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The Black Friar, Blackfriars, EC4

174 Queen Victoria Street
Phone: 02072365474

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Pub Type

Nicholsons (Mitchells & Butlers)
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Reviews (Current Rating Average: 8 of 10) Add Review see review guidelines

Quinno _ left this review about The Black Friar

No real changes here, though the staff on this visit were somewhat perfunctory compared to previous and my half of the Moncana was pedestrian (NBSS 2). Still, it’s a must-visit for the location. 8.5

May 2013
Built in 1875 on the site of a former monastery (the Friars apparently had ‘black habits’!) the pub acquired its splendid Art Nouveau interior in 1906. Threatened with demolition in the 1960s, (and you can see that decade’s appalling legacy as you stand outside and look over to the southern side of the Thames) this is now happily owned by the Nicholsons chain who curate a number of other architecturally significant pubs in the capital. The exterior is striking enough and the interior décor is something that would take too many words to describe here – take a look at the uploaded photos. Suffice to say that, once you have entered through one of the side doors and follow the bar round, your jaw should quite literally drop at what awaits – Italian marble cladding, brass pictures of monks, wooden ceiling, alabaster walls. Carry on forth to the ‘grotto’, which is a small room, separated from the rest of the pub by marble pillars and (if you’re able) take a seat and marvel at the craftsmanship as well as the rumble of passing trains. The front section of the pub is quite light due to the large leaded windows whilst the rear is a dimmer affair. The modern pop music on the speakers somewhat spoils the ambience of the place (why have it on at all??) and also that the fire in the fireplace is not a real one. A potted history of the pub is available in leaflet form at the bar. There’s also a large outside area in which to enjoy your drinks on a sunny day, shaded by a large tree. Being a Nicholsons house, there is plenty of ale in abundance (eight in total) and I’ve yet to have a duff one. My last visit threw up a marvellous Titanic Cappuccino. Due to its prominence and location the pub gets rammed after office chuck-out time, so it’s best sampled on a quiet weekday when you can take in the full splendour. Rated 9

On 1st November 2019 - rating: 8
[User has posted 3969 recommendations about 3957 pubs]

Brainy Pool left this review about The Black Friar

a landmark pub and the beautiful interior remains unspoiled. Sadly I can’t really say the same for the pub which feels half arsed and definitely not somewhere that you want to stay for long. The continental style seating outside is far more popular than inside with the local yuppies. Should be so much more.

On 15th May 2019 - rating: 5
[User has posted 735 recommendations about 717 pubs]

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Tris C left this review about The Black Friar

Remodelled in the Art Nouveau style in several stages from 1903 to 1925 by the architect Herbert Fuller-Clark with exterior stonework grotesques and interior woodwork by sculptor Nathaniel Hitch, interior copper reliefs by Frederick Callcott and relief work to the small saloon bar by Henry Poole; the modern exterior statue of the Black Friar dates from the early/mid-1980s; saved from demolition by Sir John Betjemen and now Grade II Listed.
Phew - I haven't been in here since my second visit in the spring of 1994 and not surprisingly, nothing has changed as it remains the same as described below - my first visit was back in 1991 when this rather dull area of the City had yet to be enlivened and back then the pub shut at just 9.00 pm. This is still a rather depressing, isolated City backwater with commuters dashing for trains at the newly renovated Blackfriars station.
Externally, there are four probably unique copper Worthington's plaques and inside it's a riot of marble, alabaster and metal; beautiful. In the main, the pub is modern bare boarded with some carpeting to the rear dining area; music played and it was a bit loud, loud enough in fact that it intruded into our conversation outside the pub.
As a party of four, we sampled their wares. This pub boasts a collection of 'eclectic ales' and a 'cask master'. must have been his day off as this is a by-the-numbers Fuller's London Pride, Harvey's Sussex Best, Sharp's Doom Bar and Brain's Rev. James sort of place with a couple of other ales such as Vocation Brewery's Bread & Butter ale and some generic Nicholson's beer (St. Austell). All pretty much tasted the same: flat and a little warm and my pint of Sussex had a soapy twang to it, meaning that the lines hadn't been fully rinsed; I didn't clock the individual prices as we were buying rounds.
Unprepossessing location aside, this is an architectural gem and worth a visit to tick it off. However, along with the loud music, this is not a great place for real ale and hence the seemingly meagre rating. I agree with Mr. Mapp below: pop your head in the door and drink elsewhere!

On 23rd September 2016 - rating: 6
[User has posted 953 recommendations about 939 pubs]

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Ian Mapp left this review about The Black Friar

Saturday lunch is the time to go!

Got a seat - in the most elegant part of the pub.

Fantastic building which makes it worth checking out but shocking beer.

First pint of black sheep - the barmaid wrapped a paper towel around the pump. I took one sip and refused to pay. Utter bilge water.

Replacement pint of doom bar was ever so slightly better.

I would recommend popping your head in the door and drinking elsewhere!

Photos at my walking blog -

On 7th February 2016 - rating: 7
[User has posted 641 recommendations about 635 pubs]

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Blackthorn _ left this review about The Black Friar

An unusual wedge shaped pub just over the road from Blackfriars station, It has a striking appearance with it’s tall, narrow profile and pointed front and it sits somewhat incongruously amongst the larger and more modern buildings all around. There are also a number of picnic benches outside for the warmer weather.

Inside the décor is quite draw dropping and in fact I can think I can safely say that this is the most impressive pub interior I can ever remember seeing. Bronze friezes around the top of the walls and above the bar depict various scenes of monks (friars?) engaged in various activities, whilst a further monk related scene is shown in a stained glass panel at the front of the pub. Elsewhere the large leaded windows let in plenty of light and there is a wood strip floor with wood panelling on the ceiling. A fire-place and copper chimney hood is off to one side, whilst the most remarkable room of all is a smaller area at the rear used as a restaurant. This had marble cladding on the walls and an intricate tiled mosaic ceiling, which was really quite remarkable.

Beers on tap were Harviestoun Old Engine Oil, Doom Bar, Nicholson’s Pale Ale, Moorhouse White Wicth, Acorn Barnsley, Truman’s Runner, California and Boys Topsail. After that lot, the solitary cider was a somewhat disappointing Aspall’s Suffolk.

On 26th January 2016 - rating: 9
[User has posted 1748 recommendations about 1683 pubs]

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. Wittenden left this review about The Black Friar

This unique historic pub has been well described by fellow scribes above,but to come upon it after crossing Blackfriars Bridge from the concrete badlands to the south is one of London's finer experiences.
My visit, on a warmish May Saturday morning, was my first in getting on for forty years.Daylight enabled me, briefly, to appreciate the ornate exterior decoration.Inside, the pub was filling up with a mix of predominately middle aged tourists, some enjoying a late breakfast.A tight schedule, and the comparatively early hour allowed me a quick glass of Cameron's 150th Celebration Ale, a beefed up bitter sweet take on Strongarm.
Being part of Nicholson's, there was a good line up of cask beers, but not many from London on my visit.
I'll do my best not to wait another forty years before I return.

On 23rd May 2015 - no rating submitted
[User has posted 243 recommendations about 242 pubs]

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Just a quick pint, then I'm off left this review about The Black Friar

As noted by many others below, the decoration of this Nicholson's pub really is something special so it is certainly worth a visit just to have a look at the Art Nouveau facades of this wedge-shaped building which are amongst the most striking and memorable of any in the country. The interior is equally spectacular, although the two-part bar has very little space due to the sharply-angled walls. Largish pavement seating area to one side (albeit rather exposed to the wind and traffic). Small table-service dining area beyond the back bar too. Four handpumps on each part of the counter, offering the chain's usual suspects but usually supplemented by several rarer offerings (e.g. Itchen Valley Blackcurrant Mild, £3.80, on my latest visit). A 'must visit'.

On 25th May 2014 - rating: 9
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hondo . left this review about The Black Friar

Proper ornate traditional interior as you would expect with Nicholson's. Real ale and food served.

On 20th March 2014 - no rating submitted
[User has posted 2692 recommendations about 2636 pubs]

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John Bonser left this review about The Black Friar

Occupying a prominent street corner position close to the north side of Blackfriars Bridge and the recently enlarged Blackfriars Station is The Black Friar, one of London’s most well known and iconic pubs that really should be on everyone’s itinerary for a visit at some stage.

It’s a Grade 2 listed wedge shaped building built in 1875 ( but remodelled in Art Nouveau style in 1903 ) on the site of a Dominican Priory that dated back to 1278, but which was destroyed when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1538.

As we cross the road to the pub, we note its striking and unique distinctive exterior featuring mosaic styling and various copper and bronze panels of friars directing us towards the bar. Note the statue of the monk looking down at us from the corner of the building at its narrowest point. Different doorways tell us that this was once a multi roomed pub, as confirmed by old copper signs on the outside wall.

A plaque outside the pub reminds us that it was due for demolition in the 1960’s, but that a public outcry led by Sir John Betjeman saved the building.

The interior does not disappoint with distinctive marble and alabaster walls and bronze panels depicting monks engaged in various everyday activities such as eating, drinking, singing and fishing. At the far end is an unusual chapel type snug with various inscriptions on the marble walls such as “wisdom is rare” and “silence is golden”. Since my last visit, this area of the pub has unfortunately been commandeered as a restaurant area with tables laid out for diners and with the usual offputting sign exhorting us to “Please wait to be seated”.

Above a fine large inglenook fireplace is a depiction of friars singing. Above the bar, a bronze panel depicts friars frolicking around and tells us that “Tomorrow will be Friday”. Some stained glass and frosted leaded windows add to the overall experience. The newish looking light pine wooden floor does jar somewhat, however.

The pub is listed in CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors.

Not surprisingly, this pub is very much on the tourist radar and, especially in the evenings, you will often encounter a guided party of wide eyed Japanese or American visitors calling in and clicking away happily with their cameras for a few minutes before being beckoned outside by their tour guide in order to move on.

Formerly a free house, The Black Friar has been in the Nicholsons stable for many years now.

There’s usually a good selection of real ales on, served by the usual friendly and enthusiastic staff that one seems to encounter in Nicholsons outlets nowadays, even if their competence and efficiency is not always up to the mark. There’s two banks of 4 pumps which, on my recent early February visit, were offering, in addition to the ubiquitous London Pride and Doom Bar, beers from Downton, Sunny Republic, Broughton, Adnams and Stewart Brewing. Also on was the “house” Nicholsons Bitter which is brewed by St Austell. I initially went for Zymic from Stewart Brewing Co – a 3.8% beer described as “refreshingly extra hoppy “, which certainly matched the description.

My companions and I had 4 or 5 of the 8 beers in total between us over the course of the evening and we all agreed that beer quality was first rate, but that the “background” music was insanely over loud, rendering meaningful conversation difficult. But for the cold February air, we would have retreated to the seating area on the wide pavement outside. I was tempted to draw management’s attention to the “silence is golden” inscription on the marble wall in the snug, but years of pub going give you a good feel of when you’re wasting your time, so I didn’t bother. They probably wouldn’t have heard me over the din, anyway, but, if they had, I imagine that I would have been told that it’s a directive from Head Office or something. I did, however, write a rather vitriolic comment in the visitors book on the window ledge by the door, which did at least brighten my mood somewhat.

Having said that, you really should try and get here sometime. If you can visit when it’s relatively quiet and not too crowded (early lunchtime, perhaps?), the overall experience is likely to be infinitely better

On 28th February 2014 - rating: 8
[User has posted 560 recommendations about 560 pubs]

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Real Ale Ray left this review about The Black Friar

A well deserved ten. Where else would you walk around a corner and see a stunning pub like this. Also had a good range of ales on our visit, plus the service was excellent. We went for the Sunny Republic Brewery Huna Red. A Camra Inventory pub of Historic Interiors.

On 12th January 2014 - rating: 10
[User has posted 2975 recommendations about 2975 pubs]

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