IN MY TOP TEN
34, Park Street SE1 9EF
EST: 1770s (in this incarnation). Monarch: George III
Nearest Tube: London Bridge
The Anchor has a prominent position on Bankside as you emerge from Borough Market via Clink Street. Its attractive outside seating area is the focal point and when you pass by on a summer’s day you will find yourself yearning to join the riverside throng.
Where do I start? The current Anchor pub was built between 1770-75 on the site of an earlier inn named the Castell on the Hoop, which dates back a cool 800 years. Bustling Bankside would have been unrecognisable then: the narrow mediaeval street was lined with wharves and warehouses while the air was filled with the stench of fish and the unsettling sounds of bear-baiting arenas and brothels. Inhabitants of the latter were known locally as “Winchester Geese” because the Bishop of Winchester owned the brothels and claimed the tax revenues. Nice. A few centuries later this area was the heart of Elizabethan theatreland and Shakespeare may have been a local since this was his stamping ground. The Anchor was a haunt of river pirates and smugglers during its colourful history: when repairs were carried out in the 19th century a wealth of ingenious hiding places for stolen goods and contraband were discovered. This pub has also burnt down (twice) and rebuilt (twice). Other claims to fame are that diarist Samuel Pepys witnessed the Great Fire of London from the comfort of this pub in 1666, and that dictionary supremo Dr Samuel Johnson used to pop in for a pint when he wasn’t engaged on thinking up new words. Sometimes: “ale” and “pipe” are the only words you need.
The main bar is a large oak-beamed space broken up into pleasant nooks and cubby holes. But if you can’t find a seat, keep going: there’s a warren of dark rooms spread out over several levels and you will doubtless find an ambiance to suit your mood among the comfortable lounges, bars, mezzanines and galleries.
The other stuff
The Anchor is a Greene King pub offering a range of cask and bottled beers plus wines and cocktails. Food choices include Sunday roasts, pies and burgers and there’s an area set aside for fish and chips. But in summer, the terrace is the place to be where you can order Pimms by the jug and watch the world go by overlooking the Thames.
For a complete list of pubs, go to the home page.