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Southampton Arms, NW5

139 Highgate Road

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Reviews (Current Rating Average: 8 of 10) Add Review see review guidelines

Please Note: This review is over a year old.

Quinno _ left this review about Southampton Arms

Have visited a few times since the review below and have continued to find good beer and a pleasant atmosphere. I can sympathise with Tris’ comments below, it is a small place and has been well and truly discovered so you need to time your visit carefully – forget finding a seat most Friday evenings. One downside is that the gents are pretty basic and could do with an upgrade. Otherwise, still an unpretentious, top-drawer drinkers pub.

March 2012
The unpromising exterior promises an ‘Ale and Cider House’ and the pub certainly delivers – loads of ales and ciders at the bar, with a good selection policy and some unusual microbrewery sightings; the quality is spot-on and served in a pint pot as standard which is a nice touch. There are also two posh keg beers (Camden and Meantime often feature) and a decent wine list. The barmen are friendly and know their stuff. Food is available – simple bar snacks like pork pies, scotch eggs (including veggie ones) etc which were fairly priced. I've tried the pork pie and scotch egg and got a good-sized hunk with a pot of rather nice piccalilli - lovely. Note: only cash is accepted here. The interior is long and narrow, the unfussy white tiled bar area taking up the right hand side and the other walls decorated with black and white photos of various people, whose connection to the place was unexplained. A lot of the seating appears to be reclaimed church pews, which, along with the pub’s layout, make for an awkward seating experience which can be a little unsatisfactory at peak times - it being a real pain for a group of 3-4 to get a decent seat and table after 7pm most evenings. Beware if you sit near the front of the pub – vibrations from passing HGV’s can be quite unnerving at first. It’s also a pretty dim place, despite the huge window at the front (ineffective due to the large tree opposite). The effect is enhanced by deliberately low wattage lighting – I could imagine easily dropping off in here after a few beers. There’s a small paved beer garden to the rear of the pub. The music coming from the vinyl decks is eclectic but unobtrusive and adds to the atmosphere positively. The toilets are...basic.

Overall, if you like your beer or cider, this is an absolute must-visit. The interior leaves a bit to be desired, which may put the less dedicated punter off but I guess there's not a huge amount can be done. I would urge all pub-lovers to give it a go. This is becoming one of my default choices when in the northern part of the tube network for a few pints. Rated 9

On 20th December 2014 - rating: 9
[User has posted 3997 recommendations about 3985 pubs]

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Just a quick pint, then I'm off left this review about The Southampton Arms

Somehow managed to never get here previously, and the squat part-single storey frontage certainly doesn't look much as you approach. However, once you get near to the door you begin to see a compact (and distinctly crowded) rectangular bar with sparse decor. Everybody was there for good reason, of course, with 12 beer handpumps on the bar plus six cider pumps at the back. Beer priced in bands by strengths, with a decent pint of Redemption Urban Dusk coming in at £3.30. Other features include a small patio beer garden out the back, plus the cooked meats advertised on some of the exterior signage. Overall, well worth quite an effort to make a visit.

On 17th March 2013 - rating: 9
[User has posted 6175 recommendations about 6175 pubs]

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john gray left this review about The Southampton Arms

Its great what you can do to a rubbish pub with a bit of thought.I remember this pub of old and adding lots of cask beer and cider has changed it to a must visit.Being long and narrow it can easily become overcrowded but has nice beer garden when the weather is fine.They often have Howling Hops beer from their sister pub.Traditional pub but not traditional if you know what i mean.

On 13th February 2013 - rating: 8
[User has posted 940 recommendations about 927 pubs]

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Aqualung . left this review about The Southampton Arms


I uncovered a 1995 North London beer guide tonight and it says that this pub was owned by Grand Met (aka watneys / Trumans). The pub has a gold Courage cockerel as part of it's external signage which I can only assume was added when it opened up in it's present guise. Courage always had a better image than Watneys so perhaps that was the reason, or more likely the new owner had picked the thing up for next to nothing in a junk shop.

The 1995 guide entry states "No Real Ale, handpump unused". What a difference 15 or so years can make!!

I thought I would blow my £10 Christmas bonus courtesy of HM Government on a visit to two of the pubs that seem to be leading the way in the current London real ale bonanza.

I arrived here on an utterly dismal rainy Friday just before it opened and for the short time I was there, myself and someone who I suspect was a ticker were the only customers.

As has already been noted this pub is a permanent beer and cider festival. The thing that most took me aback was how small the place is. It is long and narrow and if there were 2 or 3 dozen punters I reckon it would seem very busy. The other feature of it is the completely stripped back decor, white tiles behind the bar and very basic wooden benches and tables. It's a bit like being in a time warp coming here, as I thought basic boozers like this were a thing of the past, certainly in London.

My pint of Dark Star Rock Star at £3.60 was in good nick. This was apparently 30p more than the standard price as it's a bit stronger. I could happily have had another one here but wanted to get back to the Overground to make the journey to the sister pub the Cock in Hackney.

On 15th December 2012 - rating: 9
[User has posted 2143 recommendations about 2143 pubs]

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Alesonly . left this review about The Southampton Arms

I managed to get over to this Pub a few days ago for the first time in years to see if it was as good as everyone says. I must say I found it an excellent Pub there was around 12 different Ales on tap of the part where I was and I sampled 5 Pints of different Ales which were all in excellent condition which makes a change for a Pub with so many on tap I wont bother naming them as the Ales continuously change. Only fault I could find is it was extremely packed even for late afternoon but thats what we need to keep Pubs going these days. I will definitely go in here again when passing lets hope I pick a time when its a bit less crowded as its a nice Traditional old style old Pub with all the best I like about a Pub. I would highly recommend a visit.

On 27th April 2012 - rating: 10
[User has posted 132 recommendations about 105 pubs]

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Roger Button left this review about The Southampton Arms

Converting a bog standard and seemingly rough old local’s boozer into a specialised ale and house in an area that is way off the beaten track to many would initially seem a rather foolish idea but from my experiences, it is a venture that proved to be worth the risk. I have managed to fit in sveral visits since the place reopened in its current format and can honestly say that this has probably become my favourite London pub, certainly for beer and ambience.

The outside doesn’t look particularly inspiring, a simple 2 door frontage (the right hand door is now blocked off) with large window, mosaic entrance floor and signage proclaiming Ale, Cider and Meat.

Internally the pub is a single basic room that was once divided into Saloon and Public bars (there are remnants of the saloon bar signage in the glazing above the pub door). It is quite small with the bar to the right hand side, bare floors and furnished largely with benches and pews. There is a secure courtyard at the rear with plenty of cover. Opposite the bar is a small open fire that can pack out a heat in the winter months and behind the bar is a tiled wall that is reminiscent of old butchers shop or fishmongers. Unsuaul Brewery mirrors jostle for wall space among a collection of old Victorian portraits and a battered looking piano stands at the far end (they have piano eveming on Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 8.30pm as well as Sundays from 6pm). There is also a Monday Quiz at 8.30pm. Those looking for entertainment by way of TV’s, games or fruit machines will be in for a disappointment but vinyl junkies will be happy with the diet of old blues, jazz and soul courtesy of a record player behind the bar.

The initial 12 hand pumps have now been expended to 18 with 12 along the bar and a further 6 at the rear of the bar, The selection of ales/perry’s and ciders is about as good as you will find in London with all the ales sourced from microbrewerys - don’t expand any brand name stuff here. Prices are extremely reasonable with all the ales currently £3.20 except the occasional heavyweight which is usually individually priced and noted on the pump clip. A suggestion pad to one side of the bar is self explanatory and if you leave an e-mail address they will let you know if/when your suggestion is available (although it didnm’t work for me on my initial visit).

The customer base is very mixed and civilized and certainly not limited to males or beer tickers with a number of women on my visits sampling their way through the various ales and ciders. The staff and most of the barflies on the stools will soon offer any tips or advice if you are uncertain over product choice and this is one pub where striking up a conversation with a stranger is almost de rigueur.

The Southampton is a shining example that even the most nondescript and run down pub can be transformed into a successful going concern. If only a few others could follow.

On 5th April 2012 - rating: 10
[User has posted 1238 recommendations about 1232 pubs]

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Thuck Phat left this review about The Southampton Arms

I liked this pub very much and it deserves all the accolades it has received but on my visit there were some details which could be easily improved and it didn't seem to be at the top of its game.
The pub itself is a solid Victorian (I'd guess) terraced building with a large front window. Inside it's pleasantly basic with wood floors and seating a mixture of tables, chairs, stools and pews. The walls are adorned with sepia and black and white portraits of characters past. There's an open fire to the left which was lit on the chilly winter night when we visited providing much needed warmth. It gets very crowded around the bar with drinkers on bar stools and those queueing for drinks all vying for space in the narrow corridor area which is the only way through the pub. I'd be tempted to remove the bar stools for the evening session.
Clientele is mixed with the majority enjoying the wide range of ales on offer and cyclists with their bikes are welcomed in the outside courtyard at the back.
The food menu is ideal pub food and consists of a variety of pies, cheeses, sausage rolls and pickles all well presented and very appetizing.
There are twelve handpumps on the front bar with a further six behind the bar serving cider. Beers available on our visit were: Ginger Marble, Dark Star Espresso and Over The Moon, Kent Pale, Brodies Stella, Camden Show Boat, St Peter's Best, Northern Flamingo Embers and two ciders. We went straight for the Ginger Marble having had some of this nectar in Manchester. Sadly, it was hazy and lacking in character and had almost certainly been brought on too early. A couple of the other pump clips had little handwritten notes attached to them saying 'Still Hazy' although there wasn't one on the Ginger. The Kent Pale however was excellent and the Flamingo Embers in good nick.
The Southampton Arms seems as though it's been overwhelmed by its own popularity and is struggling to maintain it's own high standards of beer keeping. Surly service from a clearly very busy barmaid further confirmed this impression. It's a great boozer and one which I'll certainly go back to but wrecking beer as good as Ginger Marble really is a crime.

On 1st December 2011 - rating: 7
[User has posted 670 recommendations about 669 pubs]

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Gill Smith left this review about The Southampton Arms

Loved this pub. Outside it did not look so appealing, but once inside .. WOW .. what a great front bar line up. We walked up from the tube station at Tufnell Park, but the 214 bus stops outside the pub, and it was a shame we were limiting ourselves to 2 beers per pub. We could easily have spent the afternoon here. Quiet so we could chat with the friendly chap behind the bar. We selected Brodies American Brown and Redemption Big Chief, and could easily have gone for beers from Raw, Hopdaemon, Thornbridge, Mighty Oak, Vale, Ramsgate or Summer Wine. The choice of beers was all shades light and dark, and varying strengths too. Fantastic place and I believe it has got its entry in the 2012 Good Beer Guide. One not to be missed when in London for a visit to good real ale pubs.

On 4th September 2011 - rating: 9
[User has posted 1306 recommendations about 1196 pubs]

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Will Larter left this review about The Southampton Arms

The quality and variety of the ales and ciders is unsurpassed, and the beer price is still pegged at (just) below £3, but in the evenings this pub is always incredibly noisy and crowded. There is nearly always a scrum around the bar, not because the service is slow, but because once the seats have been taken there is almost nowhere else to stand or lean where you can put down your glass.

The back yard is a comparative haven of peace, but then there's the cigarette smoke...

There's an eclectic record collection which is played on a pretty basic turntable, but it's almost impossible to ever hear any music because of the multitude of shouted conversations. I can heartily recommend a visit to this pub in the afternoon.

On 25th August 2011 - rating: 7
[User has posted 2643 recommendations about 2492 pubs]

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Malden man left this review about The Southampton Arms

"Ale and Cider House" the pub sign proclaims, and indeed it is with 5 ciders on handpull, a further three in polypins behind the bar, and 7 ales on handpump all from smaller independent brewers. Despite being tempted by the Crouch Vale Amarillo (5%)as I was in the middle of a walk I opted for the lower gravity Redemption Pale Ale, and good it was too. Dimpled pots seem to be the default glass here but it is possible to ask for a straight glass if you have a preference.
Seating, like the surroundings really, is a bit spartan, consisting of long wooden benches or stools, although the bar stools have padded seats. Old photos and pub mirrors, "Lacon's Noted Yarmouth Ales Stout and Porter" being one of note, there were also examples from Bass and Toby. There is a functioning piano towards the rear, and piano night is advertised as Wednesdays. An old edition of the pub sign is on the wall above the piano.
Basic pub snacks such as pork pies, scotch eggs, pork or cheese baps. A clipboard at the end of the bar allows drinkers to suggest an ale.
Music is via an old style turntable record player behind the bar.
4 pint flagons are sold for take outs, the pub is cash only, no cards.
Certainly recommended as an ale pub, but a little bit more comfort would be a welcome improvement. The rear walled garden looked pleasant but there are a few signs about noise and it does say the garden must be empty by 10pm.

On 17th August 2010 - rating: 8
[User has posted 1687 recommendations about 1663 pubs]

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