Recently sensitively refurbished by new owners Fuller’s, this historic pub endures as a Covent Garden institution.
Tucked away in an alleyway just around the corner from Covent Garden’s famous and bustling Piazza, and with an even more hidden public passage, Lazenby Court, running down its side, the Lamb and Flag is one of central London’s more historic pubs. A pub first appeared on this site either when the street was built in 1623, or a decade or so afterwards, depending which source you read. The current timber-framed building dates from 1772 and claims links to Dickens, Marx and the poet John Dryden, who was beaten up twice on the street outside in 1679 on the orders of people he satirised in his verse. The Lamb and Flag is an old religious symbol that is also used by the Middle Temple, though the pub’s original name was the Coopers Arms, and it was nicknamed the Bucket of Blood when regular prize fighting bouts took place upstairs.
A former free house, it was taken over by Fuller’s in 2011, and the subsequent refurbishment did much to bolster the structure of the building and improve the cellar while leaving little outwardly changed. Downstairs is still dominated by dark and well worn wood, with plaques and photos commemorating deceased regulars. Though little of this is genuinely old, it’s certainly atmospheric. There’s a small cluster of tables at the rear, space for vertical drinking at the front, and large windows that open onto the alley outside, brightening things considerably on a fine day. The Dryden Room, up some rickety stairs and past a mural depicting books, looks more modern, with its own bar, dining-style wooden tables and chairs at the front and a loungey area at the back.
The Lamb and Flag is a characterful place attracting a mix of people – tourists, of course, but also local workers, theatre and opera goers, and also residents, of whom there are a surprisingly large number nearby. The plaques and photos attest to its loyal following as a community venue, with some regulars prepared to travel to drink here. It’s also mercifully a quiet pub, with no recorded music or gaming machines, and no TV downstairs, though there’s live acoustic music on the last Friday of the month and a long running jazz session on Sunday evenings. The Dryden Room can be hired for functions.
A compact menu, all home cooked and of decent quality, ventures a little beyond traditional pub grub. There are numerous posh sandwiches (from £5.50) and mains like a pie of the day (£9.50), honey and mustard glazed ham and eggs (£9.95), seared salmon (£9.95), sausage and mash (£8.95) and red pesto and vegetable tagliatelle (£9.95).
The new owners have increased the number of cask ale handpumps to eight, with Fuller’s own Chiswick, ESB, London Pride and Seafarers always on sale, plus seasonals and guests from breweries like Adnams or Butcombe. Prices are a little higher than average, as you’d expect in this location. Fuller’s bottled beers are also stocked, with tourist friendly gift boxes to take away. The wine list boasts over 25 entries, and no less than seven champagnes and sparkling wines. Twelve mainly varietal wines are sold by the glass (from £3.50).
The Last Word
Another classic London pub that balances its position on the tourist circuit with providing a welcome to everyday drinkers, the Lamb and Flag is clearly in safe hands and should continue to flourish.