Windsor Castle, Kensington
A piece of London history, the Windsor Castle’s three areas – the sherry bar, lounge and Campden bar – hark back to the days when drinkers were segregated according to gender and class. Today, two open fires crackle and, after Christmas shopping on Portobello Market, this is your spot to refuel, warm up and mingle. Inside, the pub has low ceilings, oak-panelling and cosy, private cubicles through hobbit-like doors, from which you may spot the likes of Clare Danes, who is a fan. Perhaps the most famous nod to this boozer comes from Guy Ritchie, whose Punch Bowl pub in Mayfair – according to some – is a tribute to the Windsor Castle ambience he used to enjoy with Madonna. In winter, you can ask for blankets to sit outside in a heated garden, where you can sup mulled wine, spiced cider or Winter Pimms.
The Windsor Castle, 114 Campden Hill Road, London W8 7AR; 020 7243 8797; thewindsorcastlekensington.co.uk; Mon-Sat 12pm- 11pm, Sun 12pm-10.30pm
The Rose and Crown, Stoke Newington
On the edge of Stoke Newington, the Rose and Crown is a handsome, well-preserved Victorian matriarch, her large, curved bay window flanking the corner between Clissold Park and Church St. It’s a challenging task to make a pub of such generous proportions feel cosy, but the feat has been pulled off thanks, in part, to the two roaring open fires that warm the oak-beamed interior on cold winter afternoons. At weekends, the pub is packed and it’s a deservedly popular spot for roast dinners, while in the evenings, the atmosphere is lively but not wild – a good place to start your night. Walk in the park, check out the vintage shops on Church St, then settle by the fire for a Sunday drink. If you’re from out of town, it’s worth knowing that the Rose and Crown also runs a boutique B&B guest house.
199 Stoke Newington Church Street N16 9ES; 020 7923 3337; roseandcrownn16.co.uk; Sun-Thurs 12pm-12am, Fri-Sat 12pm-1am
The Three Kings, Clerkenwell
With its eclectic clutter of vintage photographs, fairy lights, ornaments and giant, fibre-glass rhino head, The Three Kings is one of London’s most memorable drinking places. In the summer, you can stand outside on Clerkenwell Close and sip your drink as you look at pretty St James’ church opposite, but this pub comes into its own in the winter when the open fire is lit, the doors closed and the atmosphere cosy. Creative types, older bohemians and loyal locals mingle in the King’s warm, slightly chaotic environment and, even on a week night, be prepared to be swept into an impromptu party. From time to time, there’s live music – think Blur’s Graham Coxton, Madness’s Mark Bedford or Robyn Hitchcock – and, the rest of the time, the vinyl juke box will keep you happy with a selection of 60s pop and soul.
7 Clerkenwell Close, EC1R 0DY; 020 7253 0483; Mon-Fri noon-11pm; Sat 5.30-11pm
The Duke, Bloomsbury
Probably off your usual radar, The Duke is a surprising little art deco oasis between Holborn and Russell Square. Walk in on a winter evening and you’ll be enveloped in the smell of mulled wine and the heat of a crackling fire. Twinkling lights, leafy plants and art deco lamps are reflected in vintage mirrors that hang at angles around the wall, and you can sit in a booth of dark, gleaming wood, perch at the bar or settle down at a table to eat (The Duke serves nice - but no-frills - pub fare). There’s something romantic about this place, and after a warm, spiced wine, it’s easy to image yourself the heroine of a 1930s movie. During the week, The Duke’s downtown location is apparent and a large part of the clientele are business people, but thanks to its gorgeous interior, friendly staff – and, in winter, the open fire – the pub also has a following of trendy east London-ites who make the pilgrimage to soak up the slightly surreal atmosphere.
7 Roger Street WC1N 2PB; 020 7242 7230; dukepub.co.uk; Mon-Sat 12pm-11pm, Sun 12pm-10.30pm
The Mayflower, Rotherhithe
Escape the city without leaving Zone 2 in this riverside haven that, for all the world, feels as though it should be in the middle of the countryside. The Mayflower is the oldest pub on the Thames, and, with its lead-latticed windows, stained glass panels and beams that date back to the 1600s, it’s definitely one to bring your friends from overseas. Despite being the spot from which the eponymous ship set forth, this is no clichéd tourist trap; The Mayflower attracts London regulars who come for the great food (try the cheese board, sourced from local farms), good wines, the stunning view across The Thames, the waterside deck – which can still be enjoyed in winter thanks to thoughtfully provided blankets and hot water bottles – and, yes, the roaring open fire. On a moonlit winter’s night, looking out across the river from The Mayflower is magical.
117 Rotherhithe Street, London SE16 4NF; 020 7237 4088; themayflowerrotherhithe.com Mon-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 12pm-11pm