The term "gastropub" refers to a watering hole attached to a restaurant serving serious food, not just pub grub. London's most famous is The Cow in Notting Hill, on an old cow-herding road. This enticingly schizophrenic outpost is no bangers and mash emporium. Upstairs, the swells dine on grilled filet of sea bass with couscous, while downstairs, they knock back the house specialty - Irish rock oysters and pints of Guinness.
Anglesea Arms, a century-old West London gastropub, is a popular haunt for entrees like toasted diver scallops with minted pea purée and the 50-plus wines manager Rene Rice keeps in stock. "The British love their pubs, but now they want relaxed, not poncy [pretentious] service, and really great food and drink done well," says Rice.
Boasting an eclectic mix of modern furniture, scarred church tables, and '50s-style chairs, the Evangelist is not quite a cocktail confessional, but close. A tiny lounge in leather, velvet, and silk is the centerpiece. Pick a fish from the glass slab and it's cooked to order.
While London's new bar scene is enticing, there are several traditional pubs you don't want to miss.
The first is a tiny haunt called The Grenadier, tucked away in a private, cobbled Belgravia mew. "The Grenadier was originally the officer's mess for the Duke of Wellington's Grenadier Guards, which was haunted by the ghost of an officer 'accidentally' flogged for cheating at cards," explains manager Patricia Smerdon. Guinness at $4 a pint and Laphroaig single malt Scotch at a bargain price of $3.50 are the house favorites, but what also keeps folks coming back are the wicked Bloody Marys and sausages smeared with sinus-clearing English mustard.