Wednesday, 5 October 2011

It's a London Thing No.49: The Three Kings of Clerkenwell

It’s a London Thing is our Wednesday series in which we turn the spotlight on a unique aspect of London – perhaps a curious shop, sometimes an eccentric restaurant, a hidden place, book or oddity. The subject matter will be different every week. The running theme, however, will remain constant: you have to come to London to enjoy it. It’s A London Thing.

Within a week of landing in London almost 20 years ago, I ended up in Clerkenwell. And within a week of ending up in Clerkenwell, I had fallen inexorably in love with London.

One of the reasons was The Three Kings of Clerkenwell.

If there’s such a thing as the perfect pub, The Kings comes damn near close. When sparsely populated of an early week evening and with the fire on the go, it has the womb-ish, conspiratorial feel of the perfect place for a stolen, illicit night out. When packed of a Friday, it rocks. In summer, punters spill out onto the pavement and Clerkenwell Close fairly buzzes as the titular trio of kings on the swinging pub sign – Henry VIII, King Kong and Elvis – look down. Fine lunches too, great beer on tap, and a superb vinyl jukebox upstairs.

When I first discovered this place – getting on for 20 years ago – it was a traditional pub with some eccentric touches. Over the years the eccentricity has slowly taken over, like lush ivy on an already lovely old building. These things take time. Character cannot be achieved with that dreadful 21st Century phenomena The Makeover.

Great things have come to those of us who have waited at The Kings. And things were pretty bloody good to start with.

The legendary theatre critic Kenneth Tynan once wrote of the play Look Back In Anger, “I could not love anyone who did not wish to see this play.” I feel the same way about The Three Kings of Clerkenwell.

Best pub in London? Best in the world, mate, the whole wide world.

Adam Scott-Goulding


A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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