Everyone’s favourite excuse to drink far too much returns returns, and London bars are stocking up on Guinness as they brace for drunken Londoners mumbling about snakes, having the craic and painting the town green.
This year, St Patrick is set to be thoroughly celebrated, with everything from parades to banquets being held in his honour.
No surprise really: March 17 this year falls on a Friday, so there’s the entire weekend to recover. Sláinte.
Unless stated otherwise, all the below events take place on Friday March 17.
Parades and Festivals
The main event for many is bound to have something to do with downing a pint of stout late on Friday night, but there’s plenty else on over the weekend which won’t come with a headache.
On Saturday, there’ll be a St Patrick's Festival at Camden Market throughout the day, with everything from live music from the likes of MOXIE and Kíla to a screening of the England v Ireland Six Nations match. It’s family friendly, with plenty to do for the little ones including Irish dance classes and various arts and crafts stalls. Camden is London’s ‘Irish capital’, so go exploring, or get involved with Tony McDonnell’s walking tour of the area. Oh, and be sure to eat: everyone from the Cereal Killers cafe to Crosstown Doughnuts are getting involved.
On Sunday, the traditional parade takes place, which heads from Hyde Park corner down Piccadilly and Regent Street before finishing up by Trafalgar Square. It’s truly a spectacle, with a host of Irish community groups, clubs and marching bands giving it their all, and this year storytellers Macnas are involved, who are sure to put on a show. Definitely worth a watch.
Trafalgar Square is where the main celebrations are happening, and Irish standup Jarlath Regan will host an afternoon of entertainment. Music gets the top billing, with Liam O'Maonlai, Lisa Lambe, Jack L and Derek Ryan all on the bill. If you haven’t heard Irish hip-hop before, now’s your chance: be sure to see Limerick’s Rusangano Family. There’ll be a street food market and tea stall to keep everyone’s energy up.
Have a Tipple
St Patrick’s Day is all but synonymous with getting sozzled and London pubs are set for a good time. If you’re looking to keep it traditional, make your way to one of the capital’s best Irish pubs and bars. There’s plenty to choose from: we’re especially fond of The Auld Shillelagh in Stoke Newington (which is just down the road from London's best pizzeria), The Faltering Fullback in Finsbury Park and Soho’s legendary Toucan Bar.
It’s said there are 14 million pints of the black stuff poured around the world each March 17. If you fancy adding to that figure, try Steam & Rye. Sure, they’re American, but they’re also doing Guinness buy-one-get-one-free from 4pm till 7pm. It’s a good-time place, so you’ll have a laugh.
Guinness themselves are hosting a party over at the Pickle Factory in Bethnal Green. There'll be live music, plenty of food from KERB, and, of course, beer galore from Guinness’s Open Gate brewery. It's running from 8pm until one in the morning, promises to be a grand old time, and the £15 ticket includes a free pint.
If you want more than just Guinness, try Irish craft beers over at the Tate Modern – our pick's the Oyster Stout from The Porterhouse Brewing Company. There'll also be Irish spirits on hand and a special Irish menu served tapas style.
Irish whiskey is having something of a well deserved surge in popularity. It’s typically a little sweeter and smoother than a lot of Scotch, works well in cocktails and is one for those non-whiskey drinkers who fancy trying the stuff. The excellent Bloomsbury Club Bar near Tottenham Court Road have paired up with Dingle Whiskey – who happen to be Ireland's first purpose-built distillery to open in more than 150 years – for a night of cocktails, oysters and river dancers. Dingle do gin and vodka as well, so there’ll be plenty for non-whiskey drinkers.
Similarly, in Marylebone, Seymour's Parlour at the Zetter Townhouse will be serving up rare and vintage whiskies as part of a collaboration with the Whiskey Exchange and Jameson. A chance for something you might never have again.
Likewise, Strand steakhouse Smith & Wollensky are pouring Guinness and Irish cocktails. The surprisingly inventive bar is a highlight at S&W, where they’re dedicated to the finishing details.
The Old Bengal Warehouse by Liverpool Street are also in cahoots with Jameson, and are mixing an array of finely crafted Irish whiskey cocktails to enjoy as the O’Connell Duo play.
If it’s cocktails you’re after, head to Corrigan’s Mayfair, where alongside a dedicated Irish Whiskey menu running throughout March, there’ll be a cocktail masterclass on Saturday March 18. Similarly upmarket is the stout and oyster pop-up at Fortnum & Mason, running March 16 – 18.
While the Sun Tavern in Bethnal Green is well known for its choice of Irish whiskey, this year they’re proudly pushing Ireland’s notorious white spirit, Poitín. They’ve partnered with Bán Poitín for a range of unusual cocktails, and there’ll be complimentary oysters from Broadway Market’s Oyster Boy.
Irish cooking is largely overlooked, but done properly is hearty, warming fare that can be a real indulgence.
Hackney’s Round Chapel is hosting immersive banquet ‘St Patrick Or The Pagans?’, where there’ll be a three course banquet of Irish classics, including Colcannon and Tipsy Cake, served alongside a comic story-telling of Ireland’s colourful history. With performers from Glastonbury’s 'Secret Irish Piano bar' it should be a good night, and it all finishes with a party.
Colin Kelly, the Tullamore-born head chef and co-owner of neighbourhood restaurant Picture, in Marylebone, is relying on his roots with a menu of traditional Irish cooking from March 13 until the 18. Dishes include parsley-crusted slow-cooked lamb neck, crisp lamb sweetbreads, Tullamore Dew-infused jellies and Irish whiskey fudge. Hard to beat.
Over in Kings Cross, Mark Sargeant has put together a special menu for the GNH Bar, which features the likes of breaded Dublin Bay langoustines in wild garlic mayonnaise, rock oysters and punnets of prawns. They’ve got a hell of a cocktail on too, The Golden Leprechaun, which has both Bushmills Irish whiskey and Guinness in it.
The Hard Rock Cafe will do what they know best – straightforward American fare – but are offering up a burger infused with Guinness, which is free for Patricks from midday until 2pm on the 17 itself.
They’re not the only ones injecting the Dublin drink into things: over at the Paternoster Chophouse (which is where they film First Dates), they’re serving up a Guinness pudding with whiskey cream. Sounds heavenly, as does the other Irish fare on the menu – have the wild Irish salmon to start.
Go out for a knees up
St Paddy’s Day is made for a party, so go out and be merry.
The Crown and Shuttle in Shoreditch is built for a boozy old time whether there’s a Saint to celebrate or not, but they’re making a particular go of it with a full week of fun this year. The highlight stands to be their St Paddy’s Day party on the Friday, where they promise to go ‘batsh** crazy’ with beer and Beltane, a hard-stomping Celtic band.
Pop Brixton are hosting a totally free St Paddy’s Day jam, featuring live music, a ceilidh, themed food, face-painting, their very own parade and there’s even free pints for anyone named Patrick (although you’ll have to be quick – it’s only during happy hour).
As ever, the Clapham Grand promises a good time, with a cheesy night of 90s and Noughties pop hits, all with an Irish twist. Hilariously, the night includes what they’re calling “the UK's top Westlife and Boyzone tribute acts”. Well, you can’t say it won’t be memorable. We’re also guessing there’ll also be plenty of B*Witched playing. C’est La Vie.
Anyone who’d rather be belting our their favourite Irish records should head over to Lucky Voice in Soho, where they’re packing their booths with Irish props, are offering Guinness shots on the house and giving one lucky Tweeter who posts #LVPaddy two hours of free room hire.
Broadway in Fulham are filling their pub with music on Friday, with the Rotten Hill Gang headlining, with British punk rockers S*M*A*S*H sure to stir the crowd up (expect some especially furious singalongs when they play banned hit (I Want To) Kill Somebody). Still, it’s the after party upstairs at The Library that really looks set to be a winner, with Don Letts DJing well into the night.
There’s more live music still at Jerusalem in Fitzrovia, and plenty of booze too, as the group have teamed up with the excellent Pogues Irish whiskey to throw on a party.
The Irish are well known for their humour, and ‘the Irishman’ has long been the butt of jokes, so a night of comedy seems particularly apt. Head to Grove bar and restaurant in Hammersmith for plenty of laughs: Jon Long, Ali Woods and Luke Oliver are all on the bill.
Enjoy a little culture
It’s not all drinking and dancing: Ireland’s plentiful culture is set to be celebrated too.
There’ll be Irish music and poetry across the Underground network: Victoria, Waterloo, Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden stations will hosting special concerts.
Irish art is on display at City Hall in an exhibition curated by Irish contemporary art house, the Barbara Stanley Gallery. It’ll explore Ireland’s traditions, heritage, music and mythology. Artists featured include Seamus Heaney favourite, John B. Vallely.
Blue badge tour guide Tony McDonnell has organised free tours of Irish London running across the weekend. There’s the Camden walk mentioned above, but his exploration of Irish poets, playwrights and press barons in London sounds pretty fascinating too. Call 07850 184790 for more.
The Irish Cultural Centre in Hammersmith is always worth swinging by. This year their St Paddy's Day display is themed around Irish Feminism.
From March 17 – 19, catch something of the Irish Film Festival at the Prince Charles Cinema, the Regent Street Cinema and the London Film School. Most screenings need tickets, though plenty are free.
Finally, head to the Boondocks Cinema Club, where they’re screening Gangs Of New York. Glorious.
*we're told this is an Irish expression for "happily intoxicated"