Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of the few pubs in London that can justify the 'Ye Olde' in its name. It was well known in the 17th century and many pubs have previously occupied this site, one of them, the Horn Tavern is recorded in 1538. The earliest incarnation was a guest house belonging to a 13th century Carmelite Monastery, the pub's vaulted cellars are thought to belong to that building. The pub was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666 and rebuilt the following year.
Approached through a narrow alleyway (Wine Office Court) the Cheese beckons you into a bygone world. By the entrance a board lists the reigns of the 15 monarchs through which this grand old pub has survived. The dark wooden interior is an enchanting warren of narrow corridors and staircases, leading to numerous bars and dining rooms. There are so many, even regulars get confused.
On the ground floor are two rooms. The smaller is a very dark panelled bar with a large open fireplace and high mantle, above which is a portrait of William Simpson. He started as a waiter here in 1829 and his portrait has been passed down to successive landlords.
The Chop Room across the corridor is usually reserved for diners. Here high backed settles have been arranged back to back to create small booths. A portrait of one of the Cheese's most famous patrons, Dr. Samuel Johnson (his house is around the corner) hangs on a far wall, and his chair set upon a shelf. A copy of Johnson's dictionary should be nearby. Another painting of Johnson and his biographer, Boswell, was found in a cellar relatively recently and restored.
In the main stairwell increasingly narrow steps lead up to a couple of atmospheric dining rooms and to private quarters. Unfortunately these rooms are often closed, which is a shame as they give a feel to the rambling nature of this wonderful old building.
Negotiating the narrow and awkward steps down to the cellar bars is rewarded with the discovery of the vaults, a fascinating series of tiny, honey coloured stone rooms. These vaults were part of the original guest house's chapel. The steps continue into the cellar proper, where a further bar and dining area can be found.
Volumes of visitors books were kept and signatories include Ambassadors, Prime Ministers and Royalty. Unfortunately these records began after the likes of Dr. Johnson, James Boswell, Voltaire, Thackeray and of course Charles Dickens (originally a Fleet St. journalist) drank here. One famous resident was a parrot whose mimicry entertained customers for 40 years, its death was announced on the BBC and obituaries appeared in newspapers all over the world.
Each generation that passes through the Cheese adds to its rich history. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese -
Three of us had a meal in your Chop room yesterday afternoon, after The Lord Mayor's show. what a delight and served by your wonderful Michael who must be a great asset to your business.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesejohnmveale,
The food isn't great - typical pub grub at best - but you don't come here for the food; you come here for the wonderful atmosphere and the friendly service. It feels like I discover another little room or hidden nook & cranny every time I come here! It's one of my favorite places to go in London when I'm looking to have a pint.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesesurista,
Regard for the customer does not seem much in evidence. When I ordered apple crumble I was given a choice of custard or ice cream. When I requested cream, I was told this was only available in the restaurant, as opposed to the bar. It would have cost them no trouble whatsoever to meet my pretty basic request, and as a result I shall be avoiding it wherever possible.
Ye Olde Cheshire CheeseAndrewR,
I found the Cheese in 1970 and have gone back many times over the years. My favourite room is the bar on the right as you enter. Love the coal fireplace on a raw winter's night. I ate in the Chop Room for the first time on my last visit. I enjoyed the sausages and mash and the service was excellent. You can't visit too often!
Ye Olde Cheshire CheeseRobertKB,
Visited a couple years ago. Just sitting there was experience enough. Many a century of who knows has preceded our group down those wooden steps. Great old setting. Great soup and beer. Don't miss this pub.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesebk1952,
The pub was amazing but food awful! I had the roast beef which was a big mistake, there was plenty of fatty meat, no vegetables, only 3 undercooked roast potatoes and a burnt yorkshire pudding and to add to all that it was just warm! My friend was better with the sausages and mash but in all not worth the money.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesevenice2212,
a real good" oldish" atmosphere...
Ye Olde Cheshire CheeseCLINTON92,
This pub is a "must see" when you visit London!
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheeseklipdriftdrinker,
As I open the door and passed threw the doorway I was very surprised to feel like I steped back in time. My friends had told me of this wonderful pub, but until you experence it for yourself you will never know the feeling of history. You feel the spirits of all the famous people like Charles Dickens. It is truely a pub I intend on visiting again. I enjoyed a wonderful pint of cider and very traditional English food. It is a musy visit on your London vacation.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesejfrbrown,
I have enjoyed the Cheese for 40 years. I like taking people there who are new to London. I usually eat---and the food, which used to be magnificent, has gone downhill. Nevertheless, It is still a wonderful experience. You might notice that at the "booths" in the dining room, the tables are worn down---like old stone staircases, by the many arms that have rested upon them.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese42inBlue,
This is the most unique pub I've ever seen! I visited this pub with my class while on a study abroad trip. The atmosphere of the walk down the stairs to the pub level blew me away, and I would describe it as a must-visit to anyone traveling to London.
Ye Olde Cheshire CheeseNeptune,
I visited here on the 24th of October (Monday) and I was very happy with the service despite the busyness of the pub! the lager was great and very cheap for London prices. It is a very dark pub with a busy atmosphere. 9 / 10 (would be a 10 out of 10 for me if there were more places to sit down.)
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesepubattendee,
I ate here on Saturday 1st October and found the food to be excellent, the prices good, for London, the service very friendly and efficient. I just have one small suggestion; food served on hot plates would be beneficial but that said, all in all, a very pleasant visit.
Ye Olde Cheshire CheeseMrfood,
Great atmosphere but very, very disappointing food. We come here every so often but have now completely given up on the food which is a real shame.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheeseorangeblossom123,
This pub has been my favourite since 1968. Every time I pop round I sign the guestbook (my signatures span two centuries!) I have never stopped loving this place with its small cozy rooms and stair ways it seems to have an infinite variety of moods. One, two (or three) Sam Smith Bitters can complete your day. I also like to visit Samuel Johnston house just a few steps up the alley.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheeserlepine,
Well now? Yes it does have a lovely feel to the place. History .. Dickens Samual Johnston. I visited with 8 other real ale enthusiasts. The Sam Smiths was utter crap. More attention to keeping ale is required to get me back into the place. Brewery reps start doing your job and improve this hidden gem of a palce.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheeseoldduffer,
As a teacher of English as a foreign language I bring students to this pub to experience an authentic traditional pub.One of my students made the mistake of bringing in food which was purchased outside.The mangers reaction was to immediately ban all of us from the pub.I have been coming here for 7 years and have never experienced a problem.However, under this current management i shall never come again. A ridiculous overreaction.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesetomjobim,
My boyfriend and I were quite taken by the place and enjoyed exploring the different rooms with pint in hand :)
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheeseemilykelly,
Go to this pub, and it's like walking into a Charles Dickins novel. The place just oozes a dark unspoilt character. The sawdust on the floors may be unneccesary, but it's still a nice touch. The bars are small and were very busy when we were in. However this gives a good excuse to engage complete strangers in conversation. Which is surely why we go to pubs anyway. The Sam Smith Bitter was very good. Although it would be good to see such a truly great pub expand their range of real Ales.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesecgefouting,
Worst Sunday Roast of my life. We ordered Roast Beef costing over £11 without vegetables and got gristle and chewy meat, which was rare and slimy. The potatoes were from the freezer, poor given the price. When I complained about the meat they said that that was how they served it and no one else had complained about the gristle! I only wanted to pay half but they refused; I could have a free pudding which I didnít want. We had a free drink instead but still spent £30 for an awful meal. I felt ripped off, angry and upset.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesesharon.merritt,
This is a MUST for every pub enthusiast!!
Dark wooden panels, small windows, lack of daylight, it is like entering another world.
I went in for a pint and a light meal and I'll highly recommend to pay a visit to the small bar/room situated at your right after entering. It is said to be the oldest,most untouched part of the pub.
All in all a great experience; Charming atmosphere, friendly staff, good food and a nice selection of good quality beer (Samuel Smith).
Ye Olde Cheshire CheeseAndersen28,
A wonderful place, and dare I say the highlight of my visit to that part of London. Good pub grub and brew, fantastic ambience, secretive location. They do levy a surcharge on credit cards, 1%, but it's worth it in spades. Don't miss Polly, the parrot who lived at the pub from 1884-1926 and is now stuffed in the tap room!
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesevadocdoc,
hi all i just want to let you know this was like walking into the set of harry potter film set. This is the first pub i have ever been in that my 1st thought was lets look around rather than get a drink it is a treasure that needs to be proteced i am back in london on 29th may and i will be popping in for a look and a drink or two see you soon tina xxxxxxxxx
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesetinasims,
Visited on our pub tour of local inns, great atmosphere and intriguing little rooms.The cellar bar was particularly intersting.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheesecovman45,
Once turfed from the comforts of the tourist boat at Tower, we wended our way down Fleet Street. Grey was the sky and freezing the precipitation that beat down upon our brows. We turned into an eerie alley, to the dark and mysterious hostelry. Upon opening the door, a strong smell of burning wood tinged the air, heavy with the ghosts of London's past. An amazing atmosphere-I actually shivered- and an incredible treasure for Londoners and tourists alike.