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Essex Serpent, Covent Garden

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user reviews of the Essex Serpent, Covent Garden

please note - reviews on this site are purely the opinion of site visitors, so don't take them too seriously.

Closed as of Feb 3rd 2014 and now a boutique. Planning consent was Dec 18th 2013: replacement of bay window and renovation works associated with use as a shop
zorrodp - 4 Feb 2014 10:00
I went to this 'pub' on a recent day trip to London with some friends. None of us would ever visit again, a decision we made before our food even arrived!

After waiting far too long to be seated, we ordered our food, only to then be told that in future they would require all of us to order food (two of our party had already eaten), because apparently rather than admit that it was a pub they felt the need to act like a jumped up fancy restaurant.

The food arrived, minus one meal (the soup of the day) which the waitress claimed had never been ordered, even though she had taken the order herself.

The veggie burger I had ordered, which had been described as 'a portobello mushroom with goats cheese', actually turned out to be a soggy microwaved mess of potato and tiny bits of vegetable. When I told the waitress that this was not at all what I had ordered, she said that the menu had changed and she'd 'forgotten' to tell me, and to just try it to see if I liked it. Since the issue was that I had not been brought what had been described on the menu, I said I would not be happy with that and decided to order a starter which looked like it wouldn't take long so as to avoid holding up the whole party. As it happened, it took so long for the forgotten soup to be brought out that I might as well have ordered a whole separate meal anyway.

When the bill arrived we saw that the incorrect meal had been added to the total, which we crossed out and amended. We paid the bill and left, only for the waitress to run out after us claiming we had underpaid. It seemed she was correct that even accounting for the incorrect meal, we had underpaid by £10. Being unable to figure out how, we paid the £10 and took the bill so as to work it out while we stood outside. We realised we had forgotten to pay for a couple of drinks, accounting for about £3.50... And then noticed that the remaining amount was a SERVICE CHARGE (!!!) which they had added. Goodness knows how they had the cheek to demand that after their service had been less than awful, but we decided to get on with our day and not bother arguing with them.

Apologies for rambling, but I felt the need to explain the terrible dining experience and hopefully prevent other people from having such a fiasco of a meal and being made to feel as cross as we did, marring an otherwise lovely day out.

Hopefully this place will soon close down and the building will be free for a proper establishment to be set up.
laurali - 5 Feb 2012 15:52
food good and a nice pinot grigio at £6 for 250 ml. HOWEVER, careful when ordering a glass of house red. you are given a 250 ml glass of parducci zinfandel which sells for around £6 a bottle but the essex serpent charges £17 a glass
sandybrown4 - 20 Jan 2012 00:41
One of the most dispiriting visits to a pub in my life. The place stunk of fish, the barmaid was surly and disinterested, and a pint of premium lager, weighing in at £4.10, was barely drinkable. There were a number of tourists in the place eating barfood that looked like the chef had concocted from a 70s time warp. A totally soulless boozer and precisely the reason so many pubs close for good each week. Its location probably keeps it going, safe in the knowledge its tourist passing trade will keep it alive since there will be no repeat custom. To cap it all, the promised free wifi turned out to be a nightmare to register and use - all the popular false numbers any sane person would prefer to use rather than their own like 01234567890 and 07123456789 were either illegal or already taken. A nailed on certainty I will never return.
sanddevil - 19 Jun 2011 19:55
More of a restaurant than a pub. I have been in here before after a drink and not thought much of it. Tonight, I was after food and was welcomed upstairs to sit with the italians and the french and all their guide books. The food was very good and the service was excellent. Summary - beer, avoid, british food well served, jump right in.
Mappiman - 11 Apr 2011 23:08
When in Covent Garden I usually patronise the Lamb and Flag but by way of a change I have used the Essex Serpent a couple of times recently. The other comments are pretty fair. It's not a bad boozer but a bit dark and dreary and, since the management cuts costs by only having one bar staffer on at a time, the tables get piled up with empty glasses which, in a small place like this, cuts down on elbow room.
guayabera - 29 Dec 2009 13:08
The beer here was fine (we tried the Adnams) and this was the only pub where we managed to get a seat, but the pub somehow seemed to lack a bit of character.
multiplexor - 8 Nov 2009 10:21
Had a drink in here with some mates the other night and found the place rather nice. It wasn't very busy for a saturday night and was completely empty downstairs. The ale was nice and we enjoyed a good hour in the pub. I'll definately return.
Paulb014 - 28 Oct 2009 14:54
Always liked the Essex, even more so now as they have given it quite a hefty refurb. It still has a very traditional feel with modern surroundings. The beer was excellent and it's good to see the Essex entering a new chapter.
Greegor_F - 13 Oct 2009 15:14
The lack of decoration and the smell of piss led me to believe that some scallywag had found an abandoned shop and stuck a bar at the end of it.

The Adnams was good and Batemans’ XB and Broadside were also available alongside some premium and a limited selection of standard lager. When most other places in the area were reasonably busy this place was dead and there were actually two blokes standing there staring at the TV which was switched off.

The cellar bar was closed, but on the way to the toilet upstairs I did pass through the “Modern British Restaurant” which was in reality a few tables and chairs in the upstairs bar that were taken up with a number of tourists who seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I’ll leave this place to the tourists in future.
Strongers - 30 Apr 2009 14:32
Not a bad little pub, a bit bleak and lacking character inside but the Adnams Bitter I had wasn't too bad at all. Never been busy when I've been in there, an ideal place to be alone with your thoughts while enjoying a good drink. Only downside was the lack of ale selection.
The_D_Man - 27 Feb 2009 12:29
Suprised to see the comments below. I've been using this place as a meeting place for a couple of years now and never had a problem with the food or the service. In fact, the Portugeuse steak is to die for!
RobBlake - 8 Jul 2008 11:28
Went to this pub last night and had one of the worst meals I have ever had in a pub.

I mistakenly thought it was a traditional oasis in the trendy London pub market, and hoped for some decent British pub grub.

We were severely disappointed. The food took a while to arrive and it was really grim when it did. My chicken was rubbery and tasted odd and came with very odd looking sweet potato and my companion was less than in impressed by his tasteless sausage and mash. The beer was really badly kept and watery, bearing no resemblance to the Adnams it was meant to be. Also, the staff were pretty unhelpful and it was not good value for money.

I would not go back.

We then went down the road to the friendly Harp and had some excellent well kept interesting beer there - what a contrast.
S.Spice - 3 Jul 2008 15:18
A top find in a swamp of tarted up bars. This place always seems to have a friendly crowd and well kept beer.
deadleg - 27 May 2008 17:47
A good meeting place in Covent Garden if you're unimpressed with top-end cocktail bars etc. An old fashioned traditional boozer with a good atmosphere and a suitable range of well-kept real ales.
JustinNewman - 8 May 2008 11:19
Considering how near it is to the centre of Covent Garden, I'm amazed that this place hasn't been 'done up' for the tourist hordes. Traditional bar, with well kept beer. Overall, a decent, if small, oasis of calm...
rpadam - 27 Mar 2008 23:36
Really good to find a traditional English pub amongst a load of high end poncy bars. Great service and good food. Ideal central meeting place.
JessSlade - 4 Mar 2008 12:17
Really enjoyed the Essex Serpent, I tried the Deuchars IPA and was impressed with the quality. Do try this pub if your in Covent Garden
BenEd - 13 Nov 2007 15:25
went in this evening the upper bar was packed so went downstairs , a good pint was served , bit smokey but ok
romfordir - 10 Mar 2007 23:23
I have been there for lunch on a number of occasions and have never had a bad meal there. Lovely bar downstairs and nice traditional restaurant upstairs. Lovely London pub ! x
Samc - 30 Jan 2007 21:57
Not a review, but I think this pub was the Red Lion at least in 1851 as relatives of mine used to live at number 61/2 King St (WC2). Doe anyone know this for sure. Thank you
MUZZYMINT - 1 Jan 2007 19:03
The Essex Serpent is a small traditional and cosy enough little pub situated right in the thick of the hustle and bustle which is known as Covent Garden. I paid a visit last summer and found the place to be fine. It was only mid afternoon, but in a popular area such as this one, you’d expect any pub to have at least a scattering of customers. It was a perhaps a little boring and I have to agree with a previous review about the bland music! I liked it enough however and wouldn’t deter people from visiting, but there are better pubs of course.
HTM69 - 25 Dec 2006 12:56
Strange name and a strange little ?gay pub near Covent Garden.
beeronaut - 26 Oct 2006 22:40
Empty and the beer wasn't all that. Too mcuh choice around this area for me to go back again.
PigPen_in_the_Fens - 19 Sep 2006 13:23
Good little pub, if beer choice a bit limited. Nice restaurant upstairs and good little cellar bar downstairs too.
darlofan - 16 Apr 2006 10:08
nice little boozer - with the added bonus of a non smoking restaurant upstairs where you can enjoy a quiet meal away from tourist crazed covent garden streets. small enough to be cosy, with affordable beers & wines.
proxy - 13 Apr 2006 15:28
This is probably one of the most bland and uninteresting pubs in the area. The traditional pub frontage is about the best feature of the pub. The single ground floor bar has lost any character that it may have once had and there is little that catches the eye. The rather ordinary décor is not enhanced by plain mirrors and a couple of blackboards for the menu and wine list, neither of which appear to be particularly stimulating. The beer selection is uninspiring (Pride and Bombardier alongside the usual suspects in the lager / cider stakes). Even the piped music is as dull it can be (Barry Manilow, Wet Wet Wet, Barbra Streisend etc). 2 TV’s and a big screen used mainly for sport. Fruit machines / Quiz machine and a soon to be redundant ciggy machine take up much of the limited wall space. There is an upstairs restaurant but I have never ventured that far. The pub enjoys a prime position right next to Covent Garden market and the area is rampant with tourists and office workers but there is little here to entice them in and surely no-one is dumb enough to be taken in by the “Covent Gardens best kept secret” sign.
RogerB - 23 Mar 2006 15:28
I may have caught this place on an off night but it seemed pretty lifeless to me and annoyingly enough most of the beers that were on tap they didn't actually have for some reason. Poor.
lennie384 - 8 Mar 2006 16:17
Pretty dire - the fact that even the lager tasted flat is probably a strong indication that they will doubtless also fail to look after their ales properly. Staff disinterested, and so very soon were we.
LondonWolf - 14 Feb 2006 12:48
decent with a small d

(blimey Pertwee, you've got too much time on your hands since packing in Dr Who)
steveo500 - 22 Dec 2005 17:19
Interesting name. Probobly comes from one of the Essex dragon legands but i dont know which one. I would hazzard a guess at Henham. Antway take your pick i've listed them below

Robert Winstantley of Saffron Walden wrote a pamphlet titled A True Relation of a Monsterous Serpent seen at Henham on the Mount in Saffron Walden published in 1699. The creature in question was a winged serpent (that would have been called a gwiber in Wales) that appeared in May of that year. It was around nine feet long and as thick as a man’s leg. Its eyes were as large as sheep’s eyes and it had several rows of sharp teeth. It was also furnished with small wings.

Despite having caused no trouble it’s demeanour was sufficiently alarming that a group of villagers armed with farm implements and stones chased it off.

The dragon of Horndon was said to have been imported in the Middle Ages by Barbary Merchants (presumably as a youngster) from whom it escaped. It set up home in the surrounding forest and grew to huge proportions.

It was eventually killed by Sir James Tyrell who managed to dazzle the dragon by wearing highly polished armour.

St Osyth
A broad sheet produced in 1704 refers to a dragon of “marvellous bigness” being discovered here during the reign on Henry II. Nothing more is known about this creature.

Saffron Walden
The pamphlet that deals with the Henham winged serpent also relates the story of a basilisk that held siege to Saffron Walden centuries before. It was described as.
“…not about a foot in length, of colour between black and yellow, having very red eyes, a sharp head and a white spot hereon like a crown. It goeth not winding like other serpents but upright on its breast. If a man touch it though with a long pole it kills him: and if it sees a man a far off it destroys him with its looks. Furthermore it breaketh stones, blasteth all plants with his breath, it burneth everything it goeth over; no herb can grow near the place of his abode.”

The basilisk killed so many people that the down was becoming depopulated. Finally a wandering knight delivered them by covering his armour in crystal glass. On seeing it’s own reflection the monster died.

Bures / Wormingford
Confusion and controversy surround this legend on the Suffolk / Essex border. Both the town of Bures and the village of Wormingford lay claim to the story as their own.

In a 19th century translation of a document from 1405 the story is told of a fearful dragon. That had a hide impenetrable to arrows and disappeared into marsh after having caused “much hurt”.

Pertwee - 12 Sep 2005 22:05
A cosy bar with real ale that would be unbearable when busy. Luckily I've been there at quiet times.
graley - 29 Dec 2004 14:34
This is a nice little pub with a good quiet downstairs bar for conversation, a lively restaurant upstairs, and a cosy main bar. Staff very friendly and drinks reasonably priced.
Valerie - 31 May 2004 17:45
Not too bad but just you try getting a bar downstairs so you need to go back up to get your drinks. Footie on TV too.
anonymous - 14 Jan 2004 19:09
Good service. Nice and cosey away from the covent garden crowd. I did not try the food but it looked delicious.
romain - 18 Jul 2003 09:17
Good atmosphere in a comfortably filled pub on a Saturday night...
Matt Le Ross - 28 Apr 2003 12:28

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