The name ‘Horniman’ resonates with south Londoners mainly because of the much-loved museum in Forest Hill. In fact Frederick Horniman, who founded the museum, and his father John, were tea merchants in the Victorian era, setting up their business in London at Hays Wharf, near London Bridge. The ‘Horniman at Hays‘ pub is on the site of the original tea warehouse, now forming part of Hays Galleria. We were invited along for the relaunch evening of the pub, having undergone a major refurb.
The pub is warm and welcoming, with a long bar and seating on different levels. It’s been tastefully decorated and has lots of photos in a frieze around the pub showing dockworkers of the past and, interestingly, the construction of Tower Bridge at different stages. We were there from early evening and there was already a lively after-work crowd in the pub, with upbeat music playing in the background.
There’s a wide range of drinks and the pub specialises in real ales – its house beer coming from the St. Austell Brewery in Cornwall, an independent family brewery. Appropriately for a London pub in a historic location, it has a range of speciality gins too. In fact, The Horniman at Hays is part of the Nicholson group of pubs, which has been providing, as their logo says, ‘Ale & Gin Establishments since 1873’. We got chatting to the landlord of the pub and found out that he is a local boy and the third generation of his family in the local pub trade – they obviously know plenty about running a pub then!
On the food side there is plenty of hearty British pub food with prices for most main dishes coming in at between £10-15, while they also do breakfast and afternoon tea. We were treated to a variety of their snack and nibbles menu which went down very well with the St Austell beers or Prosecco we were served.
However, the USP of this pub has to be the riverside terrace, looking out over the ‘Pool of London’ – that stretch of river between Tower and London Bridges, with the bright lights of the City opposite, the HMS Belfast nearby and Tower Bridge in the background. The Horniman at Hays is an excellent modern British pub and a great place to meet up with friends, for after work drinks, or a day time stopover if you’re taking family or friends to see some of the sights.