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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.