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Old Bell, Fleet Street

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user reviews of the Old Bell, Fleet Street

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

Another Thursday afternoon pub tick from the 2016 GBG and another Nicholsons pub.

This part of Fleet St is not an area I have spent much time in so this was another new pub for me. Like The White Swan in Covent Garden again there were 8 hand pumps, this time in 2 banks of 4 & with 8 different ales on. At least 3 of these seemed to be guests. I went for a pint of Everards Sly Fox @ 4.0%.

Busy with a few larger groups, the pub is small so getting a seat / table that wasn’t already reserved was a bit of a mission, I ended up in a larger comfy armchair to the right of the bar. It’s a very quaint pub separated into a front lounge area & a smallish rear bar area, out the back is a terrace area overlooking the church.

Plenty of age to the pub coupled with a slopping floor towards the bar.

I liked this pub, stayed for 2 pints and only left when it started getting really busy.
lezford - 25 Dec 2016 08:42
Last review made me smile? When did the smoking ban come in? Maybe you cant smoke outside?

More pubby than the next door Punch Tavern. Four real ales on but the quality of my Hogs Back Tea was poor.

Wouldnt go out of my way to come back and there is plenty of choice in the area.

Fleet Street Pub Crawl at http://bit.ly/2etkXjQ
Mappiman - 19 Oct 2016 13:07
Non-smoking pub .. don't bother.
dsuter - 10 Jun 2016 13:39
You can sit at the front near the strained glass, or at the back where it's darker, or stand because it's too busy. Beer almost always good. Food a bit pricey.
JBanana - 3 Jul 2015 15:17
Popped in with the intention of stopping for a quick Guinness but ended up having 3 pints with some excellent company accompanied by an excellent atmosphere! Really nice pub, good beer and good staff in a quirky location.

Would return without a doubt!!
Miker1234 - 30 Mar 2015 21:31
I'm not sure if I've been to this pub or not before. It was my third Nicholsons pub in a row and I'd already seen most of the ales on offer by the time I arrived here on Saturday lunchtime. The previous two in the Liverpool Street area were busy. I was the first into this one. Although a few others arrived not long after. Ales were Truman's Runner, Sonnet 43 American Pale Ale, Wadworth Chill & Chocolate, Nicholsons Pale Ale, St Austell Tribute & Sharps Doom Bar. I went for the Runner, which was good. The Old Bell lacked atmosphere. But I guess it's much busier during the week. One of a number of half-decent pubs along Fleet Street.
blue_scrumpy - 26 Jan 2015 21:41
Small historic building with a good range of well kept ales. Worth a visit if you are in the area.
Aztecgoat - 22 Nov 2014 09:36
We stopped back in last week after previous London visit in 2012. Happy to report we enjoyed the place and the ales a second time, also had a bite to eat and found food and service met our expectations again. Kudos to Adam behind the bar, who is a pleasant guy and enjoyed talking ales with us USA cask ale fans.
fr21555 - 18 Feb 2013 20:11
went in on a Saturday just after 6 and it was closing...apparently shuts at 6pm on a Saturday, so best to visit earlier or mid week..

Another of the Nicholsons pubs
d.franks - 25 Mar 2012 17:14
I stopped in here recently, during a couple of free days in London. There was no one else in the place on a rainy Saturday afternoon so I felt lucky to find myself here. I was welcomed by the bar man and we chatted about the history and about real ales. I had a fine pint of Tribut, that was easily one of the better pints I've had of this brew, including some in Devon days earlier. The staff were so very friendly and I really came to love this pub and felt stupid that I had missed it on previous visits to Fleet Street. I will definitely visit this place again and hope to spend more time there.
fr21555 - 20 Feb 2012 02:41
Have to post something nice after slagging off a couple of my locals. Excellent value for money, and a good range of (generally) well kept beers. And full in a Weds lunch time.
baggydave - 7 Sep 2011 23:42
Fairly ordinary pub with two entrances on either side (one on Fleet St, the other from the passage by the church behind). Can get very busy in the evenings with City boys.
dpaajones - 7 Sep 2011 08:16
Perhaps less-appealing in appearance externally than its nearby neighbour the Punch, but further inspection confirms it is far more satisfactory in other respects. In the usually safe, if formulaic hands of Nicholsons, the Bell offers a traditional, cosy interior with plenty of seating around a dimly-lit bar area. Service was with a smile - yes, in London! - and the ale (Moor Northern Ale from Somerset) was on excellent form, and was accompanied by the usual broad selection the chain is known for, all at reasonable enough prices. I daresay food will be found in decent order, as it is in all venues under this banner. Certainly one of the more appealing pubs in this area, albeit perhaps not one of the most authentic. Definitely worth your attention if you like your alehouses traditional, and cask-friendly.
TWG - 27 Aug 2011 09:08
I had been very disappointed on my previous visit about a year ago, but I'm glad to say things have very much improved. Very busy in there on a Tuesday night - excellent range of ales and very good prices for central London. My pint of Doom bar was faultless and cost only 2.75. Highly recommended and I'll be going there again next time I'm in the area.
nich52 - 13 Jul 2011 12:32
Cant fault the place, first time visitor on a Tuesday afternoon, barmaid and customer at the bar very friendly (upon hearing the scouse accents!), ale not too bad.
Scousefire - 8 May 2011 21:14
One of the best pubs down this end of Fleet Street in my opinion, certainly preferable to The Punch Tavern and The Tipperary. Part of the Nicholsons empire, but it does not feel much like a chain pub and retains a lot of character. Good range of beers too, usually including St. Austell Brewery's Tribute.
rob1981 - 22 Mar 2011 14:17
A poor example of a Nicholson's Pub.
delstefan - 26 Feb 2011 23:06
I was there yesterday evening before and after a trip to the Bridewell Theatre: I don't get why some people are being so negative about the place. Given that Fleet Street is a ghost street now that the papers have moved out and offices have moved in, I wouldn't expect to see a Fleet Street pub heaving with life. The Bell is comfy, the service (despite its being full of punters) was swift and friendly, there were six ales on its eight pumps, it did all you'd want it to do. I enjoyed coming back there, not having visited for a little while (not having been in the area), and will do so again next week when back at the Bridewell.
Charno - 4 Dec 2010 15:34
This pub features a lovely stained glass and leaded window frontage. Inside, there are some charactersome features and a good selection of hand pulled ales but, in spite of that it felt unexceptional and lacking in atmosphere. Service was cheerless and blunt as is often my experience of the pubs in the centre of London. On one of the coldest days of the year so far, not one of the three fireplaces had a fire in them (presuming they still function as such) and that would have brought some cheer and atmosphere to the place. Maybe I caught it at a bad time but it's a potentially good pub that just felt as though it couldn't be bothered.
tarkatherotter - 28 Nov 2010 10:02
Nice fish and chips, smallish pub - but very much a "Pub" - nothing amazing.
adamwalsh - 19 Aug 2010 18:16
Good choice of beer for a smallish pub. Deuchers is excellent and other beers are also well-kept. Service is friendly and quick despite the pub often being very busy. Lots of atmosphere in what is a very old building. Food prices are reasonable and the food I've had here has always been very good by pub standards.

Nicholsons (the owners) need to do something about the lack of heating in the Fleet Street facing bit of the pub. This detracts from what is otherwise a very good offering and must surely put some people off stayign on a cold winter's day.
StudioM - 24 Dec 2009 11:17
Fine, traditional Nicholsons pub down the bottom end of Fleet Street. A flagstoned lobby area inside the door leads up several steps to a smallish U shaped bar and an archetypal Nicholsons interior - not unpleasant, but a bit samey. Note the fine coloured leaded Old Bell engraved window to the left of the entrance.

It's not a big pub, although refuge from the inevitable crowded interior can be had by drinking in the passageway outside the back entrance in the shadow of St Brides Church. Indeed, it is believed that the pub was built to cater for workers constructing the church.

On the beer front, a fairly standard Nicholson's range was on ( yes, you've guessed it - I've lost my notes ) . I do remember however that the Deuchars IPA was really good.

The pub still retains some character and atmosphere and I'd happily drop in again.
JohnBonser - 24 Dec 2009 08:25
just like it says on the door , its a nicholsons pub . expect rubbish and sometimes be plesently surprised. however on this quick stopover, there was nothing plesant at at. my pint of pride was murky, the brunette had a red wine which was off, left both drinks and carried on our way.
The_Pub_Inspector - 3 Oct 2009 09:46
Not Bad I had the Pride and it was okay. The food was good and my wife liked the Oxford Sausage and mash.
Ironfist - 3 Oct 2009 01:01
Went here yesterday Lunchtime. Very large selection of ales (for a Nicholson Pub). I went for the London Pride which was OK but as stated before not perfect. Two very nice girls behind the Bar who were pleaseant and smiling. This was a Sausage themed Nicholson Pub so I went for an 4.50 Oxford Sausage Sandwhich (which arrived quickly with Chips). The Chips were perfect but I think the Sausage was Microwaved as it came so quickly and was slightly dry. Never the less was edible. This was not my first visit and will definately not be the last. worth a look if in the area
Bitter_Man - 10 Sep 2009 15:35
Was closed on the Saturday I passed.
dpaajones - 16 Aug 2009 12:06
Preserved (to a degree) by virtue of its Grade II listed status; the OB retains some vestige of English character, (a tragically scarce quantity on 2009 vintage Fleet Street). The beer's good but the food's formulaic - bland to the nth degree. Still, you won't go far wrong quaffing 8 pints of Timmy and a (now virtual) pickled egg if you've an hour to spare of a lunch time. The atmospheres convivial and the crowd's eclectic pompous, NPD-racked wine-bores jostle for position at the bar with mortar-caked builders and overpaid primary school teachers. Some queer old buzzards number amongst the regulars; they'll regale you with the local legend of 'monsieur rat lumire' in return for a half of Russian. Well worth a visit.
THE_SWAN - 7 Jul 2009 21:06
This pub came highly recommended but was pretty disappointing. The diabolical smell coming from the toilets (like a chemical factory) was off putting as soon as we got in the door. The Timothy Taylors Landlord was off so I had some other ale from Cornwall, which was stale and musty- although not quite bad enough to cause a scene about. I then went for London Pride thinking it would be a safe bet, but this too was a long way from being in perfect condition.
They have a very good selection of ales - at good prices too, but if they are in poor condition, this doesn't count for much. I would rather see just 3 or 4 ales but all in tip top condition, than ten dodgy ones. I will give it another chance another night, but this visit was a let down.
nich52 - 27 May 2009 12:37
Reasonable visit to the Old Bell. Beer was good service friendly and comfortable enough.

Nicholson through and through of course.
terenced - 16 Dec 2008 11:01
Part of M&B's nicholsons brand pubs, quality of beer not gauranteed, food gauranteed to be brakes frozon micro mush. Avoid at all costs
kiwiphil - 28 Oct 2008 20:51
went there for a leaving do the other night. Charmless manager decided he was shuttign at half ten "because it's a bit quiet" then really rude about us finishin our drinks.

lovely lovely pub with a manger who should find another line of work. avoid until he;s gone.
jjmac - 12 Sep 2008 18:02
Beer is always in superb nick (especially the Timmy Taylors Landlord) Food looks good and wholesome. Staff a bit surly, but heh, you are in Central London!
DTR2K - 12 Sep 2008 16:15
Good selection of beers, if a little scruffy. I'm fussy over good bar service and the barmaids here were attentive despite the busy lunch hour I spent in there, albeit with somewhat dull personalities. Nothing to really make the pub stand out, except perhaps the uneven floor. If you like Nicholsons pubs its more worth hitting the Blackfriar a short walk away.
CaptainJamesTPint - 23 Apr 2008 15:51
I've been visiting this pub on and off for the last ten years and it has had its ups and downs. I'd say this is in one of its better phases. Beer is well kept, and the staff are neither rude nor friendly: they just seem to be getting on with their job. If you want to be on first name terms with the staff in this area, go up the road to the tipperary. The interior keeps a sense of history notably via the floorboards and wooden fixings, and while busy it is usually possible to secure a seat because the throughput in the pub is quite high with passing trade. Food is pretty good. I think they still even have the pickled eggs in the corner cupboard at the back that looks like it should be hiding a dart board. Shame it isn't open at weekends though. Finally if you hear people talking of a rat in this place, it isn't a concern. A gentleman who goes by the pseudonym rat is in there all the time, and his name usually comes up in the context of drinking games and a failure to get a penalty drink down. Nice chap though.


buzzard1 - 7 Apr 2008 15:27
Oh dear dear dear dear

And oh dear dear dear dear dear dear dear

My wonderful local for three years until 2004. Stil use it regularly. Interesting and famous interior as used by Chris Wren when building the local church. But oh dear dear dear dear dear dear dear.

"This beer is flat can I change it please". "No, it is bitter it is meant to be flat, no one else has complained." From what I hear this is typical of the place now. Got nothing about sourcing staff from around the world, but please please please know something about keeping and serving beer. And don't be surly to the customers! If it isn't fit for purpose, it isn't fit for purpose. And P off you suits who decided to join in the discussion, bunch of winkers.

Food actually very good, shame really
baggydave - 29 Jan 2008 22:28
I was bit disappointed in the Bell - beer was OK but not great and it all felt a bit ordinary. Maybe just an off day (me or the pub) - will resolve to go back and give it another chance!
writtleman - 4 Dec 2007 12:12
Good selection of beers and a nice, snug layout. Food is good value, but portion size a bit small!
OldManPub - 28 Nov 2007 13:15
the food is uncommonly good in here. other nicholsons houses nearby run the same menu but they do not even come close. no idea about the booze as i don't drink during the day but if they take this much care over their food, i'd be astonished if it is any less than exceptional.
this may sound gushing but it really is very good. even though i lost my 4.50 change in the quiz machine.
istenem - 28 Sep 2007 15:28
good bar, nice beer, swift service, decent food.
will come again.


ale_fiend - 2 Jun 2007 10:50
Last thursday i had the best pub lunch of my life,the sausages were exellent,whith creamy,fluffy mash (mash melts in your mouth) and well flauvoured gravy,and backed up by exellent service.I foud it quite unbelievably good.Probably one of the best pub in london.(recommend)
duke_2 - 10 Apr 2007 09:20
Still had Pride, Adnam's Bitter and Landlord on today. Guest beer was Highgate Fat Catz. Never had this beer before, but was pretty good. It's a darkish beer with a sharp flavour.

This pub is bigger than it looks from the front, with a fairly large non-smoking area on the left as you enter from Fleet Street. But I did not feel very comfortable in there today - some work was being done on the back doors, which were open making it fairly cold in the main bar. The music being played was some very good blues/jazz, but was almost drowned out by the workmens' saws and one of the Eastern European barmaids shouting into her mobile 'phone. But I won't let any of that put me off visiting it again. It is clearly a historic pub, and with Wren's magnificent St Bride's church outside the back doors it has enough character to make it worthy of inclusion in a pub tour of the area.


RexRattus - 14 Feb 2007 22:20
Maybe it was due to the fact that it was the end of the night but the Olde Bell just seemed old to me. Its a bareboards boozer (which I usually like) with a horseshoe bar.

My pint of Pride was nondescript.
jorrocks - 28 Dec 2006 03:07
Great atmosphere. Historic boozer. Go if in the area.
HLC - 26 Dec 2006 15:53
A bit small and crowded for my liking on a Friday night. Usually a good crowd although does suffer from a few up themselves city types which has to be expected given the location. Lots of atmosphere though and never any aggro.
f90x - 22 Dec 2006 22:41
Excellent beers: London Pride, Adnams, Timothy Taylor's Landlord, and a guest beer (my beloved Theakston's Old Peculiar this week). All well-looked after by the affable landlady and her friendly Lithuanian barmaids. (I'm in love with all of `em!) The place is a gem, and is my favourite in the area - where I've worked for a few years. Yep, it does get a bit crowded, with a few city suits, but there's usually a good mix, and a mellow atmosphere. Enjoy.
bobthebuilder - 9 Dec 2006 19:56
look. it's very simple. there's nowhere else on fleet street that will serve me - well - an almost perfect pint of landlord. i work round the corner - nothing else to say - give it a go. actually dont. a
xajones - 25 Nov 2006 00:55
Back when CAMRA was young and so was I, a reasonbly competent real ale drinker could in a reasonable amount of time drink at all the pubs left in London that served real beer. I did them all with a friend, starting each day with a first ale at 11 and finishing at closing time that night. During the hours when the pubs were closed, we would occasionally do a real beer joint with a club license.

The Bell was a standout in those days and was the last time I was there about a year ago. Over the years, it's been consistently good with a good staff. It's not big but then most of the older pubs aren't.

If it's not jammed, it's a comfortable place to relax and drink good beer.

anonymous - 15 Nov 2006 22:51
I meant, of course, that I want it to remain a hidden haven, free of crowds...

Cheers
Alph_river - 8 Oct 2006 18:26
Just to add to RogerB's learned account: The "back" of the pub facing St Bride's Churchyard was originally the front. The narrow passage opening onto Fleet Street has only comparatively recently become the "front".

This was my local over 30 years ago, and was the only pub in the area serving White Shield. Went back with the C.R.A.P.S. recently and found a good range of real ales in good nick.

It still retains the atmosphere of a proper pub, and is an excellent place for sampling ales in a quiet haven just off Ludgate Circus. But don't go there - there's not room!
Alph_river - 8 Oct 2006 18:23
Probably the best pub along Fleet Street. Good range of real ales, reasonable pub grub and a very nice indoors. Never too busy and despite its central location, one feels this remains something of a hidden gem.
grecian - 15 Aug 2006 11:34
Ye gods and little fishes, a decent real ale pub along Fleet Street. Not that there is no beer to be had nearby but this is the best I have tried in the area. Skinner's 'Heligan Honey' on the night which was fine.
beeronaut - 11 Aug 2006 21:49
Good bloke Christopher Wren. While his builders and masons were slaving away building his churches, he had the great idea of building them a few pubs to relax in after work. 3 of his pubs remain in the area of which the Old Bell is one. Built in 1670 on the site of a previous pub destroyed in the Fire of London, it has been serving the local workers ever since although the builders eventually gave way to the Press men and today it is the haunt of office workers and tourists. The small area to the left of the entrance was originally the off licence and is probably the pubs best feature. The sun streaming through the stained glass windows is one of the more spectacular pub sights in London. The main bar area is rather cramped, the central bar taking up far too much room and squashing all the punters into a narrow area around the sides of the pub. The pub doesnt actually feel very old, probably the result of various refurbishments over the years and apart from the fireplace, very few original features are apparent. The back of the pub opens up to the courtyard of St Brides Church, a rather tranquil spot in contrast to the hustle and bustle of Fleet Street. Now part of the Nicholsons chain (the pub that is, not the church), the fare includes 3 Real Ales (Landlord, Pride and Youngs Best) and the usual pub grub menu at reasonable prices. The pub gets busy very early and seating is limited. Certainly one of the most historic pubs in London and well worth a visit, although some may find the main bar lacking any real character for a pub this old.
RogerB - 5 Apr 2006 10:43
Graet pub with great beer. Whilst I was ther they had a visit from Cask Marque and they past all there tests with flying colours. 4-5 different ales were on tap and the food was of a high standard. Although the building is not as interesting as some of the others pubs near by, it more than makes up for it with friendly staff (I would!) and good beer.
anonymous - 3 Mar 2006 22:04
Best in the area. A very good drop of TT Landlord in a comfortable little pub which doesn't (yet??) deny the complementary pleasure of a cigarette with a decent pint.
Hopsucker - 17 Jan 2006 15:06
The interior, while cosy, was not as old-style as the outside lead me to believe it would.Still a nice cosy boozer; perfect pints of Timothy Taylor's Landlord and the fit as fukk barmaids made up for all the suits!
mannyowar - 3 Jan 2006 17:20
Was absolutely heaving and full of braying city workers but the decor made up for it. Really nice looking, old fashioned pub - with a real fire which was much appreciated on a wet and dreary December night.

Had to drink Duvel as they only had typical lagers such as fosters on offer but my husband was pleased with his pint of ale.


ickleprincess - 1 Jan 2006 19:31
What a great pub - if you have never visited - it is a must!!!The Ale is great, and the staff are really welcoming - if only more pubs were like this - UNIQUE!
Jimbo - 24 Sep 2004 21:05
Great 'real' pub.
Paul - 9 Jun 2004 08:56
Excellent pub, with a great selection of real ales. Friendly and efficient staff.

Mandatory drinking place for anybody working in the area.
Richard Leyton - 8 Mar 2004 19:59
Small pub with a cool front seating area. Seems to be a real mix of locals and tourists.
Jeff - 16 Nov 2003 14:43

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