The Rugby Tavern is a far cry from the tacky theme bars and cheap eats that surround this area of London. Simple, no-frills but effective. It’s just a shame it closes at the weekend – a rather bizarre choice for a pub located so close to one of London’s biggest weekend tourist attractions.
Rugby Tavern is located close to the British Museum and is in keeping with an area steeped in history. The exterior is pretty, set within a white marble building, covered in glossy tiling with a few outdoor benches for when the weather is warm. The residential area in which it sits makes this a pleasant refuge from the crazy buzz of nearby Holborn and Oxford Circus.
Inside, however, the traditional beauty of this building is undermined somewhat by its very basic, borderline-ugly aesthetic. It’s lazy decorating with the ubiquitous patterned carpet, large ornate mirrors on the wall, a dominating bar and slightly battered, mismatched furniture (and not in a kitsch way, either). It’s a shame; with a makeover this could be one gorgeous watering hole.
This is a pub that is all about simplicity and it attracts people looking for no-frills pub grub and a pint. And so you’ll find a mix of tourists who have strayed off the beaten path, local office workers looking for a pub that isn’t as manic as some of the big hitters nearby, and small groups of excited students chatting about their visit to the British Museum in various languages. The staff are friendly and welcoming to all and they have a good knowledge of the pints they have on offer.
Keeping with the simple theme, the food at the Rugby Tavern focusses almost entirely on traditional pub grub. Being a Shepherd Neame pub, they don’t push the boat out on inventiveness, instead sticking to what they know will sell. Everything is priced under a tenner, including a mix of burgers, sandwiches and simple main meals like fishcakes, fish and chips, or sausage and mash. It is good that a big deal is made about everything being freshly prepared on site, though.
Although the Rugby Tavern is featured by CAMRA for its real ales, as a Shepherd Neame pub it only hosts ales by this brewery, which means you miss out on a huge range of cask ales and local brews that are starting to pop up all over London. Still, it’s all kept very well here and the draught beer is of good quality. This includes the brewery’s favourites like Spitfire and Bishop’s Finger.
The Last Word
The Rugby Tavern doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a down to earth boozer in one of London’s more expensive areas. If you fancy a well-priced drink and some pub grub away from the crowds, seek it out – just don’t bother at the weekend when the doors, bizarrely, remain closed.