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The Sir Richard Steele, NW3

97 Haverstock Hill
Phone: 02074831261

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Tris C left this review about The Sir Richard Steele

6th December 2017:

Built in the mid-19th century just to the north of the site of Steele's cottage, little can be added to that below, except that the pub has an unusual Formica-topped bar and illuminated Charrington's bar back. Externally, the corner splay exhibits a West's Three Crowns Brewery plaque which is probably unique in its survival. Despite living most of my life no more than around 20 minutes' walk from here, I've only ever been in here around a dozen times over the last 30 years. Steve C (below) is not wrong when he refers to "undesirable patrons"; there are definitely some very rum characters in here at times though their presence seems to have dwindled over time which may explain the removal of the drug enforcement notifications.
Indeed the brewery regalia and backlit stained glass windows are fantastic - it's like being inside a museum to the brewing trade; the hanging Bass lantern is most impressive.
Ales are four in number and better than the Wells' ales of yore, typically the likes of Sambrook's Wandle or Adnam's Ghost Ship as spotted the other night, and two further not recalled; quality was decent.
This pub is a must-visit but if rumours are to be believed - and I believe them - you may have very little time to do so.


Closed for seven months and reopened on 29th July. There had been fears that this pub would lose its charming character given that the upper floors and function room would be converted to residential use which explains why the grand staircase now leads to nowhere.
The pub’s new website shows that the superb West’s Brewery plaque has been retained along with the Charrington’s lanterns and late-model Courage sign bracket but what you can’t see is the new and completely unnecessary corner entrance where there was a fine backlit stained-glass depiction of the eponymous Steele. What you also can’t see is that the Courage bracket has been ripped off and just a week before reopening, the lanterns were removed and replaced with humdrum Windsor lanterns; why? This pub has a unique name and the lanterns were customised by Charrington’s with the name in ‘Cinerama’-style type face to their fronts making them not just attractive but as mentioned, unique; what an utter waste. Otherwise, the original Charrington’s leaded lights have been retained which is a crumb of comfort.
However, it’s what you see – or don’t see – that comes as by far the greatest shock as in effect, there’s nothing remaining from the original interior which was this pub’s unique selling point, drawing people from far and wide. Architecturally the pub was nothing special, but it was the knick-knacks and brewery regalia that made the interior so memorable. The lovely Charrington’s backlit bar stature has been ripped out and replaced with a dark wood and mirrored affair in a modern reinterpretation of something from a bygone era, with lighting now coming from chrome spots attached to the ceiling; a new dumb waiter has been attached to one side. The original bar was topped with red Formica (or similar), but this too has gone, replaced with a period-style bar with a dark wood top. The bar’s frontage seems to be original, resembling a modern take on lignum undulatum, though to the base there’s now a projecting step plinth topped in what looks like slate; the floor’s new too and appears to be solid oak. The paint scheme is typical contemporary with part wainscoted walls ‘zoned’ by oh-so-predictable colours: white, burgundy, smoky blue and black. At least one wall is papered with monochromatic wallpaper from House of Hackney. The integrated Bass mirror above the fireplace has gone, replaced with a boring everyday affair. Indeed, all the interior décor has been removed save for the fantastic Worthington/Bass lantern which now hangs over the corner entrance, a couple of Bass mirrors and the enamelled Tollemache Brewery sign. The curved Steele stained glass window now resides to the rear of the pub in what was the snug and is electrically backlit, looking for all the world like an art installation created by Gilbert and George. Now downstairs, there are new swish lavatories, but a large dining room has been created to the rear, named the Tatler after one of Steele’s publications. The ceiling mural remains, cherubim and seraphim gazing down on the much-altered proceedings. What now passes for décor comprises a handful of ephemeral items as well as some paintings apparently composed by local artists. From on high, there are some very impressive skeletal metal lanterns which appear to have something of an astronomical bent, looking like a cross between armillary spheres and orreries. Furniture is surprisingly conventional with a couple of tall tables and chairs and to the rear, some tub chairs upholstered with pus-coloured vinyl. Free from electronic entertainments aside from piped music which was a little too loud, there’s now a greater mix of clients and in greater numbers too with the oddballs seemingly gone. Some of the old-boy locals were in attendance, cackling away like Sid James and seemingly unphased by the veritable feng shui tsunami visited on their old watering hole.
Staff are clad in white shirts and black slacks/skirts; corporate in both appearance and efficiency, whilst one of the two bouncers hovers by the bar like some store detective; not at all appealing. Ales: the dreaded Doom Bar has reared its ugly [foaming] head, thereafter Adnams Broadside (4£4.60) and Portobello Star at a very steep £4.70 a pint and a bit lacklustre. Otherwise it’s just a somewhat predictable choice of craft/premium keg offerings delivered from copper founts, with my pint of Camden’s Pilsner coming in at £5.10 which I suppose is what you now expect to have to pay in an institution like this.
I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies when you consider just how painfully close this pub came to being converted into a branch of Tesbury’s. This is probably the most comprehensive – and expensive – makeover I’ve ever seen and for the disinterested, superior to and considerably cheaper than The Belrose across the road. It may be very tasteful and restrained, with no awful motifs such as exposed ductwork, bare brick, low-wattage filament bulbs or weird lights. However, for me and I suspect many others, this pub’s charms have been lost forever.

On 9th September 2018 - rating: 4
[User has posted 1532 recommendations about 1510 pubs]

Please Note: This review is over a year old.

Moby Duck left this review about Sir Richard Steele

A pub with an interesting interior as well described below,and well worth a look for this alone, but when it comes down to the beer I found it wanting, the four pumps were offering Wells and Youngs Bombardier and Youngs Bitter, along with Adnams Lighthouse and Westerham Gods Wallop. The latter being less familiar to me was the one I opted for but I found it to be a rather average beer.A nice enough pub but my taste buds demand more these days so its unlikely to be on the return list.

On 9th December 2013 - rating: 6
[User has posted 1582 recommendations about 1563 pubs]

Please Note: This review is over a year old.

hondo . left this review about Sir Richard Steele

Quirky stunning old style interior with brewery memorabilia and nick nacks on the walls and a picture painted on the ceiling. 4 real ales and food served. Didn't visit upstairs.

On 21st November 2013 - no rating submitted
[User has posted 2833 recommendations about 2774 pubs]

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Pub SignMan left this review about Sir Richard Steele

This large Victorian street corner pub is located on Haverstock Hill, roughly halfway between Chalk Farm and Belsize Park tube stations. The pub, which is part of the Faucet Inn group, has retained a feel of Victorian splendor through its interesting layout, with a succession of different rooms and areas wrapping around a central servery, However, it is even more notable for the eccentric décor throughout, which seems to have been gathered over time and creates a bit of a treasure trove well worth rummaging through. There are bare floorboards throughout the pub, which combines with plenty of dark wood paneling and fixtures to create a typically traditional look. To the left of the front entrance there is a nice, comfortable seating area with a mix of bench, sofa and low stool seating around a large fireplace with a huge Bass mirror above. This section also incorporates a large set of bookshelves, a small wooden cart suspended high on one wall, a mounted deer head and a large portrait of the eponymous Richard Steele. The servery, which carries on through an archway to the main, corner section of the pub, has a big etched pub mirror above it. In the main bar area there are some nice padded benches and low stools around the perimeter of the room and loads more items to distract the eye including lots of brewerania, barrels, pots, jugs, old radios, antlers, a lawnmower, a drum, road signs, shoes, stuffed seagulls and a stuffed vulture. The centerpiece is a large stained glass feature in the corner of the room which again depicts the dramatist who gives the pub his name and this compliments the spectacular Sistine Chapel style painted ceiling. At the rear there is an open area with high stools, a drinking ledge, several clocks, a large Bass lantern and a set of traffic lights. Further exploration can be undertaken behind the servery, where a couple more areas can be accessed, including one with an old stove in the fireplace. There is also a decent sized garden to one side, which I didn’t take a proper look at. Music played quietly throughout my stay and a decent band of locals slowly started to fill the place up. I was a little surprised to see prominent signs warning against drug use on the premises, which may be off-putting to some.
There were just two ales on the bar – Adnams Southwold Bitter and Westerham 1965 Special Bitter. I tried a pint of the latter and it was in good condition and served to me by a friendly barmaid. Another off-putting feature was that the staff had seemingly been trained to ask customers if they want any crisps or peanuts after ordering – an unnecessary corporate touch in an otherwise charming pub.
I like pubs that are full of clutter and really enjoyed browsing through it all and would gladly pop back again to see what I might have missed. A couple more ales wouldn’t go amiss, but on balance this is a very good pub and well worth making the journey out for.

On 17th March 2013 - rating: 8
[User has posted 2813 recommendations about 2813 pubs]

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Malden man left this review about Sir Richard Steele

I do like these pubs where there is a treasure trove of assorted junk, memorabilia, antique artifacts, call it what you will. Wherever you sit or stand, there tends to be something new to look at. Without listing everything, and others have tried, there are old street signs, tin signs and adverts, several mounted animal heads, sowing machines, fruit bats hanging from the mural decorated ceiling, old theatre flyers and so on. The bar is central with the main room wrapping around, but through a large doorway there is another quieter room away from the main area, where there are books on shelves and a painted mural on the window.
The clientele were mixed with a few colourful if harmless characters around, the staff friendly and chatty and good to see pints topped up without a request being required. I even thought I'd been given too much change as the price quoted for the round was initially higher than it should have been, top marks for honesty, I wasn't to know.
There is a comedy club upstairs so the sign says, food is Thai (didn't sample, I'm told it's first rate). Traditional style seating mainly with banquettes, benches and regular tables, many of the circular topped Britannia type.
Four handpumps, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Dark Star Hophead, Adnams Oyster Stout with one being unclipped.
There is an outdoor area to one side with seating and cover.

On 23rd March 2011 - rating: 8
[User has posted 1695 recommendations about 1669 pubs]

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Roger Button left this review about Sir Richard Steele

Locally known as Steeles, this traditional Victorian pub stands on the site of the home of the pubs’s namesake, an 18th Century MP who is widely regarded as the founder of modern journalism.

The traditional exterior doesn’t really prepare the visitor for the eccentricities of the interior. The layout consists of a central bar with the drinking area wrapped around through 3 or 4 discernable sections with a separate small room at the rear. To describe the amount of jumble, collectables and bric-a-brac that line the walls and shelves or dangle from the ceilings would be a near impossible task, suffice to say that Steptoe would needed an army of sons working overtime to have accumulated such a collection of trinkets, artifacts and oddities that range from old pub signs, radios and busts to moose heads, hand carts and a large Bass lantern presumably rescued from the outside in the days when the pub was part of Bass Charringtons (the Charrington signage still remains behind the bar).

The high ceilings contain impressive murals that resemble a bargain basement Sistine Chapel and in one corner is an almost ecclesiatical shrine dedicated to steele. His presence is also felt in the main bar where a large portrait stares across the room. An open staircase leads to an upstairs function room that I have not visited.

There is regular programme of live music, a comedy club, weekly quiz nights and live sport although I only spotted one fairly inadequate basic TV. The ambience is never dull, the customer base eclectic but friendly, the service very good and even when busy I have always managed to bag a spot in some tucked away corner although with such an array of diverse interest dotted throughout the pub I have found myself doing more roaming than sitting.

On the drink side of things, there are 5 hand pumps although they are widely dispersed along the bar so you can easily miss a couple and there were only 3 ales available on my two most recent visits; Dark Star Hophead (£3.10), Adnams Oyster Stout (£3.30) and Bass (on special offer at £2.40). There is a good range of Thai food at around £7-8 for the main dishes and I have found the quality of both the beers and the food to be very good.

Steeles is more than an Aladdins Cave of memorabilia. It scores well in most aspects of what I feel makes a good pub – plenty of character, affordable food, decent beers and a pleasant ambience. This could be one of the few fairly undiscovered pub treats that remain in our Capital – it certainly took me a few years to discover. Don’t make the same mistake.

On 3rd March 2011 - rating: 9
[User has posted 1239 recommendations about 1233 pubs]

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Rex Rattus left this review about Sir Richard Steele

There were four real ales on during my lunchtime visit – Purity Mad Goose; Timothy Taylor Landlord; Darkstar Original; and Brain’s SA. TTL and Darkstar are £3.10 a pint and the Brain’s and Mad Goose are £2.90 a pint. The food menu is exclusively Thai, with a separate menu offering lunch for a fiver. It was one of the best pub Thai meals that I’ve had. The lady who prepared it came to see if it was too hot – naah, not even close.
The pub itself seems to have something of an identity crisis. The pub sign, the lamps outside, and the wine and food menus refer to as the “The Steeles”, whereas on some of the paperwork as well as the frontage at the top, in large letters, it is still referred to as “The Sir Richard Steele”. The “Steeles” makes no sense to me as it is a name, so as far as I’m concerned it’s still The Sir Richard Steele, named after the famous founder of The Spectator. Inside there’s so much to see that I’m bound to have missed something. It’s a large pub, with several inter-connected rooms, including a snug or two, meandering round the central bar. The windows have the distinctive leaded lights with the green band that suggests that it was probably a Charrington’s pub in a former life. There was an attractive fireplace with a fire on the go with an anvil in the grate area; numerous old advertisements mainly for cigarettes and tobacco; brewery mirrors; a wooden handcart suspended over the fireplace; an enormous moose’s head above and to the left of the bar; and masses of other assorted bric-a-brac all over the place. Worthy of special mention is the mural on the ceiling, which I guess is the Michaelangelo of the pub world. It’s bare-boarded with the usual mix of stools at the bar, banquettes and normal tables and chairs. This is the sort of pub I really like. It’s a real pub, and definitely worth seeking out if you like traditional pubs.

On 13th March 2010 - rating: 9
[User has posted 2599 recommendations about 2513 pubs]

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Steve C left this review about Sir Richard Steele

I’ve utilised the paved garden that is located at the side of this pub a few times, but I had never sat inside for a drink before last Saturday evening. I most admit that I was pleasantly surprised as I found the staff to be friendly and unbeknown to me most of the undesirable patrons of this pub stick to the garden. I seem to recall four hand pumps, but I was on the Stella from the standard draught range which I enjoyed.

There is some strange décor in this place and there is a function type room upstairs and I will pop in again when next passing.

On 1st May 2007 - rating: 7
[User has posted 3948 recommendations about 3925 pubs]