A slice of Ireland in an unlikely spot, serving surely the best pint of the black stuff you’ll find in north east London.
Tucked in beside wine shops on Stoke Newington’s Church Street is an inoffensive red and black exterior for one of the best Irish pubs in north London, the Auld Shillelagh. You’ll know it from the clusters of people chain-smoking by the front door, rather than by any crazy Irish-themed signage or shamrocks. Inside, the narrow bar sits at the front, with plenty of stools fought over. Oak-panelled walls and wooden floorboards keep things traditional and the pub expands at the rear, where clusters of tables and chairs are kept in dark corners. They haven’t gone OTT with Irish embellishments – expect to see the odd Irish road sign or silly joke in traditional Gaelic font.
You’ll struggle to get into the rear of this pub with any sort of ease, such is the demand for a spot at the small bar to the front of the Shillelagh. But this is a sign of how sociable a pint you can expect from this pub, where it seems everybody knows your name. Bar staff are friendly with their no frills service, but you can of course find a seat at the rear if you fancy keeping yourself to yourself. A few hours in here and you’ll probably forget you’re in London, since the pub feels like a countryside boozer set back in time.
Like any decent Irish pub, entertainment is key – you can catch all the sporting action (be it Premiership football or Irish rugby), enjoy the craic of a live Irish folk band or wail out the classics at karaoke nights. On other nights, the tunes are cranked up and it's old-fashioned pop as well as the ubiquitous U2 anthems. Nurse a quiet pint by day, but don’t expect it to be anything but raucous come the weekend – this is an Irish pub, after all.
Guinness: you’d be a fool not to try a pint of the black stuff at the Auld Shillelagh. It comes in at £3.60 a pint and is crisp and foamy. Due to the demand for it, the pipes are kept clean, ensuring one of the best Guinness supplies in the area. Of course, there are other lagers available on draught and by the bottle as well as a modest spirit selection. But ask for anything fancy here and you’ll likely be laughed out the bar. This is as traditional a pub as they come.
The Last Word
The most laid-back boozer you’ll find on Church Street, stepping into the Auld Shillelagh is like stepping back in time to a traditional tavern. It never overworks its Irish theme and thanks to the demand, a pint of Guinness here is as good as it comes in the capital.