, the capital still houses a number of historically significant drinking dens that keep a little of our world’s half-cut history alive. From traditional Fleet Street boozers – largely empty of actual journalists since the Great Migration – to gastro-pubs and hipster dives, the seven examples below give a glimpse of the half-cut hack’s past, present and future. Scroll to the bottom for an interactive map of their locations.
29 Greek Street, London W1D 5DH
A classic, and one of the best pubs in Soho. The piano affords a vaudeville atmosphere (perfect for half-cut renditions of Cockney ragtime tunes), the bar keeps decent ales and apparently there’s decent vegetarian fare in the upstairs dining room. The pub makes the list primarily because it’s Private Eye’s local – the satirical rag’s staff have been traipsing down Greek Street for their fortnightly lunch for almost 40 years.
145 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2BU
A Fleet Street staple, and still one of the most idiosyncratic pubs in London. Most of the other Street of Shame examples have been gentrified beyond recognition or shut (the infamous White Hart – popularly known as the “Stab In The Back” due to the newsroom machinations that took place there, is now a Pizza Express, of all things). Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese retains its dank, labyrinthine charm, and is positioned within spitting distance of the old London Press Club premises. As it’s now run by the Sam Smiths brewery, it’s also relatively cheap; a definite boon for a City boozer.
47 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1BJ
A seminal hangout for journalists and editors in Fleet Street’s heyday, this antiquated little wine bar and restaurant is less frequented by hacks than lawyers nowadays, but is still an essential stop on the legacy tour. El Vino infamously operated a staunch only-men-in-the-bar policy (women being relegated to a backroom) until 1982, when Tess Gill and Anna Coote – a solicitor and a journalist, respectively – took the owners to the Court of Appeal on discrimination charges.
99 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DE
Once known as the less snappy Crown and Sugar Loaf, this visually decadent boozer was renamed The Punch Tavern in 1841, in reference to the satirical rag’s staff using it as a frequent meeting place. It retains its iconic signage and characteristic interior, and now serves “award-winning” pies.
10 Storey’s Gate, London SW1P 3AT
A favourite for MPs desperate to cram in mid-Bill pints, and close enough to Parliament that they can run back to vote when the bar’s division bell is rung. The Westminster Arms is a stalwart for political journalists looking for drunken scoops.
292-294 Saint John Street, London EC1V 4PA
As a defacto local for City University’s Journalism department, The Blacksmith & The Toffeemaker will one day be remembered as a pre-career stomping ground for many of journalism’s most illustrious practitioners. It lacks the old-school lustre of the others– and anyone should balk at paying £5 for a pint of mediocre European lager – but as a forum for bleary-eyed discussion on the topics of the day it cant be beaten. Much of the department descends on Thursday and Friday evenings; the exception is the Newspaper course who, having half the work and thus double the drinking hours, appear at lunchtimes too.
38 Great Eastern Street, London EC2A 3ES
Sure, the Old Blue is a hub for both tourists straying a little too far from Spitalfields and hipsters who haven’t heard that the Dalston ‘Strip’ is far more au fait, but it’s also owned by the multinational powerhouse that is Vice magazine, whose offices are a couple of hundred metres away. It retains little of its old interior character – it was previously operated by the Truman Brewery – though the upstairs is now a raucous music venue, largely attracting a mix of nu-school pop punk enthusiasts and the kind of self-consciously ‘irreverent’ media n00bs that Nathan Barley was oh-so prescient of.