Never mind getting as drunk as a lord – why not go one better, and get as drunk as a king? Here’s our guide to the royal family’s favourite London watering holes, from the Chelsea pub where the Duchess of Cambridge has her own private entrance, to the Limehouse boozer where the Queen Mum pulled her own pint …
45 Hollywood Road, SW10 9HX
No, it’s not the royals sucking up to movie stars – this ‘Hollywood’ predates the one in Los Angeles by several decades. The pub was built in 1865, and the road takes its name from a house that stood here well before that. Prince Harry was such a fan of the place that he had his own private entrance in the alleyway round the back. That was when it was owned by Charlie and Willow Crossley – they sold it in 2015, Willow going into flower design, including the arrangements for Harry’s wedding. But the secret entrance came in handy last November, when the Duchess of Cambridge used it to sneak in and join fellow parents from her children’s school (St Thomas’s in Battersea) for a few drinks in the pub’s Boulevard bar. Her low-key arrival meant she only needed one royal protection officer.
15 Beeston Place, SW1W 0JW
Should you want the more formal Middleton drinking experience, try the Goring Hotel, just round the corner from Buckingham Palace. It’s where Kate stayed (with sister Pippa and mother Carole) the night before her wedding in 2011. The hotel has pretty pucker royal connections generally – its bar was redesigned by Princess Margaret’s son David Lindley, while the Queen Mum was a regular for lunch. She was particularly partial to the Eggs Drumkilbo (hard-boiled eggs with lobster and prawns).
1 Dover Street, W1S 4LD
The nightclub, named after the Polynesian path to the underworld, was where Princes William and Harry spent many of their younger nights. Don’t worry about your blood not being as blue as theirs – co-founder Nick House has said ‘the vision with Mahiki is that whether you’re fat, thin, bald, ugly or old, you can get in’. Others have questioned this, but if you want a crack at supping their Mai-Pie or Mauna Loa cocktails, you’ll certainly need to obey the dress code. This starts obliquely (‘come dressed for your occasion’, ‘dress like you mean it’), and never gets more specific than ‘Smart Casual’ and ‘we are anti-fur in association with PETA’.
40 Jermyn Street, SW1Y 6DN
We would tell you about Prince Andrew’s experiences here, but he’s a little hazy on the details.
19-21 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JJ
Under its old guise of Wheeler’s fish restaurant, this was the building in which Prince Philip’s notorious Thursday Club held its boozy lunches in the 1950s. A private upstairs room was where the group of friends, including David Niven and Peter Ustinov, used wine, port and brandy to fuel what one member called a ‘raffish and mischevious’ pursuit of ‘Absolute Inconsequence’.
The journalist Miles Kington once wrote (jokingly) about an afternoon when the chaps were joined by a group of attractive young women. ‘Don’t knock these girls,’ Lord Louis Mountbatten said. ‘These girls are all great ladies in their own right. The Duchess of Northumberland, the Percy, the Lady Devonshire …’ ‘These are their titles?’ asked Kington. ‘No,’ came the reply, ‘they’re the pubs they work at.’ Even though Kington was making it up, his humour was based on reality, if that former member is to be believed. It wasn’t that ‘we set out to be deliberately badly behaved, although often things would get a bit out of hand by the time everyone had downed a bottle or two.’ Lunch continued ‘well into the night, with the bibulous guests becoming more louche – and increasingly frisky – as the hours went by’.
Strand, WC2R 0EZ
The then-Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret regularly attended parties and balls at the Savoy, while their mother was such a fan that the private side door became known as ‘the Queen Mother’s Entrance’. But the most lavish drinking here was done at a 1905 birthday party thrown for Edward VII. The American millionaire wine-trader George A. Kessler, known as ‘the Champagne King’, paid for a Venetian-themed event in which the central courtyard was flooded to a depth of three feet. Fish and swans swam around a huge gondola decorated with 12,000 flowers, on which two dozen guests enjoyed a 12-course banquet. Enrico Caruso serenaded them with ‘O Sole Mio’, while the five-foot birthday cake was delivered on the back of a baby elephant borrowed from London Zoo. Total cost, in today’s money: over a third of a million.
Brook Street, W1K 4HR
Starting with Queen Victoria in 1860 – she was visiting her friend Empress Eugenie of France – the hotel has become syonymous with royalty, both British and foreign. On 17th June 1945, the King of Yugoslavia (exiled because of the war) arranged for a sod of earth from his home country to be placed under the bed in suite 212, where his wife was in labour, so that his son (Crown Prince Alexander) could be born on Yugoslavian soil. So many royal guests have stayed here that when one person rang and asked to speak to the king, the telephonist replied: ‘Which one?’
6 Old Ct Pl, W8 4PL
The Kensington restaurant opened in 1964 as Nan’s Kitchen, but in the early 1970s changed its name to the pseudonym used by a regular customer whenever she booked: Princess Margaret (then married to Antony Armstrong-Jones).
Flamborough St, E14 7LS
The Limehouse pub, which opened in 1855 (and is said to have been the inspiration for the Queen Vic in EastEnders), was visited by the Queen Mother in 1987. The photo of her pulling a pint is the one you still see in Young’s pubs up and down the land. ‘Never mind the champagne,’ she said, as her elbow did its stuff, ‘this is much better’.
Ye Olde Mitre
1 Ely Court, EC1N 6SJ
A gem of a pub, appropriately enough, as it’s hidden in a passageway off Hatton Garden. It was built in 1546 for the servants of the Bishops of Ely, whose London residence was around the corner. The cherry tree which now supports the front of the pub once had the maypole danced around it by Elizabeth I.