Where to celebrate St Patrick’s Day 2023 in London
You imagine a fifth-century missionary would be surprised by the spread of what you might call ‘green fever’. St Patrick’s Day, originally a way for Christians to commemorate the Enlightener of Ireland, has bubbled into something else entirely. A day of pints and pubs, yes — but of parties too, and some seriously upmarket feasts at some of the city’s chicest spots.
It wasn’t this way a few years ago. The supersizing of St Patrick’s Day in the capital can arguably be traced back to Richard Corrigan who, for the past decade, has hosted an annual bash to which he invites London’s culinary heavyweights to spend the morning sinking pints of Guinness and sipping Champagne spiked with shots of Bushmills whisky (It’s what the chef calls “a thank you from me and the family to London”).
Corrigan’s annual party is now well over a decade old, and what once was a small affair — two dozen chefs or so — has grown into one of the year’s must-attend parties, especially among London’s food set. Chefs and critics alike who can’t be bothered with the Michelin ceremony will happily put on their glad rags and turn up at the Irishman’s gaff at 9.30am to chuck back the oysters and belt out The Auld Triangle, but so too will the likes of dancer Wayne Sleep and actor Adrian Dunbar of Line of Duty fame.
Afterwards, it will spill into a pub; last year, Groucho boss Ewan Venters was spotted lunching and pinting at the Guinea Grill with Ed Sheeran, Jimmy Carr and Niall Horan.“St Patrick’s really signals the end of winter; once you get past it, the sun starts shining. It really is a celebration,” says Oisin Rogers, who ran the Guinea back then. “Last year was the busiest day the pub ever had — anybody who was anybody was there, and even people who weren’t say they were.”
And so, perhaps partly driven by the party and partly by the heavy Irish presence in London’s food and drink scene, no longer is the day the preserve of a handful of chefs and their boozy journalist mates. There are countless celebrations across town, starting from very first thing and running on late into the night. “This year, everyone I know is taking the day off, it’s like an unofficial bank holiday,” says Rogers. Corrigan agrees: “It seems to be a kind of UN day for everyone, not just the Irish.”
In other words, it’s time to get out there — especially as this year, besides the pints, pubs and feasts, there are cocktail masterclasses, ceilidhs and more to get tucked into. Below are the biggest parties; we’ll see you out there for a Guinness.
Acme Fire Cult and 40FT Brewery x Homeboy
Live-fire restaurant Acme Fire Cult and its neighbour 40FT Brewery have invited the Homeboy boys over for what promises to be a lively old knees-up. Doors will open at 5pm and stay that way till 2am — will anyone remember to lock up? — as chefs Daniel Watkins and Andrew Clarke flame the likes of grass-fed Irish bavette with smoked mussels. In the taproom, the Rock Oysters gang will be having a shucking good time of it, as pints are poured of 40FT’s Irish Export Stout alongside Guinness. Homeboy’s Aaron Wall and Ciaran Smith will be bringing the cocktails — don’t miss the Wogan (Irish whiskey, apricot brandy, sugar syrup, and lime). DJs will spin throughout the night, to soundtrack an onslaught of deliciousness.
March 17, Abbot St, E8 2LX, acmefirecult.com
If you think airport-drinking rules are exciting, buckle the hell up: the Audley will be opening two hours early, at 9am. Immediate pints will be the order of the day with particularly good Guinness on tap, as well as beers from Battersea’s Sambrook’s Brewery and London Pride. Food is gloriously on theme — think oysters, Guinness rarebit and Irish stew from a family recipe — and live music will come courtesy of some of Irish best exports, from Caitlin Mahon to Tad Sergeant. Given Rogers is involved, this is expected to be a huge one; executive chef Jamie Shears will even be manning the stoves, despite his paternity leave (“I’m told to exxpect a big one,” he says, with a note of nervousness in the voice). With those drinking rules, you’ll be tucked up in bed well before midnight; duvet jigs it is.
March 17, 41-43 Mount St, W1K 2RX, theaudleypublichouse.com
Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill
Away from his cheffy bash, Corrigan offers something of an elegant respite at his flagship restaurant. “It really doesn’t need to be a big drinking day,” he says. “It’s about people who enjoy themselves.” As such, at upmarket Bentley’s, Ireland’s finest oysters will be shucked — a house speciality unsurprisingly indicated by the restaurants’ moniker. Bentley’s does oysters exceptionally well and St Patricks Day is the perfect opportunity to discover the best bivalves Ireland has to offer. Creamy Carlingfords or crisper rocks — immaculately sourced from Achill Isle — the breadth of the oyster menu promises to be a joy. It also represents the best chance of the day to set the Guinness aside for a moment and sink a glass or two of Champagne.
March 17, 11-15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG, bentleys.org
Skylight Tobacco Dock
If it’s really the whiskey you’re after, head over to Skylight’s Tobacco Dock location, where Jameson will be hosting an exclusive Black Barrel Masterclass at a secret speakeasy location from 6pm onwards. After a whistle-whetting arrival dram, guests will be shaking up two Jameson cocktails while learning about the history of the famous Irish whiskey and enjoying accompanying bar snacks, too. Once you’ve nerded out, you can join the rest of the party on the rooftop, where Jameson shots can be won, chocolate orange espresso martinis or ginger whiskey sparklers can be imbibed, and dance moves can be ridiculed until 11pm.
March 17, Tobacco Dock, E1W 2SF, skylightbars.com
The Coach Makers Arms
Guinness sauce, colcannon, Black Velvets: this Marylebone pub knows how to incorporate a slug of Irish charm into every nook. To mark this year’s festivities, The Coach Makers Arms will be serving the likes of colcannon with Cashel blue-cheese croquettes, with whisky mayo; pulled-lamb shoulder, dripping and soda bread; and Clonakilty black pudding fritters with Guinness sauce alongside pints of the black stuff and its slightly more sophisticated cousin, Black Velvet (where Champagne is added). Midleton distillery will also be providing the whiskey with its Redbreast 15-year-old on the menu.
March 17, 10 Montcomb Street, Belgravia, W1U 2PY, cubitthouse.co.uk
The Dublin Castle
Anyone who’s been to Camden’s Dublin Castle knows it’s proper craic. Built for Irish engineers working on London’s railway system, it gained notoriety in the Seventies after ska band Madness cemented themselves as a successful live act there — and, since then, they’ve played host to some of the biggest bands to come out of the UK. The pub is describing its St Paddy’s Day celebration as a “big feck-off party”: music will come from Skimmington Ride, described as a “Pogues meets Dubliners mash-up”, as well as DJ Fuzz, who will be spinning Irish dancefloor fillers to keep the party rocking. There will be pints a-plenty.
March 17, 94 Parkway, NW1 7AN, ents24.com
Think you can down a pint of Guinness and eat six oysters in rapido time? At Frank’s, beneath Piccadilly’s Maison François, they’re looking to find out. From 5.30pm to 7pm, ticket holders will get free-flowing pints of the good stuff, Kinahan’s Irish whiskey, and Killough Bay oysters to enjoy at their leisure, to the sound of a festive fiddle, before they head off into the evening to discover whatever other spoils this Friday night will bring.
March 17, 32 Duke Street, SW1Y 6DF, maisonfrancois.london
Big Penny Social
Dancing is usually better when someone professional takes to the stage and, at Big Penny Social, Maggie O’Shea’s dance academy will be Irish jigging the hell out of this huge Walthamstow venue from 7pm. There will also be a live Irish band (tick), an Irish ceilidh (tick tick), and Irish whiskey cocktails (triple tick) — and, once the pros retire their fiddles and jig shoes, a DJ will take over for drinkers to all do their best (worst) imitation. The fact the bar is clad with green tiling is pure coincidence, but festive all the same.
March 17, 1 Priestly Way, E17 6AL, bigpennysocial.co.uk
Not satisfied with one night of revelry, Boxpark has teamed up with Jameson to give the people what they really want — an entire week of celebrations. While Jameson will be available in drinkable form, it will also be making an appearance via the barbecue sauce, which will be on offer at some of the onsite food vendors to keep party-goers sated. The sustenance will be needed as Irish games galore will be on offer, including a quiz, as well as live music and hip-hop karaoke with an Irish twist — and VIP hosts to boot, too, All-green outfits are encouraged.
From March 13, Wembley, Shoreditch, Croydon, boxpark.co.uk
1 Lombard Street
1 Lombard is parking its pan-British menu for the night in favour of an all-Irish affair. Quite right too. They’ve sourced incredible seafood from the emerald isle, including native Irish oysters and Dublin bay prawns. The jewel in the menu is likely to be the beef, imported from legendary Irish farmer Peter Hannan. The Himalayan salt-aged beef is supplied across Britain and Ireland’s finest restaurants and now will be available here too on St Patrick’s Day.
March 17, 1 Lombard Street, EC3V 9AA, 1lombardstreet.com
Smith & Wollensky
The celebration at this not-quite-all-American steakhouse should be a wholesome one, ticking off just about every well-loved Irish export around. Irish whiskey, Irish beef, live Irish music, boxty, oysters, cheeses, colcannon — and whilst this might be the only celebration not featuring Guinness — O’Hara old Irish stout should prove a suitable refreshment to wash back this all-Irish affair. Tickets are slightly steep £75 a pop, but guests can expect a lot of Irish bang for their buck; last year was a hoot.
March 17, The Adelphi, 1-11 John Adam Street, WC2N 6HT, smithandwollensky.co.uk
Daffodil Mulligan and Gibney’s
Live song and dance is at the heart of a great St Patrick’s Day celebration and over at east London restaurant Daffodil Mulligan, there’ll be hours of music to mark the occasion. From folk and fiddle to more traditional Irish tunes — including doubtless repeats of Danny Boy — the festivities at Richard Corrigan’s spot are sure to keep revellers entertained (and will be more relaxed than at Bentley’s, further up the page). Gibney’s, the basement bar beneath the restaurant is showing the Cheltenham Gold Cup till 5pm with live music thereafter, and plentiful pints of the black stuff flowing until (at least) 2am.
March 17, 70-74 City Road, EC1Y 2BJ, gibneyslondon.com