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Wetherspoons in London: Every pub in Zone 1, ranked from best to worst

A sign to warm the heart: Wetherspoons  (Getty Images)
A sign to warm the heart: Wetherspoons (Getty Images)

One word is all it takes to warm the cockles of any budget-conscious drinker's heart: Spoons.

The world has changed a lot since the first JD Wetherspoon pub opened in 1979, but Spoons have largely stayed the same. They are a bastion of reliability. No matter where in the country, a Spoons is never too far away, ready with the welcome of reasonably cheap drinks (they too have become pricier in recent times), no-frills food and a very good carpet.

In London, and Zone 1 especially, where drinks can be monstrously expensive, a Spoons is something of a godsend. There are 17 Wetherspoon pubs in Zone 1, each with their own quirks and all varying vastly in quality.

We’ve judged them on their general atmosphere, layout, choice of beers and, of course, their carpets (which, garish but great in equal measure, have even inspired a book). We’ve also listed the price of a pint of Carling (previously, we listed Fosters, which is now off the menu) in each one — partly because standard lager is the quintessential Spoons drink (does the job, isn’t quite as bad as people like to make out, and so on) but mainly as it serves as a decent indicator of all the drinks prices.

Naturally, in the name of respectable journalism, we've had to go to every single one. Here is the definitive ranking of Wetherspoon’s in central London.

17. The Moon Under Water, Leicester Square

First, the good: this pub is one of five Spoons in London to be named after the fictional pub dreamed up by George Orwell in a 1946 essay published in the Evening Standard detailing his ideal drinking establishment. Now, the bad: everything else. The ceilings are claustrophobically low, the floor has a distinct lack of carpet, and it gets so impenetrably packed that a table with seats too often remains but a distant dream.

Address: 28 Leicester Square, WC2H 7LE​

Opening times: 8am-11pm (Sunday-Thursday), 8am-12am (Friday-Saturday)

Price of a Carling: £5.89

16. Victoria Station

 (JD Wetherspoon)
(JD Wetherspoon)

A Spoons at a train station serves a noble cause. It provides a liquid distraction for those whiling away the time until their train departs and is a light at the end of the tracks for intrepid railwaymen. For that, we salute this Spoons. But apart from that, we're afraid this particular establishment doesn't have a great deal going for it. It’s a Spoons with no name — officially, it is just known as “Wetherspoons, Victoria Station”. There are a couple of tables outside, affording you the pleasure of enjoying your pint while you gaze upon the relaxing vista of scurrying commuters and people queueing up at the Left Luggage booth. Inside, there isn’t much to shout about either: wood panelling, tiles and a largely forgettable carpet. Still, to be kind, it’s comfortable and good for a quick pint. If you’re waiting for a train, it’s ideal. If not, we wouldn’t bother.

Address: Unit 5 (1st floor above WH Smith), Victoria Station, SW1V 1JT

​Opening times: 6am-12am (Monday-Saturday), 8am-11pm (Sunday)

Price of a Carling: £5.29

15. The Rockingham Arms, Elephant & Castle

The area around the Rockingham Arms is pretty lacking when it comes to Spoons. In fact, the nearest one to it is an excruciating 1.5 miles away — a truly insurmountable distance when the Spoons craving comes a-knocking. For providing that vital public service to the pint-lovers of SE1, it gets a thumbs up from us. It’s on the ground floor of a huge block of flats (can you imagine living in such a close proximity to a Spoons? Magical), but unfortunately pales in comparison to some of its Zone 1 counterparts in terms of aesthetic appeal. Its exteriors are hardly inviting and the interiors are lacking any discernible quirks. But the bar is pretty big and there are a quite a few tables. Also, it’s by far the cheapest place for a Carling on our entire list. It’s not the Spoons south London deserves, it's the Spoons south London has. That's how it goes, sometimes.

Address: Metro Central Heights, 119 Newington Causeway, SE1 6BN

​Opening times: 8am-11am (Sunday-Thursday), 8am-12am (Friday-Saturday)

Price of a Carling: £4.29

14. The Angel, Islington

 (JD Wetherspoon)
(JD Wetherspoon)

Upper Street in Islington is blessed with two branches of Spoons. What this particular road has done to deserve such a thing, we’re not sure, but it is a high honour indeed. At the top, there is the White Swan, which is actually in Zone 2, but at the bottom, we have The Angel. In many ways, it feels like a very Spoonsy Spoons: big doors to welcome you in, no-nonsense decor, lots of little four-man booths, a decent bar, a regular, lively clientele — all hallmarks of a good old-fashioned Spoons. One Evening Standard staffer described its interiors as “similar to the that of a ferry” — we’re not entirely sure what that means, but if you want to recreate the Dover-to-Calais experience without leaving London, this, oddly enough, might be your best bet. We have no major complaints about this place, apart from its severe lack of carpet — a big disappointment for the enthusiasts out there.

Address: 3-5 Islington High Street

Opening times: 8am-12pm​

Price of a Carling: £4.07

13. The Sir John Oldcastle, Farringdon

Fun Spoons fact: there are two Zone 1 Spoons named after Sir Johns. Regrettably, this one is the lesser of the two. The real-life Sir John Oldcastle was a Henry V-befriending, Tower-of-London-escaping 14th century fella who supposedly inspired Shakespeare’s Falstaff character, and he lends his name to this establishment. The pub isn’t quite as interesting as the man, but it’s still pretty solid. It’s a big place, although that doesn’t stop it getting pretty rammed at primetime, owing largely to its close proximity to Farringdon station. It’s pretty unremarkable — the carpet certainly isn’t anything to write home about — but as reliable as any good Spoons should hope to be. The price of that Carling creeps perilously above the £5 mark though, at a not too brilliant establishment, which means this one slips fairly far down our list.

Address: 29-35 Farringdon Road, EC1M 3JF​

Opening times: 9am-11.30pm (Monday-Thursday and Saturday), 9am-12am (Friday), 9am-8pm (Sunday)

Price of a Carling: £5.29

12. The Willow Walk, Victoria

 (JD Wetherspoon)
(JD Wetherspoon)

If you’re in the Victoria area and absolutely gagging for a Spoons — hardly an implausible scenario — then you have two options. But, as previously discussed, the pub in the railway station should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. So, only one Spoons remains, and truth be told, it’s a pretty all right one. It feels a bit like a hotchpotch museum inside, with various old-timey photos and paintings, all different shapes and sizes, hanging on the wood-panelled walls. There is a peculiar charm to it, but we can’t go without mentioning the public toilet-esque tiling around the bar — functional when dealing with inevitable pint spills, but they don’t look particularly great. Anyway, it’s a decent Spoons — the best of a not-so-great Victoria couple.

Address: 25 Wilton Road, SW1V 1LW

​Opening times: 7am-12am (Monday-Saturday), 8am-11pm (Sunday)

Price of a Carling: £5.29

11. The Masque Haunt, Old Street

 (JD Wetherspoon)
(JD Wetherspoon)

Decidedly in the realms of “perfectly fine”, this one. Another huge site, it sadly sits under a truly ugly Old Street building. Inside, in terms of decor, service and food, there isn’t a great deal to say — apart from about that carpet, a pleasant floral number. Overall, though it’s not bad – not anything, really. Probably best kept for a functional pint or two. And, to be fair, the pints are decidely cheap for such a prime location. Enough said.

Address: 168-172 Old St, EC1V 9BP​

Opening times: 8am-11pm (Sunday-Thursday), 8am-12am (Friday-Saturday)

Price of a Carling: £4.72

10. Goodman’s Field, Aldgate

 (JD Wetherspoon)
(JD Wetherspoon)

Right, let’s address the elephant in the room here: what, exactly, is going on with that raised platform area? We assume it’s some sort of structural necessity, but like to think it’s a space reserved for Spoons VIPs — people who have ordered off the Wetherspoon app more than 500 times or something. Alas, any old punter can sit up there, provided you get there early and manage to nab a table. It’s not the biggest Spoons and can get quite busy, but the atmosphere is decent and the bar is more than big enough to cater for all those thirsty customers. The carpet is somewhat lacking, regrettably.

Address: 87-91 Mansell Street, E1 8AN​

Opening times: 7.30am-11pm (Monday-Friday), 8am-11pm (Saturday-Sunday)

Price of a Carling: £5.29

9. The Metropolitan Bar, Marylebone

 (JD Wetherspoon)
(JD Wetherspoon)

This one is better than it looks. From the outside, it’s only disappointment, looking like a last resort. Inside, though, expectations jump up: it’s a huge space, dominated by towering pillars and rather beautiful lights, great dangling globes. The pub is a tale of two halves: when it fills up around journey times, service can be awful, pints sloppy. When things are a little quieter, it’s actually a rather nice spot to waste a little time in. A Carling will cost you more than a fiver, but that’s the case in so many on our list these days.

Address: 7 Station Approach, Marylebone Road, NW1 5LA​

Opening times: 8am-11.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 9am-10.30pm (Sunday)

Price of a Carling: £5.29

8. The Sir John Hawkshaw, Cannon Street Station

 (JD Wetherspoon)
(JD Wetherspoon)

Pubs in London stations are a lot like pubs in airports: they’re almost all dreadful. The Sir John Hawkshaw is one of the three exceptions in Zone 1 that proves the rule; it’s actually quite good. It’s a more modern Spoons, having opened in 2015, and inside has a more up-to-date take on the usual formula, with plenty of bare brick, brown leather and copper about. With a top beer choice, it’s a pre-or-post journey haven. The shame of it is that it’s shut away in Cannon Street station – its highlights are rather wasted, especially the ‘outside’ terrace which remains steadfastly under a roof, with only platform one for a view.

Address: Cannon Street Station, Cannon Street, EC4N 6AP

​Opening times: 7am-11.30pm (Monday-Wednesday and Saturday), 7am-12am (Thursday-Friday), 8am-7pm (Sunday)

Price of a Carling: £5.29

7. Penderel’s Oak, Holborn

 (JD Wetherspoon)
(JD Wetherspoon)

The two beautiful stained glass signs over the entrances promises more grandeur than this cavernous place can actually muster, but inside it’s still a dependable spot for a pint. It’s one of those Spoons that seems to go on forever, with booths all down one side and tables everywhere, eventually spilling out to a beer garden that fills up in the summer. Given its location – very central but hardly a destination – it mainly hums with an after work crowd, though it gets its fair share in for lunch. There’s always somewhere to sit, the carpet is marvellous, and staff manage to cope with the crowds. Food is actually pretty good, too: try the pizzas. Not the worst.

Address: 283-288 High Holborn, WC1V 7HP​

Opening times: 9am-11.30pm (Sunday-Wednesday), 9am-12am (Thursday-Saturday)

Price of a Carling: £5.29

6. The Barrel Vault, St Pancras International Station

 (JD Wetherspoon)
(JD Wetherspoon)

What’s the best way to welcome anyone stepping off the Eurostar into our fair city? With a brand new Spoons, of course. This fresh-faced pub opened in October 2018, taking up a corner towards the northern end of the station (it’s next to the Marks & Spencer, for those au fait with St Pancras’ supermarket delights). It’s a pleasant place, with plenty of tables that cater for both large groups and the thirsty solo traveller, but it’s the decor that sets this one apart. Barrels are stacked above you — an homage to St Pancras’ past life, when it moonlighted as a beer barrel storage facility — and there’s even a Betjeman quote suspended from the ceiling (we’re not entirely sure why, but such is life). As station pubs go, it’s a winner.

Address: Unit 23, St Pancras International Station, Pancras Road, N1C 4QP

​Opening times: 7am-12am​

Price of a Carling: £5.29

5. The Pommelers Rest, Tower Bridge

 (Ewan Munro/Creative Commons)
(Ewan Munro/Creative Commons)

A lovely looking Spoons, this one suffers from comparisons to the Draft House which is about a minute down the road. Still, it’s reliably good and manages not just to attract the tourists – of which there are often plenty – but its fair share of locals too. The beer selection is excellent, especially with old Rosie on tap, service is speedy and its actually all rather comfortable. It certainly gets crowded, but that’s part of the charm: it’s one of the smaller Spoons and all the better for that. It’s worth noting that this is one of the latest opening Spoons in Zone 1, too, staying open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Address: 196-198 Tower Bridge Road, SE1 2UN​

Opening times: 8am-12am (Sunday-Thursday), 8am-1am (Friday-Saturday)

Price of a Carling: £4.83

4. The Liberty Bounds, Tower Hill

 (Ewan Munro/Creative Commons)
(Ewan Munro/Creative Commons)

The Liberty Bounds is a typical boozer elevated by its location and the handsome stone building it sits inside. Huge windows watch over Tower Bridge and the Thames and make a feature of all the light coming in. It’s a proper pub, sticky bar top and all, with dark oak panelling, rows of dusty books and the odd tapestry too. Elsewhere the area’s frankly fairly gruesome history has been put up in picture frames – plenty of beheadings, if that’s your bag. The beer selection is reliably broad and fairly priced (relative to the rest of the area), the pub grub decent enough and staff always seem friendly. The carpet is a Spoons classic.

Address: 15 Trinity Square, EC3N 4AA

​Opening times: 8am-12am​

Price of a Carling: £5.29

3. Shakespeare's Head, Holborn

 (JD Wetherspoon)
(JD Wetherspoon)

Holborn would have been satisfied by just having Penderels Oak to its name, but the addition of this pub turns it into some sort of small Zone 1 Spoons-based heaven. This pub takes the Shakespearean theme and absolutely runs with it. There are various excerpts from some of The Bard's most famous plays dotted around the pub, providing some literary accompaniment to your boozing. It's faintly ridiculous, but we love it. Elsewhere, there's a welcomingly broad bar, the booths can comfortably fit 10 people around them and the raised seating area at the back is perfectly pleasant for indulging in some of Spoons' culinary delights. All in all, a extremely solid pub that deserves a visit.

Address: Africa House, 64-68 Kingsway, WC2B 6BG​

Opening times: 7am-12am (Monday-Thursday), 7am-1am (Friday-Saturday), 8am-12am (Sunday)

Price of a Carling: £5.29

2. Hamilton Hall, Liverpool Street Station

 (JD Wetherspoon)
(JD Wetherspoon)

Remember earlier, when we were a bit mean about pubs in stations? This is the kind of place that makes us forget all about those woes. We would say this pub is away from the hustle and bustle of Liverpool Street station, but in fact there is quite a lot of hustle and bustle in the Spoons too. It's a busy place, drawing in both tourists from the station and workers from the City, so if you're after a quiet pint, this isn't the one. But it's the decor that scores so highly here. It's ridiculously grand in places, beautifully sleek in others — the ceiling is worthy of a stately home and the curved bar glistens with a chrome-like shine. Listen up, The Unnamed Spoons at Victoria: this is how you do a pub at a train station.

Address: Street-level concourse, Liverpool Street Station, EC2M 7PY

​Opening times: 7am-11.30pm (Monday-Saturday), 9am-10.30pm (Sunday)

Price of a Carling: £5.29

1. The Crosse Keys, Bank

 (Ewan Munro/Creative Commons)
(Ewan Munro/Creative Commons)

So, here we are. The best Spoons in Zone 1. Take a moment to appreciate it. Drink it in, bask in its beer-sodden glory. We have arrived. Truth be told, it was a tight call between this and the other two in our top three, but it's the sheer size of the Crosse Keys that wins it for us. It's a huge place, transformed from an old bank into a grand temple of budget-friendly boozing, a shrine to cheap pints and good times. The scale of the place hits you as soon as you walk in — it feels like an institution, with marble columns suspending the vaulted ceilings high above you. The curved island bar is magnificent, a focal point for the entire space. It’s big enough to deal with the crowds in such a huge pub, and there are plenty of tables, although you may still have to stand if you get there late. The carpet, meanwhile, is a delight: understated, but decidedly Spoonsy. The toilets are pretty nice, too. It is, all things considered, the best Spoons in Zone 1. We’ll drink to that.

Address: 9 Gracechurch Street, EC3V 0DR​

Opening times: 8am-11pm (Monday-Thursday), 8am-12am (Friday), 9am-11pm (Saturday), 9.30am-9pm (Sunday)

Price of a Carling: £5.29

This article originally featuerd 20 pubs, but was updated on March 16, 2023.