Where was I?
I like pubs. I also like bars. I like everything in between.
And so, here are my five favourite places to drink in London this December.
(I say 'December' because I'm feeling festive and wintry, and the places I'd go in April or August are obviously, totally different, and I say 'this December' because I've slaked my thirst in lots of different, equally Christmassy places over the years, and I'm sick of some of them. So, in other words, this is a whim-based list about where I'd drink tonight if I could.)
1. The Windsor Castle, Notting Hil
Yes, it's a tourist trap, and yes, the service is verging on a joke and yes, it's frequented by thieves so your bag has a fighting chance of disappearing if you don't keep your hand on it at all times. But it's cosy as fuck. Much of the pub is divided into little snugs (room-lets with just a table and benches built in), with tiny doorways cut for Ye Shortarses Of Ye Olden Days connecting them. Plus it has fireplaces and mulled wine. There's also a garden with fairy lights strewn all around, and at nighttime, after several glasses of well, anything, it's magic. Recently I got inappropriately drunk here with my friend Alida on a Thursday afternoon when I was meant to be writing my second book. Whoops.
2. The Antelope, Chelsea
This tiny pub is tucked into Eaton Terrace like a happy little Christmas elf flanked by leggy supermodels. There's a fireplace and bookshelves at the back, and if you're there early enough, you can take over said area and settle in for the night. I have not been here since last winter and intend to rectify this at the earliest opportunity. Bags the seat next to the fireplace.
3. The Portobello Star, Notting Hill
I could throw a stone and break a window of this bar from my house, if a) all the houses in between us weren't in the way, b) I could throw and c) I wasn't a bit of a sissy when it came to doing naughty things like that. The point is: it's close, and the cocktails here are unbefuckinglievable. The Tommy margarita is, I like to think, named thus because the English tommies used to make it in the trenches. It seems like the kind of drink that would cure trenchfoot. The decor is somehow welcoming and shabby and cool and clever, all at once.
4. The Only Running Footman, Mayfair
Whenever I think of Mayfair, I picture the word in green and red, with snow on top of the letters and holly hanging off the 'M' and the 'r'. What I mean is that the whole area could have been designed for Christmas, and this is the most Christmassy pub of all. It's like some of my other favourite eating pubs in London (the Thomas Cubitt, The Pantechnicon Rooms): there's warm, welcoming ground floor bar with totally rad burger and chips and a slightly posher 1st floor restaurant where everything is perfect. This pub is a sure thing. (The Sure Thing is an awesome and underappreciated film, by the way.)
5. Bumpkin, Notting Hill
This pub had a starring role in The Dating Detox, and then, because of tedious geographic issues, I had to change it. Which is a tragedy, as I love the warm slightly-ironic-but-not-too-much-farmhouse-chic of Bumpkin (the Notting Hill one, not the South Kensington one, which is perfectly fine but, well, you know, I met the NH one first). I eat there so often, particularly in winter, that it's slightly embarrassing. Now this is very firmly a restaurant pub, though there's a bar where cocktails are made (very, very good ones, especially the winter mulled cider cocktail, it's like a hot water bottle of joy in your tummy). The burger is exceptional and the chips are outstanding, but it's the pies that'll keep you coming back time after time. The big square corner table was perfectly designed for 12 to 16 people to enjoy a long, loud, boozy meal together. And if that doesn't scream Christmas, then I don't know what does. I just like everything about this place. There's also a specials blackboard, and one Sunday, the manager Rupert wrote 'You're a special' on it. See what I mean?
PS Honourary mentions because I hate leaving them out when they're so damn cosy, but five is a nice even number:
The Pig's Ear, Chelsea
The Churchill Arms, Kensington
The Colton Arms, Barons Court