I went in search of the cheapest pint in London
Spoiler: It’s £2.56
When discussing my Philosophy course with a friend from Newcastle and my coursework question, “How do I know I’m in London?” He commented, “well because it’s £5 a pint like.”
This sentiment rings true as I stroll around the city, desperate to quench my thirst for a cocktail of grain, hops, barley and water.
I consider how expensive it must be trying to be a rugby lad in a place where a simple Amstel will set you back at least four quid.
I’m told by a local barman the inflated prices are reflective of the higher London rents and the cheapest pints can be found in places that own the freehold to the pub. But with London property prices (particularly around UCL’s central position) growing and growing, it seems the chances of anyone buying the freehold is increasingly unlikely, and if people are prepared to pay £5 a pint anyway, why charge them any less? Bloody capitalism, eh.
Nevertheless, head bloodied but unbowed, I took positive action and went on the cheapest bar crawl I possibly could, here’s what I found.
The Hoop and Grapes, Aldgate
Following a tip from my East-end Uncle, I took a trip to this Aldgate free house. I was disappointed to find out my pint cost £3.70, and it was a Carling. Not bad for London, but not quite as cheap as I was looking for. That said, it’s a good guide for the typical good-value East London pint on which to begin our quest.
The Anchor Tap, Tower Bridge
If you missed the story about the cheapest and most expensive pints in London, check it out – I did and ended up here. The pub is tucked away in the labyrinth of Shad Thames, but easily a couple minutes walk from Tower bridge, five from London Bridge station.
It’s been monopolised by Samuel Smith’s brewery, a Yorkshire-based independent brewery founded in 1758. The fact the Tap serve only Sammy means they can significantly cut the costs and the cheapest lager going weighs in at a mere £2.56. Yes, you read that right.
The Samuel Smith Alpine lager really is cheap, but at only 2.8 per cent it’s not ideal to begin a session with. So if you want something a little stronger you can go for the Taddy lager at 4.5 per cent, setting you back a measly £3.24.
This said, what the Tap has in value it lacks in ambience. The lowkey setting reminded me of something out of The Woman in Black except there was no Daniel Radcliffe or women in the entire pub – a true, dreary blokes bar.
The Cock Tavern, Oxford Street
Okay, it’s not quite Oxford Street, but it’s only just off it on Margaret Street.
When a friend told me I could get a pint for under £3 on this iconic London road, I laughed in his face. “Not a chance” I retorted, crying in to my £4.80 Peroni.
But sure enough, I was wrong. At The Cock I was astounded to discover a pint was going to set me back £2.56… again.
Alas, Sammy Smith had it’s finger in this West End pie too. I had another Taddy lager for £3.24, which is actually really nice. Turns out prices are pretty standard in all the Sam Smith pubs, so if you can find any nearby you’re on to a winner.
A peruse of the internet led to my discovery of “The Sam Smith Challenge”, potentially the cheapest bar crawl in London. We didn’t fancy it, but the map is pretty helpful if you’re looking for a cheap pint near you.
The Half Moon, Mile End
If you ever find yourself out by Queen Mary University – granted, you probably won’t – it’s worth popping in to this ‘Spoons.
As far as Wetherspoon’s go this is a pretty nice one and the haunt of many QMUL students. This stimulates a pretty good atmosphere and at only £2.50 for a Carslberg or £2.80 for a Coors light you can’t go wrong.
Penderel’s Oak, Holborn
Carrying on with the ‘Spoons theme, next up was the closest one to UCL, situated right next to UAL. The pub is a pretty standard spoons with Coors and Tuborg coming in at £3.65 each – nothing special anywhere else in the country, but a bargain in central London.
Spoons’ in general aren’t a bad idea and there’s loads around like The Ice Wharf in Camden or the Montagu Pyke in Soho. The prices differ depending on location but are generally considerably cheaper than your standard pub.
Phineas (UCLU), Bloomsbury
The pint-price in the union bars are criminally under-appreciated.
A Carslberg in Phineas costs a mere £2.50, and the idea of getting two pints for a fiver could even give a Northerner a beer-boner. Due to the exclusive nature of union bars, one can hardly claim it as the cheapest pint in London, but for UCL students it’s definitely worth considering if you want to sink a few with your mates. They usually come out cheaper too with nightly deals saving you even more precious pennies.