77 Borough High Street, SE1 1NH
EST: 1676. Monarch: Charles II
Nearest tube: London Bridge
If you want an idea of what The George is like, here’s a tip: don’t visit their website. This makes it out to be any old run-of-the-mill boozer where you would pop in for an after-work pint. But the George, tucked away as it is in its own little courtyard off Borough High Street, is a magnificent galleried coaching inn that will blow you away when you see it.
The George stands on the site of an old inn where Elizabethan actors once performed in the courtyard to audiences in the galleries above. In fact Shakespeare himself probably visited the pub since Southwark was his stamping ground. Sadly there’s no proof that the elusive bard ever popped in for a drink, nice as it would have been to discover his name carved in an oak beam or a scribbled draft of As You Like It tucked down the side of a pew. The George was rebuilt after a fire in 1676 and served as a coaching inn with a coffee room in the present-day Middle Bar; a passenger waiting room in the Parliament Bar and guest bedrooms in the upstairs gallery, now used as a restaurant. Proof of Shakespeare’s patronage might be scanty but Charles Dickens was definitely a customer. In fact he even immortalised it in his novel Little Dorrit, making it the pub where the title character’s ne’er-do-well brother wrote his begging letters.
The narrow passages, steep stairways and warren-like rooms give the George a wonderfully cosy ambiance. As London’s last remaining galleried inn it is one of a kind and owned by the National Trust. Go there in winter for a hot toddy in atmospheric surroundings, or head for the delightfully sunny courtyard in summer. Here you can contemplate your own mortality (in a good way), wedged between the galleried inn from Charles II’s reign to one side and the the contemporary bustle of Borough High Street to other and with the sci-fi Shard towering above you.
The other stuff
The George serves good ales as well as sandwiches, pies and other pub staples at surprisingly reasonable prices. It also honours its historic coffee house roots by offering lattes, cappuccinos and Americanos.
For a complete list of pubs, go to the home page.