Jun 10

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 2: Lord John Russell

FT9 comments • 1,543 views

The Lord John Russell is a blue pub. It is the only blue pub I know. Blue on the outside certainly, plenty of pubs do that. But very few continue this motif indoors. But then this is part of the joy of the LJR. It is so clearly a proper pub, with its Pukka pies, and its reliably stinky toilets. The actual bar is a wonderful piece of bar woodwork, whenever I dream of a basic pub bar, slightly scuffed but impeccably stocked, I think of the LJR. And yet around the battered tables, the half used tables and this impressively stolid bar is sky blue, with some navy picking it out. I don’t know why the blueness of this pub impresses me, but it does.

The other unusual aspect of the LJR is its massive windows. It is a wonderfully light and airy pub, something I probably wouldn’t otherwise recommend in pubs, but then the LJR seems to do everything a bit backwards. I would normally be thoroughly irritated by a pub that insists on playing commercial radio in the background, but the LJR gets away with it. Yes it is quite near my work, and yes I go there a lot, but I think anyone can get seduced by its charms.

It helps that over the last ten years some truly wonderful things have happened there. A smiling sunflower aside, it is the most haunted pub I know with mysterious powercuts, beer spilling and other dodgy things being blamed on the unknown ghost (perhaps it is Lord John himself). It is the pub in which we invented Grey Beer (Budvar Black + Kronenberg Blanc). Perhaps one of the joys of the LJR has always been its good beer. You never get a bad pint in the LJR, and you often get an outstanding one. While it no longer has Gambrinus on tap, it has Budvar light, dark and a half & half. It went through of patch of dull guest beers but there are always a couple of interesting ales on to sup with your pie.

The LJR is my favourite local pub in London. The local thing is important but even though it is often packed, it has a dodgy fake door and relies a bit too much on outside drinking, I don’t know anyone who hates it. It always feels like a little treat being in there, and any pub which after twelve years of patronage still feels new and magical is a great thing indeed.


  1. 1
    Steve Mannion on 28 Jun 2010 #

    Good, convincing blurb – esp. about the ghost. I do like this pub but like most on the list there’s something…missing…maybe it’s just not quite cosy enough. The toilets are also cramped and positioned so that if the entrance door is open or ajar people may have a view of the urinals as men pass in and out. And if only Budvar Dark was a bit cheaper. So a couple of marks off there. I thought the LJR would top the list tho.

  2. 2
    carsmilesteve on 29 Jun 2010 #

    this is one of the few pubs where i have sat on every seat in the room.

  3. 3

    He does it every time we go there, it’s very annoying.

  4. 4
    Matt DC on 29 Jun 2010 #

    I have never had a bad night in the LJR. The trick is usually to get there after the immediate post-work rush has died down, and then it’s convival and friendly. It feels like a strange combination of a proper pub and a small student bar without ever feeling too studenty. Given its location this is hardly surprising I suppose.

    Steve is right in that the toilets ming and are appalingly laid out, but they’re not as bad as the King’s Arms in Waterloo which has occupied #1 spot in Worst Pub Toilets In London for as long as I have been drinking there.

  5. 5

    Its outside tables are a bit rubbish (ignoring the FT faction who argue that OUTSIDE is a bit rubbish).

  6. 6
    admin on 5 Aug 2010 #

    give me one more, one more pub

  7. 7
    Tom on 6 Aug 2010 #

    Did you miss our FINAL PUB EXTRAVAGANZA??

  8. 8
    admin on 6 Aug 2010 #

    aha. i remember it being discussed, but must have missed it going up – and now i see someone’s added it to the series. (or maybe it already was and i was a tired idiot)

  9. 9
    CarsmileSteve on 3 Jan 2014 #

    Further to 2 and 3: We are in LJR right now and are on our third table of the evening…

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