The Black Friar

74 Queen Victoria Street, EC4V 4EG

Nearest tube: Blackfriars 400ft

Nearest attraction: St Paul’s 0.3 miles

BF AThe hook

When I first spotted the Black Friar from my seat on a hugely enjoyable London Duck Tour I was mesmerised by this lovely, Trivial Pursuit-pie shaped building beneath Blackfriars Bridge. Since I was a captive audience on the tour I was forced to sit tight, squirrel away the info and resolve to visit the pub at a later date. And when I eventually did so I discovered that the Black Friar was even better inside than out.


The history

EST: 1875. Monarch: Victoria

Built in 1875, the pub is fairly modern despite its medieval styling. But the name of the Black Friar refers to its position on the site of a former priory. When friars first appeared in medieval England they were something of a novelty since unlike monks (who were cloistered in monasteries) they travelled around, spreading the word in exchange for money to sustain themselves. Nice work if you can get it. There were two main groups of friars in early 13th century London – the Franciscans who were invariably dressed in grey, and the Dominicans whose long black mantles earned them the name the Black Friars. These were later joined by the Carmelites, or the White Friars (I see a theme emerging) and the Augustinians, otherwise known as the Austin Friars. Maybe there were no more drab colours to adopt?

Anyway, the pub is a Grade II listed Arts and Crafts building which means it has plenty of historical merit despite not actually being old. In the “enlightened” 1960s when iconic buildings were being flattened left right and centre, the Black Friar was among those scheduled to be demolished. However, the poet Sir John Betjeman stepped in and led a campaign to keep it. It just goes to show, you can always count on a creative to vouch for a pub as Dickens, Pepys, Marlowe etc will bear out.


The ambiance

The Black Friar has been skillfully designed inside to reflect its Dominican roots. However the arches, carvings and stained glass windows have been teamed with cosy nooks and low lighting to create an interior that is both impressive and snug. Everywhere you look there are sculptures, mosaics and wooden reliefs featuring black friars beaming down on you with happy, smiling faces. In fact it was the Grey Friars who had a reputation for being particularly jolly, but who knows. Maybe the two rival groups engaged in much friendly joshing as they roamed the streets of London, spreading their respective words.

BF 2The other stuff

Brewery: Nicholson

Open: Every day

Food: Served from lunchtime

The Black Friar’s dining room is a revelation with its vaulted-style ceiling that continues the medieval theme.

For a complete list of pubs, go to the home page. And to see a list of pubs by their nearest tube station, go to Where’s my pub?

And go to: King Who? for more info about the monarchs mentioned in this blog.


The Anchor

34, Park Street SE1 9EF

Nearest Tube: London Bridge 0.4 miles

Nearest attraction: Borough Market 0.2 miles


The hook

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.


The history

EST: 1770s (in this incarnation). Monarch: George III

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 ambiance

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

Brewery: Greene King

Open: Every day

Food: Every day from midday

The Anchor has a great terrace that’s the place to be in summer. Here 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. And to see a list of pubs by their nearest tube station, go to Where’s my pub?

And go to: King Who? for more info about the monarchs mentioned in this blog.