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Freemasons Arms, Covent Garden

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user reviews of the Freemasons Arms, Covent Garden

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

Friday evening so the pub was packed, a mixture of suits, Masons, and a party of bemused Japanese tourists who were eating a full British 3 course meal. The Bishop's Finger was excellent, and remarkably good value for the area. Always worth a visit if in the Covent Garden region.
Aztecgoat - 10 Sep 2016 09:55
Fairly dull pub as others have said - not a massive fan of Shepherd Neame beers though you're ok if the Whitstable Bay is on. However, it is a 100% reliable pub for watching sport. Very few places in Soho / Covent Garden these days who are prepared to foot Sky and BT Sport bills, but this has become our default central London pub for the football....
TheMortyVicker - 19 Jun 2016 19:37
Chose this pub after the London Marathon as we were struggling to find a pub in Covent Garden that had somewhere to sit, and I remembered the Freemason's Arms, and knew that it would be half empty. Sure enough, it was. Thank god for dull pubs! Shame they weren't doing food on a Sunday afternoon, and the snacks offered were fairly limited.
SilkTork - 2 Jun 2013 14:00
I enjoyed this pub. Good beer, friendly staff and a good crowd. Give it a try!
reverenddavid - 1 May 2013 19:58
Expensive! Almost a fiver for a pint..
hertsboy - 8 Apr 2013 09:37
Would not differ from nmckenn one jot
Arctium_lappa - 18 Feb 2013 00:49
A decent Shepherd Neame pub, and considering where it is situated, certainly a lot better than it could have been. Staff were friendly and the beer in excellent nick - stayed for a couple so it must have been good. There's worse places in Covent Garden to visit.
nmckenn - 9 Feb 2013 23:08
I love it Senberbex...brilliant stuff.

Also, wasn't David Bowie concieved by a unicorn and a Martian in the ladies' toilets?
Ladhimself - 8 Aug 2012 12:18
Travelled up from the shires to have a beer or two in the Freemasons last Saturday. With the intention of catching up with friends and watching the play off final.(West ham V Blackpool) Only to be told by Linda That the football attracts the wrong sort of drinkers. And would not be shown as the afternoon theatre types don`t like it we were told. So Linda you lost out on the six of us spending the afternoon in your pub at the best part of £4.00 a pint.
The Rising Sun around the corner was more than helpful.
allegro3 - 21 May 2012 15:19
Quite a smart pub with leather seats, mirrors, wood panelling and a long curved bar.
As a contrast to this traditional décor there are TV screens dotted about the pub most of which were showing sport.
As with many pubs around London the toilets left quite a bit to be desired.
The service was good and there was a selection of Shepherd Neame ales available.
The Early Bird was good the Bishop's Finger okay.
The place was busy without being too packed and I enjoyed a pleasant hour and a half in comfortable surroundings.

outtamehead - 18 Mar 2012 10:56
Standard West End pub. The £4 average pint grows ever nearer, and with such a mark up surely they could do something about the battered old tables and the dilapidated toilets. Okay if you're passing but nothing out of the ordinary.
djw - 30 Jan 2012 00:32
Not a bad boozer, though it does get busy....Spitfire is kept well and worth supping...
you can also buy a freemasons songbook from behind the bar...though what's in it is beyond me..a function room upstairs and plenty of seating downstairs..

d.franks - 15 Dec 2011 20:54
I'm often irritated by reviews here that sound like they would be read by Stephen Fry with an arched eyebrow. Full of phrases Iike 'we found ourselves in need of further libation' and 'we took the landlords blush nose as an unmistakeable invitation to imbibe'. They inform us of nothing.
For instance, this pub - the Freemasons Arms. The reviews below mention nothing of The Robots. The place is crammed full of them, and you cant fail to notice them. I can only conclude from the collective and selective blindness, that the reviews below were written by The Robots, with the full knowlege and co-operation of the cyber-Landlord.

Anyway, I must admit that they can justifiably claim the title of 'best pint of Fosters drunk before 11.30am in London'. After that time the amber nectar wanes as the sun approaches its noonday zenith, and as any schoolboy will attest, the speed of the earth's rotation at latitudes above the Tropic of Cancer do the Fosters waters no favours at all. Like the Guiness drinker's lament in Lagos, the brew does not travel well. The cyborg Landlord accidentally told me a secret when some of his circuitries were malfunctioning in the July heat. "Dont bother with any of the Ales" he said in a harsh digital warble. "All the pumps are filled with Fosters". He then went on to parody the Paul Hogan Fosters commercials of the 1980s for the amusement of the other Robots and locals. "Can you tell me way to Cockfosters". I've never heard a Robot impersonate a Chinese tourist, but all I can say is no one was laughing.

A notable piece of trivia to bore fellow Robots and drinker - This pub claims to be the first meeting place of Andy Bell and Vince Clarke who went on to dominate the world in the late 80s/early 90's with their brand of bender-beat synth pop.
Legend has it that Jimmy Somerville was Clarke's intended 1st choice of singer and Somerville arrived early for the meeting. Bell at the time was working behind the bar, and duly spiked Somerville's Snakebite with blackcurrant. Somerville's blackcurrant allergy instantly flared up and he staggered outside and threw up in a policeman's helmet. (Or on his helmet). Bell innocently waited for Clarke's arrival and the rest is history.

I can also recommend the Scotch Eggs
senberbex - 18 Nov 2011 10:35
Right on the Covent Garden tourist trail and surrounded by office workers so it often gets uncomfortably busy, but The Freemasons is an inviting little Shepherd Neame pub if you can catch it during one of its quieter periods. Shows the sport and has a few bits of football memorabilia dotted about. In fact it claims to be the birthplace of The Football Association and the meeting venue where the rules of the game were first drawn up in 1863. But this could equally have been The Freemasons Tavern, a pub now long gone that stood on the site of the New Connaught Rooms a few hundred yards away on Great Queen Street. Nobody seems to know for sure. So there you are - something to bore your fellow drinkers with over a Spitfire.
rob1981 - 24 Mar 2011 19:56
Popped in this pub for the first the other day and was mightly impressed with both the service and the atmosphere. The barmaids were were especially friendly and attentive to the patrons. I tried some food and although it was typically British, it was very good value for money. This was the evening of the cup finals and as a Tottenham supporter, I was glad to see that the Brummies won. Will deffo be back again.
vince5177 - 28 Feb 2011 19:11
visited here yesterday, not particularly impressed, worse pint of lager I've had in a while, got it changed but the replacement wasn't much better. Place was full of people waiting to go to the masonic temple over the road from the O'Neills.... they would have been better off in there.
freezergeezer - 3 Feb 2011 15:56
I was en route back from an event in Covent Garden last Saturday with a chum and basically found ourselves in the way of the Freemasons and in need of further libation. Ultimately, it provided what was required although like so many pubs in this district and beyond, it did not provide any long-lasting imprint, and showed itself to be essentially an average pub, that was neither great nor awful.
I hadn't been here for some 5 years prior to the last visit, and had always found it convenient when in need of a quick drink in the Long Acre vicinity but never felt it was somewhere I should deliberately seek out, unlike, say, the Harp or the Market Porter. As an ale-drinker, that which was provided was acceptable, in that it is a Shepherd Neame establishment and so offered around 3 of their portfolio; the Best and Late Red were kept satisfactorily as indeed I recall they had been years before.
Food-wise I cannot comment as I was not in the market for grub - I daresay it's passable. The pub is a large and rather grandiose building which offers various alcoves and seating with much wood-pannelling, and whilst most of it is probably faux it works well with the interior and there is a certain civilised, measured quality to the place. The clientele vary considerably, but on this occasion it appeared that there may actually have been a group of freemasons in: there was an unusually well-attired set of ladies and gentlemen near the bar area who exuded a genuine poise and elan in their demeanour and closely resembled the masonic contingent at my own local pub when in full flow following an evening at the Lodge.
One could do worse than to slip in here when in the area, although I shan't recommend it as the only worthwhile option. There's nothing here that can't be fairly readily obtained elsewhere in London.

TWG - 20 Jan 2011 16:17
I visited this pub a few weeks back to watch my beloved Arsenal and was pleased to find the place overflowing with fellow Gooners. Great atmosphere in the place, and the ales went down a treat. As previously mentioned the predominantly foreign barstaff did come across a tad rude but the place was rammed for the match so cant really blame. Would deffo visit again!
PeterLeeSuer - 30 Dec 2010 19:07
Ordered the Late red. Was told by a less than friendly bar maid that it had gone. Had the Spitfire instead ,which was poor quality.Little pub atmosphere probably due to the numerous TV screens showing sport.Not worth visiting.
covman45 - 25 Oct 2010 17:43
Nice enough place - good fish and chips! Shame all foreign bar staff in a pub that should be full of men in black suits whispering...........but nice enough.
adamwalsh - 1 Aug 2010 20:35
Terrible bar staff, especially the east European girl. Avoid.
aussiebloke - 12 Jul 2010 11:46
The previous reviews of the Freemasons called for a visit next time I was in London. The opportunity arose last Saturday afternoon.
Unfortunately (for me, that is) the place was packed with football fans watching the Man United/Spurs game on various screens throughout the pub.
I was looking forward to sampling the beers on offer but as it was about ten deep at the bar I decided to try the Prince of Wales just down the road.
I'll try it another time - perhaps out of the footie season.
fugglehops - 27 Apr 2010 20:35
Dropped in here for the first time in a couple years on Saturday afternoon to watch the Grand National and stayed 'til about nine so they must be doing something right.
A SN pub they had Masterbrew, Spitfire, Bishop's Finger and Late Red on draught. I was going to sample them all but the Late Red was in such good form I stuck with that. My friend was on Asai lager and she certainly seemed to find that really tasty as well.
It is a comfortably, fairly traditionally furnished pub with reasonably efficient, friendly bar staff altough one young girl did seem to have trouble with the concept of fully filling a pint glass!
As has been noted below, this pub is in easy distance of Covent Garden but far enough away to avoid the true hell of the place and gets a pretty decent standard of passing custom.
This is a real fail safe option if your are in the area it offers graet beer and decent food in civlised surroundings.
flashharry1965 - 12 Apr 2010 13:28
Really great pub to watch the football. Great atmosphere and good beer - and service with a smile! Can get very busy, but that works well for a footie atmosphere. Definitely the best pub around here.
acwokas - 7 Apr 2010 17:39
Came in here to drown our sorrows after seeing Carlisle United lose at Wembley. A friendly welcome and some very good ale. It would have been nice to see a guest as an alternative to the Shepherd Neame but the 'Late Red' was wonderful, so no real complaints. Highly recommended!
mikeyangela - 1 Apr 2010 18:16
Good boozer, although can get very crowded. Have only been in 3 or 4 times (Friday nights mainly) and always seemed to have a good atmosphere (was there
lennie384 - 8 Jan 2010 07:01
To my mind this is the best pub in the immediate vicinity - a largish single room with a lot of comfortable traditional seating. It's a Shep Neame pub and I quite like their drink selection which also marks it up for me. It's also far enough from Covent Garden to have more of an office crowd rather than tourists or lairy types on a big night out. Quite a bit of masons memorabilia around the walls but no one gave me the secret handshake and I didn't see any senior judges or chief constables in fishnet stockings.

Well worth a visit if in the area.
murgatroyd - 13 Nov 2009 22:44
Good beer, fine food, Sky Sports and a lively atmosphere. All that and none too pricey either.

The pub however loses a mark in my estimation as recently it always seems shut for a bloody private function on a Saturday lunchtime. Small quibble though and I will return (probably on a weekday).
Oakman100 - 23 Sep 2009 23:49
I used to pop in here lots afew years ago. I returned here at the weekend. It looks and feels the same.
hertsboy - 28 Jul 2009 11:12
Sorry to disappoint, I think the Freemasons Arms is one of the most over-rated pubs in London. The service is disgraceful, and while the food is nice, it's not much good if you can't get anyone behind the bar to serve you. The staff are rude and unfriendly, the food service stops too early and it's impossible to get a drink. It's a shame because it has great potential but we won't be going back.
SH_London - 1 Jun 2009 10:23
Great Pub - Was such a treat to know there are still London pubs that have decent service with English staff (Or very good English Staff). Fast efficient service, good atmosphere, good beer. I REALLY hope management of this pubs stays around as this is one of the best examples of how managing a pub should be.
InterMeLocal_1980 - 3 Apr 2009 09:49
Have had some really good nights here,always had good service beer always fine.As been said it gets busy so for a quiet drink this isn`t the place.
HarryNurk - 6 Mar 2009 12:37
The Freemasons is a good pub which does decent food and decent beer. The only problem is that being near Covent Garden is gets very busy and getting a seat can be a real problem. I therefore tend to drink elsewhere these days.

The Freemasons does however have one selling point over many others - it has Setanta. This means I will be coming here for all the upcoming England away games even if I have to stand.
woofhound - 9 Oct 2008 18:57
Expected this to be dull and anonymous, but was pleasantly surprised to find it was a great pub. Will make a point of going back as I really enjoyed my visit.
denboy - 3 Sep 2008 22:56
Really good pub. Had a great night here last night - the kind of great night that you are supposed to have in a pub.
Greshon - 18 Jul 2008 10:22
This is a great pub, good beer, don't care about food, good standards, football and they grasp the concept that us fellas don't want to be served off auld boots and shaky auld drunks ( Prince Of Wales ) because they always have a couple of crackers on the payroll. Good work man with moustache. If you are a poor man like the fella below I suggest you don't drink in Covent Garden, bet he never shut up about it all night. Your mate. Cracking bar I'll stop by next time I'm in town.
spaceman - 30 Apr 2008 14:39
I hadn't been in this bar for years. but gave it a try last week. Pub was good - attentive service and nice decor - but shocked at being charged more than £7 for two pints of Early Bird. The bar maid explained this as being due to the budget increases! Covent Garden is expensive, but this seemed excessive.
alexw123 - 7 Apr 2008 18:16
This was one of my favourite boozers. Friendly, great staff, great beer, charming Landlady and while not allowing anyone to take advantage, the pub has always been pretty relaxed at closing times.

Last night we were asked for our glasses at 11.05. We were still drinking but for good measure we had our beer mats from us.

The over zealous barman then came and demanded our glasses, in no uncertain terms, again 5 minutes later.

Is the bar manager new? If so and the landlady is reading this can she please get rid of them and restore some of the discretion that appears to have been lost.
kevins1966 - 6 Dec 2007 15:04
Corking place to watch a big sports game and good beer, too. The staff have usually been decent - and quite an eyeful - so always one place I find myself going to for things to watch.
peterg - 7 Nov 2007 22:02
Nice comfortable boozer, had a lunchtime pint and burger last week, both of which were fine.
mrse1 - 2 Oct 2007 11:33
Nipped in between torential downpours during Saturdy lunchtime. Very good pint of Spitfire. Clen and tidy bar, though not very busy.
Bluenosemally - 30 Jul 2007 13:38
V good central enough but not as manic as other pubs in the area ?
W980501 - 18 Jul 2007 10:24
Nice pub, ales have alway been good when I have been. Male staff excellent, (younger) female staff don't know how to pour a pint or what good customer service is.
deho - 8 Jun 2007 13:47
An ok pub nothing exceptional lacks atmosphere.Food not expensive but basic.Usual range of Shep Neame beers and lagers.There are better establishments in the area.
leggless - 26 May 2007 15:36
I tried the Spitfire which was undrinkable, and the Masterbrew, which was just barely drinkable.
jackvervacke - 26 Feb 2007 18:44
Been here twice. First time I had a majestic pint of Spitfire. So next time I went with a few mates after work, and the girl behind the bar tipped the slops tray into my pint then carefully topped it up with some nice fresh stuff from the pump. Needless to say I didn't buy it and she poured me another claiming it was a mistake. Not been back.
anonymous - 21 Jan 2007 21:41
A very good Shepherd Neame pub - worth a visit. 7/10
Darren_in_the_City - 7 Jan 2007 22:16
An excellent place on a Friday night after work. Always just busy enough to find room to have a few drinks. Whether it's a couple or a large group we always have a good time, and we're more often than not there every Friday.
The food is reasonable if not a little slow to be served, the beer can vary as can the attractiveness of the bar staff. But for Covent Garden it retains a pub feel and we can't resist always beginning a night at the Freemasons Arms.
anonymous - 4 Dec 2006 00:46
Whatever you do, do not suggest to the bar staff that the toilets stink like bad drains.

They then refuse to serve you, accuse you of being drunk (even though you had not touched a drop,) and ask you to leave.

Oh and at lunchtime the toilets stank of blocked drains..................
anonymous - 29 Nov 2006 15:09
Hard to judge since visited with Spurs euro game on multiple screens; though Spitfire very ordinary despite the volume.
mtaylor40 - 21 Oct 2006 22:45
Nice boozer. Been using this one loads recently.... partially due to the vision of Brazilian beauty that works behind the bar. Fit as the proverbial butchers dog.

Well stocked fridge.

......only drawback..... some of the esteemed foreign bar staff have a tenuous grasp on the vernacular lingo! Have to agree with Mr Bonser on that one.
anonymous - 26 Sep 2006 11:45
top Orangeboom, one of the few good places to watch football on big screeen, food mundane but served fast.
mozzzzzz - 15 Sep 2006 11:19
I couldn't resist this. Just been there tonight to watch an England game. Pretty full as usual. I ordered 2 pints of Orangeboom and it ran out of beer, so the barrels were changed. They seem to have a habit of filling old half pints into new glasses in this pub now. Anyway, they gave me two pints. Mine was cloudy and flat (possibly an old half from the end of the barrel), so I asked them to change it. It threw the bar lady into confusion so she put my pint minus about three swigs of beer just below the counter before asking her manager what to do next. In the meantime another senior looking person picked up my old pint, topped it up with whatever lager it was and served it to someone else down the bar!!!! This rather begs the question as to what she thought she was serving the guy, because presumably she had no idea what it was! I suppose any old lager will do to us football supporters eh! Cloudy, flat you name it, they won't complain! And don't askfor fish and chips, they come on the smallest plates you can imagine. Talk about kiddies portions! This is a nice pub, but they are taking the pee now. 5/10.
GaryM - 7 Sep 2006 01:19
Little to add to previous comments based on last week's visit - but I do agree that staff who's command of English is inadequate should not be employed in any role that involves communicating with members of the public ( i e - customers !)
JohnBonser - 19 Jul 2006 12:54
For a Sheps pub, this is poor. Not necessarily poor in itself as there are a host of other pubs around it that are so much worse, but poor because it could be so, so much better.

Has the three 'standard,' Sheps beers (Spitfire, Masterbrew and Kent,) on handpump but then has the more unusual ones (Whitstable, Bishops and 1669 at last count,) in keg form. For a pub that is a flagship for it's brewery in London this is a real missed opportunity, (as you can get Spitfire in most places these days.)

If you want Sheps beers, take the scenic route to Mabel's Tavern in Euston, at least they have the full range.

Disappointed as this could be so much better.
Norealaleinorpington - 27 Jun 2006 15:34
Great pub to watch England matches as the the F.A. was formed here many moons ago but used to be better when the bar staff could understand and speak English!
john_b - 18 May 2006 22:14
Yeah not bad in a standard pub way - rather expensive wines and beers though
anonymous - 7 May 2006 15:27
Notable as the pub where in 1863 the first meeting of the Football Association took place. It's a Shepherd Neame pub serving three casks in good condition, at around £2.80 a pint. The place is large, pleasant and comfortable with cosy corners, leather armchairs, wood, mirrors, embossed wallpaper, high ceilings and all the trimmings of a standard central London large company pub refurbishment. There is a lack of individual character, but everything is clean and tidy. Good value pub grub with bangers and mash under £6. A decent enough, average pub.
SilkTork - 20 Apr 2006 23:54
Generally a good Ale House, attracting tourists and office workers. Sat 1st April pm they had a girl serving that had no grasp of English at all - she had no idea what the price of the beer was and wrongly charged me twice. This apparently won Shepherd Neame pub of the year 2005 - but the manager really needs to get a grip to whom she wants to employ : because having to yell and spell what beer I want, really f**ks me off and does nothing for my enthusiasm for the European Union at all.
anonymous - 3 Apr 2006 14:02
Nice pub in the typical "modern traditional" style. Spitfire was on splendid form and one of my work colleagues was impressed with the bottled Whitstable Organic Ale. Music was a bit loud, but overall reasonably impressed, apart from the bar staff, whose command of English left a bit to be desired.
JohnBonser - 24 Mar 2006 10:32
A nice half way house kind a place in Covent Garden. Great Shepherd Neame beers and a lively punter base. Sky is on, but not obtrusive. You can get a seat and table eventually, and the bar staff have been attentive and prompt on my several visits to this establishment. Recommended.
darloexile - 21 Dec 2005 10:45
Only been in at lunchtimes - doesn't appear to be very busy. Lots of traditional pub features and one of the few pubs that still has a picture of the Queen! Shepherd Neame beers at a reasonable price for the area. Good service. 2 plasma screens (look a bit out of place alongside Oil Paintings and Queen Betty but so be it). It has no doubt changed a bit since the Football Association was formed here in 1863 but where better to watch a match than the place where the modern game as we know it was effectively born. For a good traditional pub you can't go far wrong.
RogerB - 30 Sep 2005 16:48
I found the Shepherd Neame beers to be spot on, though this pub had more of a clubby feel. Plenty of seats, but an open floor plan so it can get loud.
ale_brewer - 14 Aug 2005 14:49
This pub has gone downhill drastically in the past couple of years. It started with Greene King losing interest in it and Shep Neame have let it slip further. The beer is often bland and flat. Far too crowded to enjoy. And that's without the shady masons who often arrive in a herd from the nearby temple! There's far better pubs in Covent Garden in all four directions.
Get_me_some_Old_Tom - 19 Apr 2005 14:00
Went here to meet friends one night in November and liked it so much I went back for my birthday.
You get treated like a regular pretty much straight off, the food's lovely and well-priced for Covent Garden, and there are a couple of widescreen plasma TVs showing sport etc which kept me amused while waiting for friends to turn up.
It's difficult to find a seat sometimes, but there are plenty of places to perch fairly comfortably while you're waiting to pounce on a table.
minx2012 - 1 Jan 2005 21:50
Good boozer. Cheers to Jack and Linda. I used to work a few doors down here and we used to sit in the windows here on friday nights. Food was good too.
Aaron - 19 May 2004 06:18
Change of brewer to Shepherd Neame in December 2004. Much improved food quality, and better beers. We like the traditional atmosphere, and Linda is a great landlady.
Adrian - 18 Feb 2004 20:46
I was asked to perform an International Wine Challenge on the first floor in the private bar/dining-room for 25 Americans at short notice in December '03. Despite never having met John and Linda, nor known of the pub, they could not have been more helpful in making the arrangments. This is a classic 'London Pub', slightly kitch and over the top so fun to be at and a dream for the yanks who were expecting Sherlock Holmes to arrive at any minute! The staff were delightful and incredibly helpful, the food was imaginative, honest and enjoyable and the first fllor room was a very good venue in which to get 25 yanks well lubricated!
jack scott - 3 Feb 2004 09:58
A fairly average pub in a quieter stretch of the West End, that is famous for being the birthplace of the Football Association. With nothing truly exceptional to recommend it, odd remnants of footie memorabilia aaside, the beers are well kept, the staff friendly, the bar is fairly busy and the upstairs function room is adequate. All very average but bearable I suppose.
Agnes - 28 Oct 2003 11:10

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