53 Carey St, WC2
EST: 1602. Monarch: Elizabeth I
Nearest tubes: Chancery Lane/Holborn
Well if the black-timbered frontage, the overflowing hanging baskets and the window display of dummies’ heads wearing barristers’ wigs don’t tempt you in, I don’t know what will.
Considering the Seven Stars is one of the few London pubs to have escaped the 1666 Fire of London, very little is known about its history. The building dates back to 1602 when Elizabeth I was on the throne and Shakespeare was adding the final touches to Troilius and Cressida. But all we know about the pub’s early days is that it was probably the haunt of Dutch settlers who favoured this area at the time (pubs were named the “Seven Stars” to attract the custom of people from the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands). Sandwiched between Lincoln’s Inn, Temple Bar and the Royal Courts of Justice the Seven Stars has now become a legal haunt. Who knows what lurid cases have echoed around its four walls – particularly from the days when a guilty verdict tended to end in a rather grisly death.
The interior is eccentric to say the least: traditional pub seating is teamed with little bistro-style tables covered with 1950s-style gingham plastic. One ante-room is a former wig shop where some of the erstwhile wares are on display. The ceiling is festooned with dried hops that have seen better days and the steep, narrow stairs to the loo would inspire much hilarity on the part of any modern day building regs inspector. The usual wood panelling is peppered with ceramic displays, customer photographs and film posters featuring anything to do with the law (John Cleese wigged and gowned in A Fish Called Wanda; a similarly bewigged James Robertson Justice in A Pair of Briefs). During my visit there was a team of suited legal figures – presumably from the nearby Inns of Court – holding a briefing meeting over large glasses of Chardonnay (at 2.30pm, too. Impressive). I also spotted one or two tradespeople and a couple of tourists so no-one need feel out of place in this rather bizarre boozer. It’s a small, friendly space that doesn’t take itself too seriously despite its relatively posh clientele.
The other stuff
Brewery: Free house
Open: Every day
Food: Every day from 1pm
The Seven Stars serves a good range of cask beers and hearty, home-cooked fare. All dishes are advertised on a chalkboard and include the likes of stews, casseroles, pies, cheeseboards etc. Prices are reasonable and the reviews are pretty good.