Jan 10

The FT Top 25 Pubs of the 00s No 12: The Bricklayers Arms, W1

Pumpkin Publog6 comments • 1,956 views

There are loads of good pubs called The Bricklayers Arms. And this one, may not be the canonical best of the bunch. Yet again its a Sam Smiths, yet again its in Fitzrovia and yet again we have spent too much time in there to be in anyway objective about it. But let me remind you that this list is not for the best beer, or the comfiest pub. It is a coincidence of the right night in the right place with the right company. So perhaps I should also be reviewing the best drinking partners too.

The thing about the Brickies is that it has , like the good Sam Smiths of the turn of the millennium, two very distinct areas for drinking. Downstairs, it is bright, breezy, small and – well – bricky. A nice central bar which splits the downstairs into the poky one table back room and the only slightly bigger four table front area. Downstairs is a place for plotting, for a quick pint after a film, or a night spiralling out of control (the Brickies is of course fantastically close to the Spanish Bar). Downstairs I have seen some appalling pub behaviour from the best of friends, I have seen pranks played, I have sat rolling my eyes at another play of Kid A* as we make the most blatant table grab in history scaring off two poor shopgirls. Downstairs is business turning to pleasure. Oh and dodging the dartboard too.

Upstairs, well upstairs is one of the few places I approve of sofas in the pub. The real problem with sofas is that they are often difficult to get in and out of, especially while drinking. You sink into a hole, and you end up resembling an some sort of woodpecker rocking back and forth for your pint. Low slung leather sofas, picked to give the vibe of a gentleman’s club end up giving the vibe of a dormitory. Upstairs at the Bricklayers though eschews the leather sofas for a more robust, harder set of sofas, around some equally solid glass topped coffee tables. You can drink upstairs, be comfortable and it not feel wrong. And also the sofas a re set up for big groups, making it easy to turn into yet another garrulous session. More relaxed than downstairs, around the fire maybe, in the dark comfort of the upstairs. Unless…

There is one more mode of drinking at the Bricklayers, and it involves the very odd corner by the bar. The bar swoops round, has a couple of stools but barely enough room for more than a couple of people. And yet in that corner you seem to be able to fit no end of people slowly going mad. Yet again the pub provides the perfect air for vertical drinking too. As hard to find as a central London pub can be, at the end of Stephen Street off Tottenham Court Road, the Bricklayers has been all things to me. Tall, skinny, perhaps unprepossessing (the highest pub name in London?) Fancy a pint?

*It does seem a lot of our fond early noughties pub memories do rotate around inappropriate uses of Radiohead in pubs.


  1. 1
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 6 Jan 2010 #

    You can only be “objective” about pubs you have never been in*


  2. 2
    CarsmileSteve on 6 Jan 2010 #

    one of my favourite sam smiths i think, many happy memories.

    i think after the day of panicked glastonbury ticket buying (april 2004?) we spent the evening upstairs here, recalling stories of 20 hours of pressing F5 and praising the goddess Freya, but i think the round table out the back is still my favourite. you can squeeze a lot more people round it than you expect and you effectively get the whole back room to yourself (a constant stream of blokes going to the loo notwithstanding)

  3. 3
    CarsmileSteve on 6 Jan 2010 #

    aw, nearly ten years on and no change of opinion:


  4. 4
    Pete Baran on 6 Jan 2010 #

    Yes it was, me and Matt in identical red T-Shirt’s toasting our final luck.

    I had forgotten the cigars, but yes, there was something about the upstairs that almost demanded a panatella.

  5. 5
    Mark M on 6 Jan 2010 #

    “Next on right, round the cobbled curb of Gresse Street, stood the Bricklayers Arms, better known as the Burglars Rest because a gang of burglars had once broken into it and afterwards slept the night on the premises, leaving behind as evidence even more empties than the landlord of the Horse, but the burglars did not die and, incidentally, were never caught.
    The Burglars was a quiet house, useful for business talk or to take a young woman who one did not know well, unlike the Marquess of Granby at the foot of Rathbone Place, where at that time the most fights broke out…”
    Julian Maclaren-Ross, Memoirs of the Forties

  6. 6
    Matt DC on 8 Jan 2010 #

    This was an early doors Exciting New London Pub for me when I returned to London in late 2001 and I spent *a lot* of time here in the first half of the decade, pretty much leading up to that post-Glasto ticket buying pint. And I think I’ve only been in there once since… it feels like one of those early 00s pubs that’s gone a bit out of fashion since.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page