The Island Queen
The Island Queen is a warm hug of a boozer - as comforting as a visit to a favoured aunt who has an ample bosom, questionable taste, and is more than capable of knocking out a mean Sunday lunch. No boundaries are being broken, but it's a charming all-rounder with geeky pub quizzes, an extensive (potentially hazardous) gin selection, and elevated pub grub that's a warm treat for the soul - keep your eyes peeled for a fantastic bangers and mash. The slightly eclectic ‘are we in a Roald Dahl book?’ decor somehow manages to balance some of that classic pubby wood paneling and vintage chairs with birdcages, purple walls, chintzy chandeliers and mirrors painted with plants. If you like your pubs with a little quirk, then you'll be soppy for the Island Queen.
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The White Swan
This riverside pub is an absolute winner. It's a little further out of London but well worth the trip on a sunny Sunday after a row along the Thames. Hang out by the log fires in winter or sit on the terrace in summer. It's right on the edge of the river with a view of weeping willows and ducks squabbling. Watch out though: the tide comes up quite quickly and you'll have to rush into the pub. The food is almost as good as the surrounds. Grab a plate of crispy squid with garlic mayo for a nibble with your pint. In the summer they have a raft race where you have to build your craft and race it across the water. It's a good watch even if you don't enter.
This is a comeback story for the ages. The Shaftesbury Tavern, previously an inconspicuous local hole in Richmond, has been taken over by the Remarkable Restaurant group (of the Dragonfly Brewery and the George & Dragon) – and boy, did they transform this pumpkin into a Cinderella (did we get that right?). Palatial Victorian accents peek out around the massive space – think chandeliers and towering pillars. There's a decent selection of ales on tap, including microbrews sourced from Dragonfly that won’t put off beer ignoramuses. The food is standard pub fare and while it doesn’t stun, it definitely does the trick. A good standard for slightly fancy people.
The Union Tavern has heaps of character with a real fire, leather sofas you can sink into and a great collection of board games. They have all sorts of activities on, with pub quizzes on a Wednesday at 8pm. We reckon the highlight is the view of the Union Canal from the venue's heated smoking patio out back.
The Lord Tredegar
There's something about a coal fire in a pub, isn't there? Even better if there are two. Even better still if there are reclaimed church pews and lush red leather chairs to kick back in beside the fire while downing ale from the Dragonfly Brewery. And is that an old CD jukebox on the wall? £1 for 3 plays? Ok, this place is officially ticking all our boxes. In the back is an open kitchen dining area where they whip up much slicker grub than normal pub standard - we had a brilliant cod loin when we were there, and saffron and butternut squash risotto. The mixture of old and new in here is nigh on perfect, and we love it.