16 Shepherd Market, W1J 7QQ
Nearest tube: Green Park
We lifelong Londoners tend to be a little nervous when venturing into Mayfair – probably due to all that Monopoly money we lost when landing on it as children. The area is still as fancy as the board game suggests and there are posh hotels everywhere. So it’s a pleasant surprise to blunder into Shepherd Market which has a charming, village-like atmosphere. The coyly named Ye Grapes is tucked away down an alleyway (where else?) a mere hop, skip and a jump away from the exclusive Ritz.
EST: 1882. Monarch: Victoria
This little corner of Mayfair was the site of an annual, fortnight-long event that was established by James II in the 1680s. This took the form of a fair. Held in May. Obviously.
Although the name “Mayfair” conjures up images of well-moneyed people occupying upmarket buildings, the event from which it took its name was notorious for being riotous and disorderly. The fair was finally abolished in 1708, only to be reinstated a few years later when the powers-that-be relented. And surprise surprise: it descended into debauchery one again.
Shepherd Market was big in the sex trade from the 18th century until the 1970s. Little is known about the original clientele of Ye Grapes after it was established as a pub in 1882. But bearing in mind the area’s reputation we can probably hazard a guess.
Ye Grapes is a handsome old building situated in a typically pubby corner position. Inside the vibe is more ancient hunting lodge than sophisticated Mayfair drinking den and there are animal heads everywhere stuffed and mounted on the walls. The atmosphere is friendly and the pub becomes very packed on weekend evenings.
The other stuff
Brewery: Free house
Open: every day
Food: Thai food every day