Imperial, WC2H 7BL
- 020 7437 6573
- 5 Leicester Street, WC2H 7BL
- 11am-11:30pm Mon-Sat; noon-11:30pm Sun
Tucked just off Leicester Square, this is a fairly pleasant and not too busy pub, which is a vast improvement on the nearby chain bars. It is badged as Taylor Walker, the slightly upmarket city centre brand of Punch Taverns.
Despite its location, it doesn't get quite as many tourists and revellers as you'd expect. Even after work on weekdays there's usually been at least one table available on our several visits, and turnover is fairly quick.
The lighting is often kept quite dim (just on the edge of being able to read a book on Kake's June 2010 evening visit, though it was somewhat brighter on another visit a month later), and they play background music (on both these visits, not quite too loud to allow conversation).
There's banquette seating in a booth area opposite the bar with several large tables, as well as lots of smaller tables towards the rear of the pub. There is a big cafe style awning at the front with halogen heaters for the smokers. On our June 2015 visit there was over-aggressive air conditioning, with several customers commenting on how cold they felt in their summer clothes.
It has four handpulls, with London Pride (£3.48/pint as of June 2010) appearing to be a regular. They also have Peroni and Staropramen (and the other usual lagers), on tap. On a visit in 2007, the guest ale was Everard's Sundancer which is a very pleasant light coloured summer ale; they've also featured Elgood's Cambridge Bitter (March 2008) and Butcombe Bitter (November 2008, £3.25/pint), among many others. The lineup in September 2013 was London Pride, Black Sheep Bitter, and St Austell Tribute, with the fourth handpump dedicated to Old Rosie cider. A pint of lime and soda was £1.47 in September 2013 and a surprisingly cheaper £1.10 in June 2015 (and in April 2016).
As of September 2013, food is served 11am-10pm daily. The pub menu is fairly standard fare, identical to other Punch pubs in this brand (burgers, sausages and mash, nachos, sandwiches, etc.), though they have a small sheet of daily specials as well photo as of September 2013. Burgers are somewhat unadorned, served with a small numbers of chips, and a little disappointing. The pies, though, were excellently presented and looked to be very tasty. On a November 2009 visit, Ewan tried the vegetarian 'fish' and chips (£7.50, recently added to the menu) photo, which was fairly unpleasant, three large chunks of halloumi, battered and deep-fried — the halloumi didn't have much taste and wasn't squeaky, and with the addition of the frying, was just far too much to eat comfortably. The chips and mushy peas on the side weren't much better quality, but offered a little variety.
They have a couple of flatscreens mounted discreetly on the walls, though on all our visits here we've only ever seen these in use once, during the 2010 World Cup.
As of April 2016 they have free wireless via The Cloud.
Kake's verdict: This is my default pub in the area. It's nothing special in a London-wide context, but it has real ale and I know I'm likely to get a seat.
Accessibility: One step up to get in. Ladies' toilets are on the first floor, and gents' in the basement, with fairly narrow staircases.