Ireland in London: London’s Best Irish Bars

Irish writer Orlaith O’Sullivan recently spent time in London researching her new book. While she was here, she checked out some of London’s best Irish bars for our World in London series…

More than tracing the footsteps of Shaw and Yeats around Bloomsbury, spending an hour or two in conversation over a well-poured pint is a quintessential London-Irish experience. A “good” Irish pub has a certain elusive quality. It doesn’t try too hard to announce its heritage. It is a space that welcomes, warms, and nurtures good conversation. 

Waxy O’Connor’s – in the heart of the West End – is a cavernous pub that still manages to feel inviting. Order your pint and Tayto crisps, then choose a spot according to your taste: nestle beside the fire in the Cottage Bar, take a pew within the gothic décor of the Church Bar, or explore the fairytale atmosphere of the Tree Room, where you can marvel beneath its massive trunks and branches. 

With its mix of church architecture, painted panelled ceilings and tiled floors, Waxy O’Connor’s provides a unique and quirky setting for its loyal, lively clientele. If you’re looking for a smaller, simpler experience, try Waxy’s Little Sister, around the corner on Wardour Street. Armchairs, sofas and an open fire set the perfect tone for a quick catch-up pint or a chilled-out evening. 

For something completely different, The Irish Club is an elegant members’ club that welcomes guests and non-members. Located at 2-4 Tudor Street, the 1903 building previously housed The Institute of Journalists and was later converted to barristers’ chambers. Now tastefully restored, it offers a sophisticated sanctuary from the bustle of Blackfriars. 

The Club’s Jameson Bar reportedly houses the largest collection of Irish whiskeys in London. If whiskey isn’t your tipple, there’s ample choice of wines, cocktails and beers to enjoy against a backdrop of contemporary Irish art. (At the time of writing, there are more Graham Knuttels than you could shake a stick at.) 

The secret of a good Irish bar lies in its atmosphere. Whether its customers are reading the papers on a still afternoon, or roaring encouragement to the Six Nations, it’s a space that remains dependable, recognisable, despite its different moods. Whatever it is, you can’t bottle it. 

Do you have more Irish recommendations? Let us know where you go to find a taste of Ireland in London. 

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  1. Zoe J. Griffiths says:

    Foodie blogger Eat Like a Girl has given us some great suggestions through our twitter feed:

    The Lyric and the Conor Don used to be good but have disappeared. Waxy’s is for tourists. Porterhous also big but better,

    Powers in Kilburn, The Tipperary on Fleet St, Quinns in Camden are best examples I know of proper Irish pubs.

    Thanks for that! Any other ideas?

  2. Claire Doble says:

    I’m a big fan of Waxy’s Little Sister – great meeting place for a swiftie before heading out for the evening!

  3. Ben says:

    Seriously? Waxy O’Connors?! One of the best Irish bars in London???! At least it meant I was able to stop reading almost as soon as I started the article. Thanks.

  4. Londonette says:

    My friend always calls it Ruby Waxy’s Little Sister. Lol!

  5. Shane McGowan says:

    Waxys is horrific. You can hardly move, you wait 20 minutes for a drink, you get every langers drink spilled on you any time you try to move. If you’re in the wrong part of the pub going to the toilet can take quite some time. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to go outside and find an alley to wazz in. Top-notch Irish pubs have the toilet outside anyway.

  6. Sarah says:

    The Irish Club closed months ago. Waxy’s has fab decor if you could only see it for the crowds.

    The Auld Shillelagh in Stoke Newington still going strong. Mother Red Cap in Archway sadly one of the last of the Irish pubs along the Holloway Road.

  7. Emyr Thomas, Bon Vivant says:

    If you want a more civilised bar with Irish roots, head to the bar at Corrigan’s Mayfair from celebrated Irish chef Richard Corrigan. Here’s our review of the food:

    http://www.bonvivant.co.uk/blog/2012/02/02/corrigans-mayfair-traditional-sunday-roast-at-its-best/

    Thanks,
    Emyr

  8. martin mccrystal says:

    The James Joyce on Kenton rd in Harrow was best Irish pub in London for many years. Like so many great pubs, it was the staff that made it so good. It was managed at the time by 2 Kerry girls and all the staff were irish. Unfortunately, it’s owners “Magowans Irish bars” decided in their wisdom to move them elsewhere and it now looks more like an 80’s wine bar. What a shame!!

  9. Alan Byrne says:

    It’s a shame isn’t it, that the Irish experience in London is stereotypically reduced to so-called Irish pubs and bars; as if that’s all we ever do! Those of us who are London Irish know the best places and generally keep them to ourselves; Waxy’s is not one of them and is best left to the tourists. Sadly, the days are gone when all parts of London could boast a good pub or three where you could enjoy a mighty session while supping a decent pint; my favourites were the White Hart in Fulham Bradway and Hop Poles in Hammersmith. Also gone are most of the clubs that sustained and soothed the Irish soul in this harsh city, like the Hibernian in Fulham and Natioanl in Kilburn,as are the community centres, shops and bookshops. I don’t know who Orlaith O’Sullivan is but VisitLondon should give the job of writing up the story of Ireland in London to someone who knows the city and its Irish communities.

  10. Irish House says:

    Irish House is back!!

    Popping up at the Big Chill House (a short walk from London’s King’s Cross station) on the 16th and 17th March 2013, the Irish House is going to be the best place to enjoy a truly Irish party atmosphere to celebrate St. Patrick’s day and the excitement of the 6 Nations, complemented by an extensive programme of live music, fun and games.

    Open on Saturday from 11am-3am and on Sunday from 11am-midnight, the Irish House will be a truly unique place where everybody can visit and expect to chill with a pint and a bite to eat, enjoy live bands, traditional Irish music sessions and special DJ sets, or simply enjoy fun and games on the secret room and on the roof terrace!

  11. Michael says:

    I actually think Waxy O’Connor’s is a great bar when it’s not so crowded. Perfect for a weekday afternoon tipple.

    Another good idea for St. Patrick’s Day for the more artistically inclined is to check out Once the Musical which will be open in the West End on 16 March. There are some good deals for next week on cheaptheatretickets.com/once-the-musical

  12. Guido McFister says:

    The Faltering Fullback Finnsbury park is a class bar….a wee bit stereotypical in decor, serves Thai food….but run by Irish an frequented by Irish with a great atmosphere, the Ewok village (as we christened it)multi leveled beer garden/smoking area and traditional Irish sessions!

    Also the Sheep Haven Bay Mornington Crescent is pretty good especially if you’re a Celtic supporter!

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