Nothing beats a neighbourhood boozer, and the people of Hackney have a fair few to choose from. Mile End-ers are lucky that The Kenton manages east London cool while bypassing the pretension that often comes along with it. Mixing antiques with modern curiosities, the Norwegian-run pub offers what you’d expect from a local watering hole, along with a couple of surprises along the way. American pale ales are, obviously, on the menu – Dogfish Head DNA most notably – as is Jeremiah Weed and a crowd-pleasing roster of cocktails … Viking Blood, anyone?
Lancashire-based Northern Soul Food provide the grub. Burgers start at £6.50 – amazing – and range from classic cheeseburgers to the likes of The Bambino, containing 100% wild venison with spiced red cabbage, Dijon mustard and cheese. Sunday roasts are provided in-house, too. Well, it wouldn’t be a neighbourhood pub if they didn’t.
The huge range of extra-curricular (the curricular being drinking) activities is impressive. Pop along for a film night, take part in quizzes or try your hand at the Rock N Roll bingo. You can even take advantage of the beer garden which, in the colder months, has blankets to keep punters cosy.
Best Bars tip: Go midweek for Wine Wednesdays, or get out of work quick on Fridays to take part in Rock, Paper, Scissors against the barmen. If you beat them, your drink is half-price. Winner.
— Millie Milliken, @milliemilliken
Set in a commanding Victorian building at the top of Harborne High Street, open fireplaces, chequerboard tiles and sink-in-to-me-and-never-leave booth seating places The Junction squarely into must-have weekend territory.
With six regularly changing real ales and a stellar reputation for world beers – and that’s before world beers were a thing – The Junction just gets us. And if the bubbly brown stuff isn’t your thing, the rich yet revitalising Bloody Mary alongside Saturday brunch or The Junction’s epic Sunday lunch is our drink of choice.
Get your hands on a paper, some pals and settle in for the long haul – The Junction has everything you could possibly need. It even does boardgames.
Best Bars tip: Sunny day? The secluded beer garden, which isn’t visible from the front of the pub, is sometimes overlooked.
– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com
The Hare & Hounds is a neighbourhood boozer with international musical reach and some of the most forward-thinking club nights in the region. Two upstairs venues cover off everything from jazz to to comedy to D’n’B, while pub quizzes, home-cooked grub and weekend DJs keep both the old and new sides of the bar downstairs busy every night of the week.
We like the regularly changing guest ales and reassuringly sizeable selection of ciders for sunny afternoons which turn in to all-nighters. For a more conversational start to your visit, try the newly-renovated side of the bar where classic cocktails are now being dispensed.
Not a venue where punters generally stop in for just one — we’ve lost whole weekends to this Birmingham giant.
Best Bars tip: Sign up to the e-newsletter to avoid missing out on the next big musical thing. UB40 started here.
– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com
Nineteenth century features sit happily beside a hotchpotch of contemporary art, booth seating and the eponymous DJ Julie (weekends only) at The Fighting Cocks.
If four Cask Marque accredited real ales and 14 speciality beers, lagers and ciders aren’t enough for you, we’ve been dreaming about the ginger- and vanilla-infused Red Leg Spiced Rum repeatedly since The Fighting Cocks first introduced us.
Beloved by its Moseley locals and city folk alike, salt of the earth homemade grub is served to a relaxed crowd throughout the week. And if you ask us — which I suppose you really are — The Fighting Cocks is all about satiating that Sunday feeling, any day of the week.
Best Bars tip: Get yourself to Monday’s weekly quiz night to find out about a very special round that has been known to involve a man dressing up in a full bunny suit.
– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com
Popular with the post-work crowd, neighbourhood boozer The Prince George — located on bustling Trafalgar Street — is a mix of both traditional pub and boutique bar. Case in point: there are lots of cosy nooks and crannies (surrounded by the type of framed posters and paintings you’d expect to find in an old timer) merged with pendant lamps and exposed brick walls alongside fancy wallpaper. It’s this, plus the lovely little garden – replete with plenty of plants, plus heaters and big brollies in the evenings – which brings the crowds.
Its main draw, however, is its restaurant Veggie-Veggie. As its name suggests, the entire menu is dedicated to herbivores, and it’s been voted as one of PETA’s top 10 veggie restaurants in the UK. With the likes of ginger beer-battered halloumi with chips and mushy peas as well as chestnut mushroom ravioli with blue cheese sauce on head chef Malcolm Ingram’s menu, we’re not surprised.
If you’re just after a bevvie, then the selection of local ales here is almost second-to-none. There’s a range on offer from the 1648 Brewing Co, Dark Star, Langham, Kissingate and Hepworth & Co. We make ours a pint of Dark Star IPA every time.
Best Bars tip: For the serious vegetarians, there’s a meat-free wine and beer list. Very virtuous.
— Heather Steele, @steeleheather
The Newsroom can be found on the busy thoroughfare which links the city to Leith. With a range of hotels, shops, offices and much more close by. A bustling hub lit from the front by oversized jam jars filled with filament lamps lead you into a relatively unfussy and clean-feeling area with a large semi-circular bar at its heart. There are a lot of seating options on the ground floor with a separate well apportioned function space downstairs.
The food at The Newsroom is very much designed for great taste without too much fuss, which suits their guests’ demands perfectly. We tried the Great Scot burger, a haggis fritter with whisky mayo all served with salad and fries. Applewood smoke was hanging in the air after we tried the Smoking Ron Burgundy — Ron Zacapa rum with Cherry Marnier and Mozart chocolate liqueur, stirred down and smoked in a bell jar – worth the wait and our favourite Anchorman would be proud.
Very much a pre-club bar at the weekends with a DJ on every Saturday, The Newsroom attracts a young and upbeat crowd. Food is of course a major feature as is coffee and the vibe really does change throughout the day. If you’re looking for a warm up to your weekend then every Thursday there is Dr. Paul’s quiz, packed full of irrelevant facts and a lot of fun.
Best Bars tip: The beauty of The Newsroom’s downstairs private room is that is comes complete with its own bar and DJ booth, great news when you’re looking to have a party and want to impress your guests.
— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks
It’s not hard to see why The Grafton was crowned Great British Pub of the Year 2014. This traditional cornerstone boozer in the heart of Kentish Town, offers a great drinks selection, a wide range of real ales, tasty meals and an impressive array of eclectic in-house events – all set in a stunning Victorian restoration complete with quirky modern features and a weather-proof roof terrace.
The downstairs bar offers no set drinks menu but check the chalkboards to scope out a rotating list of award-winning hand pumped ales, local craft beers, ciders, premium spirits and world wines. Tucked away upstairs, you’ll find a more modern bar with an adjacent rooftop terrace. With a bespoke selection of wines and the pub’s very own light prosecco, all on tap to satisfy demands for a constant flow of vino and moreish spritzers. Bar bites are available with food pop-ups such as Texas Joe’s BBQ, which is taking over Grafton’s kitchen until January 2015 with delectable meaty sharing platters.
The upstairs area also hosts Friday DJ nights, monthly Swapaholics clothes exchanges, acoustic music nights and many other fun shindigs. In fact, one look at the events listings and you’ll find there’s an occasion for everyone – from the Tuesday pub quiz (only £1 to enter) to Bring Your Own Vinyl nights, Sing-A-Long Sundays and even the all-welcoming Reggae Choir.
Best Bars tip: Having a bit of a get together? Get cosy in the Grafton’s “Boardroom”. Now available to hire, this upstairs space seats 10-14 or 20 standing and is perfect for private dining, meetings, film screenings, parties and you can even connect your own keg in the corner for all-night top ups.
— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu