One of my top five pubs
1-2 Bull inn Court, WC2R 0NP
Nearest tube: Charing Cross
There’s a touch of the Leaky Cauldrons about the Nell Gwynne. Just like the pub in the Harry Potter books, this Victorian hostelry tucked away in Bull’s Inn Yard seems to have materialised out of nowhere. At least I, for one, had never noticed it before during the many times I had previously walked along the Strand. Discovering this pub was like finding a delightful room in my house that I hadn’t realised was there.
EST: 1890s. Monarch: Victoria
The Nell Gwynne was built in the 1890s to replace the Bull Inn which stood on the same site. It is named after Charles II’s famous mistress – whose name is usually spelt “Gwyn” – and who sold her wares in nearby Covent Garden. The pub’s actual links with our Nell are fairly tenuous, however, since the celebrated orange-seller died more than 200 years before the inn was built. And there isn’t any evidence that she ever popped into the pub for a giant scotch egg under its previous incarnation as the Bull, either.
But there are colourful historical links besides the Nell Gwyn connection (or lack thereof). The pub is a stone’s throw away from the site of a notorious murder in 1897 when William Terris, an actor known for his swashbuckling heroes and Shakespeare characters, was stabbed to death by a disgruntled colleague at the stage door of the nearby Adelphi Theatre.
Going inside this pub is like stepping into a sepia photograph. The décor of the Nell Gwynne is intrinsically Dickensian with its brown walls, heavy oak shelving, porcelain barrels and dull gold lamps suspended over the bar. The TV screens add an incongruous reminder that the punter has not, in fact, stepped back in time. That and the board advertising the wifi code.
The other stuff
Brewery: Free house
Food: mainly lunchtime toasties and giant scotch eggs
Any tendency towards gloom is offset by the cheerful bar staff and the blackboards offering gins-of-the-month and sourdough toasties. The pub prides itself on its real ales, “gin den” and whisky selection and there’s a dartboard plus a gloriously retro juke box where you can play yesterday’s favourite hits.
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