IN MY TOP FIVE
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’d never noticed it before during the many previous times I had walked along the Strand.
Discovering this pub the other evening was like finding a delightful room in my house that I hadn’t realised was there. I’m fairly convinced that other people have overlooked it too given the relatively few punters within.
EST: 1890s. Monarch: Victoria
The Nell Gwynne was built in the 1890s to replace the Bull Inn on the same site. Named after Charles II’s famous mistress who sold her wares at nearby Covent Garden, the pub’s link with Nell is, however, fairly tenuous since the celebrated orange-seller died more than 200 years before the pub was built. Nor is there any evidence that she popped in to the Bull Inn itself for a giant scotch egg either.
But the pub has colourful historical links besides its Nell Gwyn connection (or lack thereof). It’s a stone’s throw 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.
The décor of the Nell Gwynne is intrinsically Dickensian with its brown walls, heavy oak shelving, porcelain barrels and sepia-hued lamps suspended over the bar. There’s a subdued, secretive atmosphere – but in a good way.
The other stuff
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 gloriously retro juke box where you can play yesterday’s favourite hits.
For a complete list of pubs, go to the home page.