Historical version 21 of 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; on a Wednesday lunchtime in May 2009 it was practically empty at 1pm and even after work on weekdays there have usually been plenty of tables available, 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.
It has four handpulls, with London Pride (£3.48/pint as of June 2010) and Bombardier appearing to be regulars. They also have Budvar and Leffe (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, though the line-up on our later visits has been more mainstream (Greene King IPA and Abbot Ale in February 2009, Young's London Gold and Doom Bar in June 2010). There's also a rather odd mulled wine dispenser at one end of the bar. A pint of lime and soda was £1.63 in June 2010.
Food is served until 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 board of daily specials as well. 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.
Although Ewan noted on a November 2009 visit that they appeared to have removed all their screens and were no longer showing sport, on Kake's June 2010 visit the screens had reappeared and they were showing football matches (this may have only been for the duration of the World Cup, though — in July 2010 the place appeared to be TV-free).
Accessibility: One step up to get in. Ladies' toilets are upstairs, and gents downstairs, with fairly narrow staircases.