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Hand and Shears, Barbican

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user reviews of the Hand and Shears, Barbican

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

Exactly my sort of pub.... a real gem that I discovered when completing CAMRA's Pub Walk.

Totally traditional and unspoiled - you could be in any are in the C20th but for me, it had a kind of 1950's feel.

All wood panelling in three rooms around a central bar.

Two Timothy Taylor beers on and I was in heaven.

Instantly into my top 10 london pubs.
Mappiman - 1 Mar 2020 12:35
Personally found the staff friendly and accomodating (letting us have a test of the Halloween bitter first before ordering it for instance). Guess it all depends who is on. The Landlord was in tip top order. Very good pub.
mike_s - 1 Nov 2016 15:24
Could have been a nice pub if personnel was polite and generally adequate. Be prepared for a mid-aged gentleman serving at the bar (guess he runs the place) having a mental breakdown combined with jumping around and shouting when you least expect that. Not fun , unless you are a psychiatrist. Bless
IrinaPal - 30 Mar 2016 22:02
Normal central London beer prices, but always an interesting, well-kept range of beers from all over the country, and also often from London, too, so they are doing their bit for the smaller brewers. Good, tasty bar food in a spotlessly clean pub. Service is efficient, and the fires are lit in winter. It can get busy at times, but you are just as likely to find it pleasantly quiet at certain times during the week. Its location in Cloth Fair, within stumbling distance of the wonderful and ancient St Bartholomew's church, and Sir John Betjeman's former flat (see the blue plaque) is fabulous. An atmospheric, well-run pub.
Antiquarian - 29 Apr 2015 10:41
Nice little pub with old gashioned interior.

Good range of beers and decent beer but at £4.00 a pint it should be.
tanky - 17 Apr 2013 14:47
Decent enough beers - £4. But that is about it.
realaleforever - 15 Jan 2013 13:49
Oh God! I've just read this latest review. I have been recommended this pub (from someone who hasn't been for a while)and intended to visit it. But the review below says they now play "unobtrusive" music. There is no such thing. I love listening to music and not talking. Pubs are for talking in and not listening to music.
I've scrubbed this pub off my list and will stick to the Mitre.
Tewin - 10 Jan 2013 13:14
Well! Well!—it seems that the term ‘On the Wagon’ originated from my new favourite local pub.

It also seems that the tradition of cutting tapes to open things arises from the tradition of the Lord Mayor, standing on the steps of the Hand & Shears and cutting the first cloth to open the Cloth Fair.

Actually, I was never very keen on this pub but the new governor has got in some decent real ales (which change frequently), put on some unobtrusive jazz/blues music that’s actually worth listening to and generally rejuvenated the place.

Yesterday, I had excellent pints of of Hackney Best Bitter, Foundation Bitter and Redemption Pale Ale.

They also had Grandstand Bitter, Taylor's Landlord and Doombar.

Apart from the well-known names, the ‘guv’ seems keen to stock local brews.

Well worth a visit!
moderatedrinker - 8 Jan 2013 13:29
This is a really excellent little pub, tucked in a small back street with an unspoilt interior and a world away from the sprawling city bars nearby. Several well selected ales on pump and a friendly knowledgeable landlord who insisted we taste another ale after he'd already poured our pints! A true gent.
OldRogue - 2 Jan 2013 13:49
Bar staff fine and attentive; beer selection a bit limited; lovely little building but shame about the suited and booted clientele, who probably spend more money than I do there, but were, well, a bit annoying.
gcc24 - 19 Jun 2011 20:05
Terrific old corner pub tucked away from the thronging masses around Smithfield. Don't tell everyone, but it's probably the only pub in the area you can find a bit of elbow on a Friday night. A friendly place with a lovely, scruffy ambience. The punters in the private bar seem to be part of the fixtures and fittings.
mhewson6 - 25 May 2011 08:50
A classic London pub that has stood defiantly and stubbornly unchanged while all around it have been knocked about by developers in the name of progress. If it wasnt for the energy saving light bulbs, you could step in here for a drink and easily believe you were still in the 1960s. The original interior is wonderfully intact, dividing the pub into four areas, and it even has a phlegmy no-nonsense barmaid of a certain vintage who is perfectly in keeping with her surroundings. Let down slightly by a fairly limited beer range, but remains the best pub in the Smithfield area for me if it had a couple of interesting guest ales I would give it 10/10 without hesitation.
rob1981 - 24 Mar 2011 17:24
Nice old fashioned small pub with four sections (and four entrances) as city pubs should be. Beer lets the place down a bit though - only 4 non-commital brews on and the pint of Adnams I had was a bit ropey. Great pub, pity the beer didn't quite match it.
anonymous - 17 Mar 2011 21:51
She said to me: "Are they new shoes?"
I nodded. "Yes madam, my mother bought them for me from Shoe Express. They are a birthday present."
"Brown, eh?" she replied. "How old are you boy?"
"I'm 18 miss," I answered, blinking back the tears.
She got my coat for me.

Ladhimself - 9 Feb 2011 12:52
Best pub for me in the area.

Great staff, and well kept beers and ales

Nice atmosphere, defo going back soon!
Rangers_Tel - 6 Jan 2011 15:50
this was the fifth pub we visited on a crawl and by far the best. the beer kept nicely plenty of history and atmosphere
beerbones - 15 Dec 2010 14:40
A quick visit to this excellent establishment in the middle of last week. The environment remains unchanged and can only be recommended to the discerning pubgoer in the Barbican/Farringdon area.

Courage Best and GKIPA on pump but really you should visit this place for the ambience.
murgatroyd - 15 Nov 2010 08:53
A little gem tucked away in the back alleys behind Barts hospital. Best pint of Directors since Wells took over. So glad I found this place.
twineyboy - 10 Oct 2010 21:10
A splendid pub as a venue for Team Quizzing. Beer and refreshments are exactly to the taste of the Quiz League of London and the upstairs room is just the right size for a game of Team Quizzing.
Quiz League of London
donyule - 2 Oct 2010 11:31
Very nice cosy old-style pub, lots of wood, old photos and fish etc framed up.......really nice place. Fun friendly barmaid enjoying banter with several presumable regulars. Will go back!
adamwalsh - 17 Sep 2010 20:22
Splendid pub very popular with the Quiz League of London as a venue for matches on a Tuesday evening.
donyule - 13 Aug 2010 14:48
I think this is a typical corner boozer from the mid 19th century, modified in the 1930s, hence the "modern" appearance of the panelling. I agree with previous posts, it is rather scruffy but find the whole place cosy. Being a northerner, the staff do seem a bit surly but once engaged in conversation, were very helpful. I had Adnams which I thought was one of the best pints of that beer I'd ever had but might have been cos it was at the end of a very hot day. Long may this little gem survive.
JBGatelad - 18 Jun 2010 07:58
dropped in with 50 other joggers, nice atmosphere, front and back bar, plenty of quiet standing space outside.
popeye321 - 11 Jun 2010 15:52
I worked in Aldersgate Street in the late sixties and occasionally called in here although other places became my regular venues because of workplace peer pressure. Visited one evening last week and was amazed to find it virtually unchanged from how I remembered it. Courage Best and Wadworth 6X available, the latter the best kept pint of it I've ever found in London. Friendly and enthusiastic bar staff [thanks for the drink Paula!] will definitely visit again in the near future.
TiaMariaJim - 18 May 2010 11:50
Splendid old pub with a timeless quality rather like the Royal Oak in Borough. Entering from the longer side of the pub it is divided into 4 with small front section, a tiny section to the right and larger rooms to the left and rear. I opted for the room on the left which had a fireplace and a small number of tables.

The ales were Courage Best, 6X and Directors with Adnams as a guest although I couldn't see the pump for that one.

This is an excellet old style pub of which there are rather too few in central London. Well worth a visit if in the area.
murgatroyd - 22 Dec 2009 00:30
I've been coming here on and off for years and it has never changed (and hopefully never will) - a pub with four separate drinking areas and full of atmosphere. It was absolutely rammed early on Friday evening. Three pumps serving Wadworth 6X, Adnams and Courage Best. My pint of 6X was cloudy and the pint of Adnams was sadly distinctily average (both 3.00 a pint).
Despite my disappointment with the beer this pub is still well worth a visit.
holbornboy - 6 Dec 2009 20:44
A proper drinkers pub (Courage Best peroves the point), and a multi-roomed alternative to the single-roomed bordeom of N1. Really good.
mtaylor40 - 16 Nov 2009 20:08
natashaabc - 29 Sep 2009 23:03
I was surprised to find a pub like this in the middle of the City. It's got a nice partitioned interior and was fairly quiet considering it was a Friday evening. We were the only customers, apart from a group of 3 City workers, one of whom had a very limited vocabulary consisting mainly of different derivatives of the 'f' word. Apparently they'd been there for 5 hours, and he hadn't stopped. So, I'm not surprised the pub was so quiet. Service was friendly and beers available were Courage Best & Adnams Bitter. The Directors and Wadworth 6X had run out.
blue_scrumpy - 19 Sep 2009 13:23
Very impressive albeit i have hitherto only had one visit and it was the last in a lengthy crawl so in good spirits . In essence this pub has a good feel about it, earthy and real which isn't always the case in the metropolis. I will be back.
saintsforever - 16 Aug 2009 16:11
A strange pub as it has lots of partitions to make different areas. Think of a snug, bar, lounge, etc. But these are not original and, I would guess, fitted during the 70s. Overall the beer was fine and the service ok. I cannot really think of anything good or bad to say about this pub, so I won't.
SomersetChris - 13 May 2009 09:59
Simply a great place to go and have a beer. There's usually 4 real ale's on and Arthur behind the bar runs a great old ship, the girls are good behind the bar too and the regulars and locals earn it a good reputation and make it a nice place to settle down and forget the outside world for a wee while. I don't do 10 ratings but this like one or two others would get close.
Mcloj - 9 Jan 2009 09:37
Paid a visit on Tuesday afternoon and the 6X was very good as on previous visits. I can perhaps understand the comments about the service occasionally being a bit on the surly side but take that away and you've got a decent boozer.
MINTYBOOM - 29 Nov 2008 17:28
This pub is a joke. When we arrived there was a huge fiasco regarding the changing of a barrel. When I asked for a head on my pint the (very sulky) lady behind the bar snarled "well you'd better drink some first". The pint she gave me back was like dishwater. Later in the evening one of my friends asked for pints to be pulled with heads on - the guy behind the bar topped them up with lemonade!!! A shame really as this should be a convivial pub.
alwaysared - 19 Sep 2008 09:37
I can pretty much echo RexRattus's recent comments - the 6X is certainly very well kept and the pub is in a nice quiet location (although I bet it can get quite busy). You could do a hell of a lot worse.
MINTYBOOM - 15 Sep 2008 08:34
this pub is a joke! how could you enjoy it if there is so much dirt everywhere? someone should look around and do some cleaning!!!
martinos - 10 Sep 2008 00:30
Courage Best and Wadworths 6X on handpump. The 6X was excellent. This is a hidden gem of a real pub, retaining the separate rooms that were so common until they started to be combined in the 70s. Excellent pub - the real deal highly recommended.
RexRattus - 31 Aug 2008 23:00
Courage Best and Wadworths 6X on handpump. The 6X was excellent. This is a hidden gem of a real pub, retaining the separate rooms that were so common until they started to be combined in the 70s. Excellent pub - the real deal highly recommended.
RexRattus - 31 Aug 2008 23:00
Ace pub, nicely tucked away from the maddening crowds down a lovely back street near Barbican station. Good selection of real ale and friendly staff. Will definately be going back.
snote - 28 Jul 2008 16:33
A proper pub in the north of the City, near the Smithfield market. Good ale, friendly staff, pleasant furnishing, quiet but not too quiet. Just right.
dpaajones - 5 Jul 2008 13:09
A totally no nonsense traditional London pub, in a quiet back street near to Charterhouse Square. The barman on one visit was recognised from behind the bar at a late, lamented New Fetter Lane pub, the White Hart, now a Pizza Express. The Hand and Shears is a friendly local with a simple interior and a good range of beers.
BoehmBawerk - 1 Jul 2008 21:57
First visit for a long while - I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about how my pint of 6X might be but it was actually quite good. Might well be worth another look soon - if they can continue to keep a decent pint of ale I'll be back
MINTYBOOM - 30 May 2008 01:04
Wonderful !!! A proper pub.
Rakesh - 30 Mar 2008 18:24
Went there for Friday lunch last week. Very impressed. Good selection of beers. I had a very nice pint of 6X to wash down a very tasty Fish Pie.

I'll be going back.
kevins1966 - 6 Feb 2008 13:04
Fab time following a Smithfields breakfast. Smashing place, go there early (say before 11am) and lovely and empty. And unmodernised. Great.
baggydave - 29 Jan 2008 22:16
Had a few pints here a couple of weeks ago. Was playing a gig across the road in a horrid wine bar type place, and this was blessed relief. Good Adnams, shame that the other handpumps were Courage Best / Directors (had a directors when the Adnams went off - very bland).

Pub itself is cosy and inviting. Bar staff friendly.

Only drawback... it closed at about 10pm on a Friday night, which is a shame.
scissorkicks - 24 Oct 2007 14:27
I think the previous comment about "pushchair pushing yuppies" is a little unfair to say the least. For a start, the poster has tripped themselves up by saying that they haven't been there for some time - so how can they know what it is like now? Also, there is a recurring theme amongst other previous postings that the place could be a lot better. I'm certainly awaiting better news of the place before I go back.
MINTYBOOM - 19 Jul 2007 00:27
I was very disapointed to read the bad revues on this pub.I haven't been there for some time and due to moving further away from London I do not know when I shall get back there. I went to this pub every so often a few years back as I had got to know Arthur who runs the place.Granted he's a bit of a charactor but I always enjoyed his company and beer. I have also had a meal there with friends and it was fine.The location is great and the style is as a pub should be.No noisy kids running about and totally without pretention. Maybe the previous comments made about this pub were made by pushchair pushing yuppies.
roberts - 25 Jun 2007 11:02
Very bland place, promises so much more when you see the outside.

2 Courage Beers on tap (my Directors was OK), but very little else of note. The inside could do with a clean-out.

Considering the heritage factor and location, the owners are missing out big time here. I'm not going back here in it's current state, but would love to have a reason to do so in the future.
Quinno - 25 Feb 2007 18:32
Hmm. I've walked past this place dozens of times, each time thinking that there's a great time to be had behind that frosted glass. Don't think I'll bother.
Albert_Campion - 17 Jan 2007 15:29
On Monday night a group of us had a spontaneous & borderline obsessive-compulsive urge to play darts, so crawled from Fleet Street to Kings Cross looking for a board. The Rising Sun had people playing on their board (I was surprised to find customers, let alone customers using the board!), so we wandered up here thinking it looked the kind of place that might have one.

Anyway, it was awful. This place is a sh*thole, and I'm shocked by some of the descriptions of this place. I love an old-style pub as much as the next person, but an old and cared for pub, not one looking like the brewery has forgotten it has on the books.

The wood panelling is in terrible shape. The walls are adorned with topical cartoons from the 1800s that probably weren't very funny/clever at the time, and certainly have lost all relevance now. Like a pub in the year 2130 (presuming they haven't all become All Bar Ones at that point) with cartoons of John Prescott dressed up like a cowboy, or William Hague wearing a baseball hat on the wall.

All framed items that are above arms height are also caked in brown film. Please - even if it's just once a year, get up on a ladder and do some cleaning.

Also encounted the staff surliness previously mentioned (though not directly). The customer before me ordered 3 Stellas and 1 Fosters, and asked "Which is the Fosters". The barman snarled "the one in the glass with Fosters marked on it". Oh very witty...if the Foster's logo wasn't facing the barman, and not visible by the customer.

This place was so awful the dartboard crawl nearly dissovled in mutiny. Drinks were quickly consumed, and so we continued our nearly fruitless search.
topdog_andy - 11 Jan 2007 13:01
There's a fairly unanimous verdict here, isn't there? Great premises and great location on one hand, indifferent management and poor beer selection on the other.

So the solution is simple (provided its a free house, which I believe it is) - get in a more interesting ale, and start smiling at your customers. You will then attract more customers without any capital outlay whatsoever.

Easy, you'd think. I live near here and wouldn't dream of going in a for a pint at the moment - I'd choose the Rising Sun over this, and I'm not a massive fan of that place either to be honest.

Landlord - sort it out and you could have a goldmine there.
anonymous - 10 Jan 2007 16:39
I was so disappointed with this pub. It's in the heritage guide and looks great. The beer is well kept but the barstaff are miserable and you feel unwelcome. We had to ask the landlord to top up our beer as he gave us very short measure. After tutting and sarcastically asking 'is there enough in there now' after topping us up, he discussed it with one of his barstaff, thinking we were out of hearing range. She obviously asked where we were and as they craned round the bar screen to find us we sat staring at them feeling like criminals. I gave a cheery wave, much to their discomfort, and we made a discreet exit. Don't think we'll be going back anytime soon.
chick - 10 Jan 2007 15:19
Other comments have certainly hit the nail on the head regarding this place - it certainly doesn't fulfil it's potential at all. On my last visit I had the Adnam's which was average at best. Woman behind the bar could've cracked a smile as well. With a better range of well-kept beers this could be an excellent pub.
MINTYBOOM - 3 Jan 2007 02:03
I agree with someone else who said this place *should* be great but disappoints rather. The layout, whilst nicely unspoilt, is not very conducive to a good atmosphere. It's rather smokey and the selection of beers is not great - Courage Best and Directors, and Adnams, which is ten a penny nowadays. Could do better.
grecian - 6 Dec 2006 10:28
Nice traditional backstreet pub, but a lack of decent beer lets this place down. The blackboard outside still advertises Theakstons, but neither that nor Adnams was on early yesterday evening

Therefore I had to suffer a pint of Courage Best, not my favourite beer by a long chalk

Disappointing overall
JohnBonser - 15 Aug 2006 13:15

Lovely backstreet pub with original wood panelled interior and mixed clientele. Very small so can be crowded on Thursday and Friday nights esp during the winter when its not possible to stand outside. Probably not suitable for large groups at any time of year. However for a cosy pub with well kept beer this one is hard to beat.
anonymous - 9 Jul 2006 15:29
Thanks John I will. They used to do Theakston XB until recently - indeed the blackboards outside still claim they do.
anonymous - 5 Apr 2006 11:17
Stonch, they had Adnams on as a guest beer last night, which is preferable to Courage Best and Directors in my book. Give it another go, sometime
JohnBonser - 5 Apr 2006 10:58
Friendly staff on my visit. Great place. yippee doo
mitomighty - 31 Mar 2006 13:16
No decent ales at present - just Courage. Despite being a pub which SHOULD be amazing this makes it hopeless in my book.
anonymous - 12 Feb 2006 12:19
A really nice, unreconstructed pub interior, and well-hidden enough not to be on people's pub crawls and guidebook radar. Well-maintained if unexciting beer selection.

This place ought to get an 8 for its feel, but drops a couple of points for being so much a local's place (on the night I was there, anyway) that stopping in for a beer on one's own doesn't feel like a welcome thing. Gets one point back, though, for a friendly barman who actually greets newcomers as they come in the door.
Hodsthorn - 12 Feb 2006 11:54
Worth a visit if in the area, bags of character but a bit uncomfortable so I wouldn't stay for more than one.
anonymous - 3 Jan 2006 15:37
Nice place. with working fireplaces!! The Great undecorated! No frills.
mitomighty - 9 Dec 2005 13:26
Excellent beers but get's a bit crowded
writtleman - 1 Feb 2005 13:17
Cosy. Tucked away in a quiet backstreet so plenty of scope to spill outside. Still quite original in decor, slightly cramped and snug in cold weather. Decent beer though small selection. Full of lawyers.
Matt - 5 Aug 2003 06:06
This is a really delightful pub, carefully tucked away near Barbican tube station. The clienele is mainly lawyers from the three large law firms that reside on Aldersgate Street. In the winter it is snug (although it can be crammed full in the early evening on Thursday's and Fridays) but it really comes alive in the summer when people generally stand outside and take in the sun. A truly magical place.
Kuljit - 30 May 2003 15:55

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