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Kings Head, Islington

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user reviews of the Kings Head, Islington

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

Tried out quiz night with a few friends, painfully slow quiz master, and same team win every week!
ErroneousBlack - 7 Sep 2016 23:37
A theatre is attached to this pub and as a result even for Upper St, artistic liberal types are almost omnipresent. However the pub generates a good atmosphere without becoming noisy. The fittings are somewhat chic, a Victorian till stands on the bar, and red velvet predominate accompanied by a cosy open fire. The staff have always been an agreeable bunch on my visits, perfectly happy to chat with customers. The beer selection is impressive with a good selection of ales and continentals, although the quality is nothing above average.

Probably the vest pub on Upper St.
QueensParker - 7 Oct 2013 02:20
An unusual pub that forms "front of house" for a theatre. Some lovely old features which are accentuated by the many pictures of theatrical nature on the walls. Definitely worth a visit if you like "proper" pubs with character.
tarkatherotter - 27 May 2013 23:13
Long a favourite pub in my London days, the part way understandable decision to cut down on the number of places to sit has wreaked minor havoc on this place's character. Theatre pubs benefit from a varied clientele and it's still a good pit stop + a pint of Youngs slid down well, but the competition on and around Upper Street is better these days and so it no longer stands out.Must try harder.
BoehmBawerk - 4 May 2013 08:09
The current incarnation of The King's Head Theatre and Bar reminds me of what is used to be like back in my days when I lived in Islington before 2008. The pub had its unique atmosphere, until the new management closed the theatre for pub visitors, cancelled all the live music, introduced dull DJs and got rid off all the exceptionally fast and always friendly bar stuff. Well done King's Head Ė you're getting your soul back!
johnbrown73 - 7 Jul 2012 16:45
It may have 'character', a good choice of beer and be a welcome retreat in a sea of anoydne chain pubs, but this place is rank. Toilet cubicles with long-broken locks, no soap and no toilet paper (and no signs that any had been provided that day) is unacceptable, particularly when you're raking in money from a capacity crowd (paying £25 each plus booking fee) at the in-pub theatre.
ChickenRonnie - 14 Dec 2011 09:13
good selection of beer very nice.
beerman44 - 7 Dec 2011 15:54
London's original Pub Theatre. I've had some great nights in the King's Head, it rarely fails to disappoint. Average beer selection, but TT Landlord is always a positive.

One of the few genuinely enjoyable venues on Upper Street.
Misk. - 24 Jan 2011 18:28
Quiet on my Saturday afternoon visit but there were one or two absurdly dressed acting types knocking around the place. The walls are a treasure trove of theatrical memorabilia but I found the seating and general decor of the place pretty shabby and unappealing. Rather like the Old Blue Last in Hoxton it has ransacked an old theatre for some of its seating.

Ale selection was Adnams, Youngs Ordinary, Bombardier and Landlord. I had the last of these and it was in good order.

The pub obviously has some historical noteworthiness but I wouldn't make a special effort to visit.
murgatroyd - 1 Nov 2010 08:34
Not to be confused with the Kings Head in nearby Essex Road, there has been a Kings Head here since the mid 16th century although the current Victorian pubís main claim to fame came in 1970 when it opened Britainís first Pub Theatre in a small room to the rear. Today the Theatreís Patrons and Presidents make an impressive role call; Joana Lumley, Tom Stoppard, Maureen Lipman and Victoria Wood to name just a few. Whether any of them can be seen regularly knocking back the Guinnessís on a Saturday night is debatable but as far as the pub side of things go, it is quite a bustling, lively and interesting little joint.

Furnishings appear quite Spartan and with its dark polished bare floor it comes across s a bit dim and dingy but there are many interesting features such as the marble fireplace (with laden coal scuttles ready and waiting), double bay window frontage and working gas lights. As one would expect, there is a strong Theatre theme to the pub with walls plastered with thespian pictures (many of whom have appeared in the pub), old theatre seats running down each side, posters and selection of stage lights hanging from the high ceiling. Note also the old photo from the 1900ís taken inside the pub of the (presumably) land lord and wife. At the rear to ne side is a dart board and in one corner, a small stage where live bands play at weekends. Things can be noisy and music at high volume when the DJís are at full pelt so it isnít a place fir a quiet evening out.

The beers are a bit pricey but it is worth paying the extra just to soak up the ambience of the place. 4 Ales available on my recent visit; Youngs, Adnams, Abbott and 6X. One useless fact about the place is that a previous owner was against the introduction of decimal currency and the prices were all shown in shillings and pence until the early Ď90ís.

The pub wonít appeal to everyone (how many do?) but it is certainly an interesting and historic part of Londonís pub circuit and for that alone, worth paying a visit.

RogerB - 30 Oct 2009 16:22
This is another popular pub on Upper Street that had a good atmosphere during my week night visit.

During my visit there was a selection of premium lagers alongside adnams, abbot and Youngs Ordinary. I found the staff to be nice enough and there was a young student type crowd.

I would go back here again.
Strongers - 12 Sep 2009 21:49
If it is just football on a Saturday afternoon, or a quiet read of the newspaper after work, here is a spacious and friendly non-frills pub. Great on the last Friday of the month when the invite a DJ top play a wide range of some classic tunes.
Benito1960 - 17 Oct 2008 17:05
An OK pub with friendly bar staff. All except one fine gentleman who is just about the rudest human being I have ever come across (whoever told him he had a future in the service industry wants shooting) - as he was moving furniture to accomodate more people for the evening crush, he literally rammed a chair into my girlfiend's back to move her out of the way then swore at me when I asked him to watch where he was going. Ruins the whole place, really.
Dannysigma - 18 Jan 2008 12:05
Found this OK, not much more. The theatre, which must have the most uncomfortable seats in the UK, was graced by Sir John Mortimer, which made for a brilliant evening, but I wouldn't travel far for the sake of the pub or some distinctly moderate beer.
joegreen - 26 Feb 2007 15:41
Watched football here a few weeks back and was pretty enjoyable, nice relaxed atmosphere etc. And the ales were pretty good too.
tbp - 16 Feb 2007 15:27
Superb night last night. Great music, all the more so by seeing Pete Abernethy on drums! My friend and I popped in for a swift one and ended up remaining until 1230am. Good Adnams Bitter
lad_newton - 16 Jan 2007 10:25
Great music and great atmosphere!
andyh26 - 2 Sep 2006 23:39
yeah this place is wicked. Give me real beer and real people any day....... vive la kings head!
tanderson7 - 30 Jun 2006 08:10
I'm in two minds about the Kings Head. It's a bit scruffy, it never feels quite hygenic and half the tables and chairs seem to be falling to bits. Having said that it's the people who make it - and there's certainly an eclectic bunch in here. I like the whole pub theatre thing and the live music I've seen here has mostly been excellent - usually pretty lively but never deafening. Ale very variable - after a few minging pints I've tended to go for the bottled stuff, the Guinness is usually OK though.
tim_eyles - 14 May 2006 18:30
Walked past the other night on my way back from the Florence Tavern and Jorene Celeste and was pleased to see the old double act of the jamaican and the geordie singing back to back marley/sting hits is still packing em in here. Must go back soon.
anonymous - 21 Apr 2006 11:19
Love this place. Never had a bad night in here. Always full of feisty fillies too.

I agree with Stonch, beer is fairly limited and never in great shape.

Love the live music on Saturdays though.
anonymous - 21 Apr 2006 11:14
I apologise, I understood that the pub fed the theatre rather than the theatre fed the pub, so to speak. That is certainly what I was led to believe by the people I was with anyway!! Still enjoyed the overall atmosphere of the place but as I said probably wouldn't rave about it as much as some I know.
Madcap - 3 Feb 2006 13:01
I think the theatre out back is slightly more than an "interesting little addition"! This is the grandaddy of all London theatre pubs. There was a lot of publicity recently when the owner and founder died. I think the pub exists for the theatre and not the other way round!

I have had some great late nights in here, but in the last couple of years have not been in. I think the beer selection is extremely ordinary and frankly that's the most important point to me in any pub. You could give me the nicest pub in the world but if there's only a choice between Carlsbert Export, Green King IPA and other such standard procedure beers on draught I'll hate it.
anonymous - 3 Feb 2006 12:54
I found this place rather average but will not write it off as so many of my friends rave about it. A proper pub rather than bar which is good and I found the theatre out back an interesting little addition. Probably worth another look.
Madcap - 23 Jan 2006 13:59
Always worth a trip, well preserved bar with mechanical cash registers and gas lamps! Best to get there early for a seat. Bar staff friendly when I've been. A few years ago on a quiet night in there we got chatting to a bloke at a table, who then bought us all a round - claimed he was the owner's son! Was it true? Who cares! But it's the kind of thing that happens there! Christmas Eve spent there one time was also memorbale.
OldRogue - 19 Dec 2005 12:56
I have been coming to the Kings Head on and off over the last 10-15 years or so, and was surprised to read some of the derogatory comments posted recently. I've always thought this is one of the best, if not the best pub in North London (and I've visited a few).

Having revisited it last week I am relieved to report that nothing has changed. The staff were most obliging, the Adnams was very good, an excellent blues band provided the music. The decor, and more importantly, the clientele, have character - a quality severely lacking in many of the various chain pubs that have sadly now colonised Upper Street.

Long live the Kings!
zel - 15 Jul 2005 15:18
Considering this is billed as a music pub the acoustics are awful. I saw a band there a couple of months ago and took ages to realise what some of the songs they were doing actually were (I see them quite often so I should be able to tell). The staff are quite surly and the beer's nothing to write home about either. If you like pristine shiny or olde worlde pubs give it a miss.
anonymous - 9 May 2005 21:31
Yep. It is a sign of the times when the only proper pub in the area is the one with a theatre out the back. Proper jokes of a venue, old school till, great music (saw some random swamp rock/ cajun jazz stuff down there the other night. Staff are pretty rubbish, I agree, but the atmsophere is generated purely by the random cross-section of society frequenting said establishment.

As for you, "foxski", methinks you give the game away when you said "I bought a PUB, sat down at the bar..." owner of a rival business interest per chance, hmm?

I'll shut up now. Not the sort of place where you get little plastic straws in a "classy" black holder on the bar with serviettes and stuff. No, they don't take cards. Thank fjuk.
SGLA - 6 Apr 2005 17:23
The King's Head is NOT the only decent pub on Upper Street. The Jorene Celeste sells excellent Abbot Ale and IPA and the staff there are 5 million times friendlier and more genuine. When I visited there was indifferently kept Adnams on tap, and the staff were astonishingly rude. I bought a pub, sat down at the bar, at the only free seat available in the pub, where there happened to be an unstarted game of backgammon and a huge pile of dirty glasses on the bar. I moved a few of the backgammon pieces whereupon one of the staff walked up, said "Sorry, do you mind!" and whipped the game just out of my reach - leaving the dirty glasses where they were. Then another one walked up, shoved his dinner right under my nose and started shovelling it into his mouth. Since he was literally inches away from me I asked him how much it cost, and he scowled and grunted "It's not for sale". Another customer then kindly explained that they only serve food as 3-course pre-theatre meals at £15 a throw. Reading the reviews here I realise now the staff behave this way because they think they're "legends". Pathetic.
foxski - 7 Mar 2005 08:12
Think you're the big man? Bit a ladies man? Of course they can't see the bald spot... you've combed it forward so perfectly. I WENT TO THE UNIVERSITY OF LIFE, MATE. I'll have a Stella, something with a bit of class.

You probably won't like the King's Head, - it's the refuge for the last of the big time drinkers. It's quite hard to tell the tramps begging outside (gerronte) from the people drinking all the beers inside, like men (W.C.L.S.). Also has the funniest piece of toilet graffiti in the world:

'My mother made me a homosexual.'
- 'If I send her the wool will she make me one?'

Lovely. Lovely stuff.
westcountrlargersquad - 17 Dec 2004 12:20
The King's Head is the only decent pub on Upper Street. It's open late. They have Adnam's and Young's beer on tap. It has a theatre in the back (not a comedy venue upstairs). The doors are perfectly easy to use for any normal human being. It has live music every night: usually jazz, but sometimes folk or reggae. In the winter, there is a proper fire with proper coal. They don't take credit cards and they have old fashioned till. They have only just stopped charging in shillings. The bar staff are, for the most part, legends, although they tend to make up the prices on the spot (still cheaper than anywhere other than spoons). Basically, if you don't like this place, you don't know anything about pubs or drinking or living and really there is no hope for you. You probably like watching friends and drinking Jacob's Creek. Well, good luck to you. But, just so you know, come the revolution, you'll be first up against the wall. Cheers.
Gerontay - 13 Dec 2004 14:07
Fantastic people, fantastic live bands, fantastic atmosphere. Fantastic Pub!
Laura - 27 Oct 2004 12:12
No, I wouldn't go that far, either! Had some good nights in The Head over the years, though...
Jez - 20 Oct 2004 13:21
A pretty good place, especially when compared to some of the trash around it. Didn't realise it was open late, will definitely be saving that in the memory.

"Best pub in north london" though??? Stone me.
travis - 14 Oct 2004 10:32
i once chatted at the bar to glenys kinnock and glenda jackson came and ordered a half of guinness. we talked about politics in a light-hearted way until neil kinnock arrived with a big man and took glenys home. he said to me: 'thanks for looking after the missus, boyo.' a lovely place. glenda went upstairs to the little theatre and i went home alone.
richard - 9 Aug 2004 19:50
Juliet - you are absolutely right. You don't get it. Stick to the chain bars.
k - 18 May 2004 13:28
Perhaps I just don't get it? The place was scruffy and most of the chairs were broken. The red wine tasted of vinegar and the toilets were covered in graffiti. Awful really!
Juliet - 5 Mar 2004 10:52
Well this place is pretty much the best. It's open late. The Indian food, served only for a few hours, is southern style and some of the best I've had. Live music almost always. Did I mention that it's open late?
Larry Edelstein - 7 Jan 2004 05:43
The best pub in north london, cool chilled out decor, good jazz with brilliant jazz on thursdays.
Laura - 2 Dec 2003 14:11
A real gem with outstanding beer but best to avoid on weekend evenings. On Friday and Saturday nights it gets full (and I mean really uncomfortably crowded) of people from the tube stations who never venture off Upper Street and then look puzzled at the intolerable crush in what they were led to believe was a really nice, laid back, cool, traditional north London theatre pub. It is on Monday to Thursday. Tip for first time visitors - the middle doors do open but you have to push them to pull them. You'll see what I mean.
anonymous - 27 Nov 2003 12:20
A premier jazz pub in North London, with a comedy theatre above it. The music quality is great, and real ales are available here aswell. This pub is worth trying out.
lad_newton - 4 Nov 2003 17:57

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