We’re not quite sure what we’ll encounter as we descend the dimly lit corridor and navigate a narrow passage to enter into one of the most unusual pubs London has to offer. A curious mix of old meets new and vintage meets modern, step inside The Cittie of Yorke and you’ll be greeted by intimate booths, barrels above the bar- which happens to be the longest bar in Britain- and some of the best-priced beer that Zone One has to offer…
Set across two levels (one at basement and one at ground level), you’d be forgiven for thinking that this ye olde pub finds its roots in centuries past. And while this is partially correct, the reality is a little more nuanced. After all, while a medieval pub did exist on the site where The Cittie of York is now to be found, the actual building is more Edwardian than anything else.
A history of the Cittie of Yorke
Though the Cittie of Yorke looks old, this is actually not the case and the faux-historic theme is one that is carried on through the entirety of the drinking establishment. And while there has likely been a pub in situ since the 15th-century, the building you see today was built during the 1920s using parts of the older buildings.
The resulting inn is now a semi-authentic historic pub with oodles of charm and ever-s0-much character. Highlights of the pub include the Henekey’s long bar, which happens to be the longest pub in England and is so famous that Welsh Poet Dylan Thomas is alleged to have written a poem named for the bar, as well as several Victorian wooden cubicles.
How to visit the Cittie of Yorke Pub in London
Located in the Holborn district of London, close to the likes of the Sir John Soane Museum (my all-time favourite cultural space the UK capital has to offer) and Holborn tube station, you’d be forgiven for missing the slightly hidden entryway to the Cittie tavern.
After all, the thing that truly distinguishes this otherwise Holborn façade from the rest of the street (if you miss the mock Tudor façade) is a swinging copper sign signifying that you are indeed in the right place. On one side, three towers are depicted, while the other side of the shiny plaque says ‘the oldest brewery in Yorkshire’.
As a little aside, the history of pub signs in the UK is a fascinating one dating back close to a thousand years. One particularly interesting law (which is still technically legal) dates all the way back to the 14th-century and denotes that, by law, places that sell ale must hang a sign above their doorway so that ale inspectors might easily establish and check up on the quality of the beer…
Wander into the depths of the pub during opening hours and wander down the long and narrow corridor right until the end. From there, you’ll follow the passageway to the left, where the corridor opens up into a wide expansive room. To the left, a long and glittering bar stretches into the expanse of the room, while 1,000-gallon wine vats sit above the bar.
To the right-hand side of the room, small confessional like booths were constructed so that lawyers from the nearby area could chat in private with their clients. Today, these panelled rooms are adorned with small prints from Vanity Fair and are an intimate setting for a date or catch up with friends.
One floor down, and the basement area is just as quirky as the bar above, with ‘IN VINO VERITAS’ (the Latin words for ‘in wine, there’s truth’) signalling the entrance into the area. Quiet, calm, and secluded, you may well have to remind yourself that you’re still in London, let alone along one of the busiest streets in the lively Holborn district!
Things to know before visiting the Cittie of Yorke
Today, the Samuel Smith pub serves pints at a price you’d be hard-pressed to beat in most of central London. Despite the fact that this little drinking establishment is a little harder to find than most, this local’s haunt can get surprisingly busy. This is especially true on Thursday evenings, as well as the weekends when London dwellers let down their hair and head out for a pint with friends!
As such, if you’re planning to visit with a larger group of people, then you may well want to consider booking in advance. Though the pub is best known for its selection of beverages (mainly beers and ales), there’s also a number of food items on the menu for if you’re looking for lunch or just a light snack.
Unlike some other London pubs, the food to be found at Cittie of Yorke isn’t unusual or quirky and is instead the kind of tavern fare that you’d easily find across most UK pubs; think soups, sandwiches, pies, lasagne etc. There are also a few gluten-free and vegetarian options on offer.
The pub is open from Monday through to Saturday, though it’s closed on Sundays. The closest tube station is Chancery Lane. Popular with lawyers, students, and bankers alike, visit at any given moment and you’re guaranteed to find a real cross-section of local Londoners…