10 Best Pubs In London - From London's Best Pubs by Peter Haydon
"The modern taste for pubs owned by large chains is spacious minimalism. The Cross Keys is testimony to the fact that the preference of the Londoner is still for Victorian clutter. A permanent amber hue suffuses this foliage covered pub, reflected from the copper and brass artefacts that adorn every available inch of wall and ceiling. Definitely a pub for those happy to completely lose track of the passage of time."
Harden's Bars & Pubs - London"If you think the facade of this foliage-covered Covent Garden fringe pub is ornate, wait till you get inside. The modestly-scaled, intereior houses a cornucopia of ornaments, mirrors, pictures, horse brasses, road signs, brass pots, and even the odd stuffed fish. As if that weren't enough, there's a small collection of Beatles memorabilia, and a napkin signed by Elvis Presley."
Class Magazine - May/June 2009 "Endell Street was built as a relief road and slum clearance in the late 1840s and with it came the Cross key's pub."
"Though small, it has a grand facade with marble columns supporting richly decorated arches and two fat cherubs each holding the keys of Saint Peter, keeper of the gates to Heaven. Hanging baskets and planters brimming with foliage complete its extraordinary exterior.”
"Inside you could pretty much equip the brass section of an orchestra with the instruments hanging from the ceiling. Other hanging brass oddments include and old diver's helmet and old kettles. The collectomaina continues above the bar and around the walls, which are plastered with theatrical, film or music related photos, prints and paintings."
"Apart from the above, the other thing of note in what really isn't that noteworthy a pub is the choice of five-well kept ales. The real attraction is its being a cosy, classic old London boozer with real character."
Time Out - Best West End Pubs (Gabriel Tate)If you only go to one...
In Covent Garden you have to battle your way into pubs, although in the case of this Endell Street fixture, it’ll be through the shrubbery. The Cross Keys is probably London’s most fascinating pub for bric-a-brac. As well as pop curios, there are miniature portraits of PMs, unattributed Victorian oil paintings, diving helmets, stuffed fish, a brass privy... Brian, the owner is an antiques enthusiast who made the most of Bonhams auctioneers being round the corner (it’s now Shellys shoes); his most recent addition is a selection of signed, framed letters by David Beckham.
John Devlin has been landlord for 20 years having first helped Brian out at The Old Coffee House, Beak Street (signed photos of Lloyd Honeyghan a speciality). The Cross Keys pre-dates him by 140years, an early arrival on a street that was built as a philanthropic measure to clear the slums. Since then it has hosted market traders, brickmakers and office workers, but has remained more or less the same under Devlin’s watch. So has the clientele, though Devlin is concerned about how the smoking ban might affect his faithful band of old-timers.
Devlin sees the encroaching chain pubs and style bars as a mixed threat. If they represent competition, they could also drive people seeking a proper drink into the enveloping darkness of this paragon of an old fashioned pub.
Best drink: Harvey’s Sussex Best
When to go: An early weekday lunch
Best seat: In the far corner, facing away from the distracting telly
Best snack: Doorstep sandwich