Mayfair, in the heart of central London, is renowned as a wealthy and well-heeled part of the city. It is epitomised by the classic London version of the board game Monopoly, which has Mayfair as its most expensive property, though you’ll do well to get much for £400 there these days.
Unlike many areas of London, the boundaries of Mayfair are recognised by all: Oxford Street to the north, Piccadilly to the south, Regent Street to the east and Park Lane to the West, each a famous and exclusive London street in its own right. Thankfully among the high-class restaurants and boutiques in the area is a selection of splendid English pubs, ensuring that Mayfair remains as classically ‘London’ as anywhere.
Hidden away on a quiet Mayfair street, just a short walk from the busy Berkeley Square, the Guinea grill is a charming pub with a famous historical pedigree. There has been a pub on this site for over 500 years, dating back to when much of what is now Mayfair remained open fields. In the years since the pub was taken over by the Youngs brewery in 1888 it has been visited by countless famous people, from the Prince of Wales (seen pouring a pint in a picture on the pub’s wall) and the American actors Bob Hope, Bill Cosby and Michael Douglas who each left an autograph (which for some reason are now framed in the Gents toilets).
30 Bruton Place, London W1J 6NL
Ye Grapes is a traditional London pub with a good selection of real ales and a pleasantly ageing interior. In that sense it’s not dissimilar to plenty of other pubs around, but its location makes it worthy of inclusion: Shepherd Market, a little square of pubs and shops in the heart of Mayfair. The name of this part of London in fact came from the fortnight-long ‘May Fair’ that took place from the end of the 17th century for almost one hundred years at Shepherd Market. The area is lovely to enjoy in the summer sun, standing outside one of its pubs, of which Ye Grapes is the finest.
16 Shepherd Market, London W1J 7QG.
The second-oldest pub in the area by just a handful of years (see the Coach & Horses below), the Punchbowl was taken over by Madonna’s then-husband Guy Ritchie in 2008. It subsequently became a haunt for the rich and famous though after Ritchie sold the pub in 2013 it has reverted to a quiet, comfortable, very old drinking den, in which time seems to stand still. Its small frontage and dark, wooded interior evoke images of a bygone era, of men in flat caps enjoying a hard-earned post-work pint, and ladies sipping on a gin and tonic and watching the world go by. A much-loved local institution.
41 Farm St, London W1J 5RP.
An old-fashioned Tudor-style pub, both in terms of its black-and-white and flower-laden façade and the low-lit, cosy feel of its interior. The Masons Arms offers a good selection of wines and real ales to be enjoyed in comfortable, nicely decorated surroundings, and you can almost forget where you are and picture yourself in a small country inn. Good, hearty British pub food further provides a feeling that you might well walk out of the front door and bump straight into a flock of sheep.
38 Maddox Street, London W1S 1PD.
Although names such as the Kings Head and the Red Lion are classics in England, they don’t really capture the essence of an establishment’s past quite like the Coach & Horses. Built in 1744 it is the oldest pub in Mayfair still in its original state, and used to be a coaching inn providing rest and recuperation to passing noblemen, and food and water for their horses. The pub sits in a Grade II listed building, protected from rapacious developers, and like the Punchbowl it has retained its 18th century feel. But beware: if you’re looking for it make sure you head for Hill Street, as there’s another Coach & Horses pub in Mayfair, and two more in nearby Soho!
5 Hill Street, London W1J 5LD