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White Swan, Covent Garden

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user reviews of The White Swan, Covent Garden

please note - reviews on this site are purely the opinion of site visitors, so don't take them too seriously.

Now a Nicholsons....

An unexpected pint of Orkney Dark Island. Decent too.

Not many in as we got close to the ungodly hour of 10:50.

A typical LDN pub experience that didnt stand out in any way, despite being a GBG entry.

Visit blogged at
Mappiman - 2 Feb 2017 09:18
Listed in the 2016 GBG & I finally got a chance to visit just before Christmas.

The last time I was here the pub was an O'Neils and pretty bog standard it was too. Its now a Nicholson's pub with 7 ales on the 8 hand pumps. Most of the ales were from National brands and can be found almost anywhere, apart from the Christmas offering from Thornbridge which was Wild Holly @ 4.8%.

At 3.30pm on a Thursday afternoon the pub was packed and there was a good atmosphere.

Lots of chatter above the non descript music that was playing, pleasant bar staff, neat decoration and a good location.

Certainly worthy of another visit.
lezford - 25 Dec 2016 08:36
I remember coming here previously when it was an O'Neills. Now it belongs to Nicholson, it has a better range of ales. Yesterday, they had Fullers London Pride, Woodfordes Norfolk Hawker, Artisan Amarillo, Hogsback England's Glory, Thwaites 13 Guns & Nicholsons Pale Ale. Unusually for a Nicholson, they also had Thatchers Heritage cider on handpull. There is a reasonable size downstairs bar, with a dining room upstairs. The toilets are another storey up. Its amazing how many pubs Nicholsons have taken over in central London. But I still quite like their brand.
blue_scrumpy - 6 Jul 2014 16:51
Nicholson's owned pub with very old, characterful interior. Ever changing selection of ales plus the very tasty Outliers Blonde from Aspall's the cider makers on draught. Friendly, knowledgeable staff.
Mothroy - 26 Aug 2013 20:39
As you'd expect from a central London pub, not the cheapest with a beer around £4 a pint. From memory there were a decent range of ales and the pint I had from Orkney was nice.

duchyjim - 10 Feb 2013 21:27
Does anyone know what is happening at O;Neills in New Row ? Walked past today to find it closed, with no notices in the window I feel unsure whether it is having a refurbishment or are they packing up ?
jolo357 - 25 Feb 2012 17:47
Mitchells and Butler have applied for a new license, and intend a re-modelling as a traditional Nicholson's operation, with
extended hours for the playing of recorded music, late night refreshment, and the retail sale of alcohol - as well as opening up the first floor that will be predominantly used for diners - which may account for the need for a new license.

It's quite a few years since indifferent Fullers London Pride used to be available, and back in the early '70s I remember the Mucky Duck as a dark, fairly dire dive ....

As a Nicholson's managed house - one of their 'genuine London historical pubs with living character offering a warm and engaging experience' - we should expect a good range of real ales, wines, and a reasonable range of food.

zorrodp - 30 Jun 2011 23:11
Called in here 'cause we wanted somthing cheap and cheerful to eat. Didn't expect much and didn't get it either. Sandwich was OK but worst chips I've ever had anywhere (and that includes the ones the wife makes). Shall be more choosy in future.
Sidders - 30 May 2010 23:36
You've been to one, you've been to them all. Nothing spectacular, just a standard chained operation in the middle of town.
Greegor_F - 13 Oct 2009 15:10
This is the usual O’Neill’s affair with the trio of Guinness and standard/premium lagers available. I found the barman that served me to be very friendly, although my pint of Guinness was very short. It was pretty relaxed, but I did go in on a week night.

I would agree that this is an above average O’Neill’s, but I’ll probably never visit again as there are better pubs a stones throw away where a full measure is served.
Strongers - 29 Apr 2009 10:13
I like this place. I frequently use it fairly early in the day, at around 1100, as my days in London usually start very early indeed. Unusually, I think it actually opens at 0930 or some strange hour.

The 2 Irish barmen (one is the Landlord I think) are always friendly and welcoming, as are the other bar staff.

Beers are fine, a good selection, and I have always found the food very decent and good value. The latter is available early too.

Plenty of seating, and quiet corners, but can be a bit dimly lit if you're trying to read. Only drawback is a trudge out of the bar and up a large flight of stairs to the WCs.

Convenient for Covent Garden's attractions, if that's your bag, but just far enough away from CG's crowds.
jcraf - 15 Apr 2009 07:22
DickiedeVere you are talking about the O'Neill's in Wardour Street this is a small place and only has live music on a Sunday from 7 to 9pm in fact it's not as good as it used to be hence I've reduced my rating for this pub.
david737 - 17 Dec 2008 16:24
Live rock bands in a central London pub? Amazing. Beers OK, quick service, but hit that 3rd floor on a Friday!
DickiedeVere - 1 Dec 2008 16:38
great when Nick ran the place a few years ago , now an insipid dump , very dirty, rubbish burger. no control over drunken idiots when we were there 6pm on a sat. now one of CG's worst
kiwiphil - 26 Oct 2008 19:46
With the marching on of time and this reviewer’s love of real ale on the growth, it’d only be fair to admit that plastic ‘Irish-themed’ bars have hardly been in contention when weighing up any pub to visit in a given area. So, baring that in mind, I was surprised with myself for so readily and willingly popping my head in here, Covent Gardens very own member of the O’ Neill’s chain. The feel within was a little more relaxed and civil than what – often to my misfortune – I have encountered in the town centre branches. Indeed, it was also smaller than many others ventured to and towards the back of the pub, was surprised to encounter a somewhat more, cosy hostility than anticipated. Dimly-lit, padded seating, Irish knickknacks and assorted trinkets, and a noise never heard in a themed Irish bar in central London before – traditional Irish music. Okay, so the Manic Street Preachers and Beatles were soon vying for attention, yet still, it’s all good to my ears. The staff were, actually, polite and attentive enough and was also pleased with the reasonable prices. I chose not to eat, preferring a refreshing Guinness Red, though my lady friend thought the food served up was quite edible. Saturday (August 2) was a tiring day and was thankful, though be it, surprised, that such an establishment catered for the days end so perfectly.
HTM69 - 4 Aug 2008 11:11
Lovely spot, nice staff, good vibe. Even though it is an O'Neills, it doesn't really feel like a chain pub. Near enough to Covent Garden but a bit away from all the rush.
stuartw - 17 Jul 2008 10:09
It’s an O’Neill’s isn’t? Pleasant enough interior, with a thankfully small amount of plastic Irish guff nailed to the walls.
I only went in to sample a pint of Guinness Red (See annoying ad at the top of the page) which I have to say was ok, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to drink again.
The pleasant barman was actually Irish, which is novel!

mrse1 - 18 Apr 2008 14:14
Pleasant place with friendly punters at the bar. But it is still a chain pub.
Mr.Matt - 10 Apr 2008 02:49
O'Neills are usually about as convincingly Irish as my uncle Michael (and I don't have an uncle Michael), but this one seemed a bit better than others I've tried. On the other hand, my judgement may have been swayed by the fact that I got a swift pint of Guinness Red free of charge thanks to the coupon in the Metro newspaper. I may even have heard an Irish accent in there somewhere...
rpadam - 13 Mar 2008 21:04
I have worked in this Pub from september 2003 to march 2005. It's true that Dave was my manager back then. A very friendly guy, who I didn't hear from since this time. Does anyone knows where he and Mandy are now?
Thank you for the comments saying since I and Dave left the pub started to decline. It's a shame though...
Then I've worked in the Criterion restaurant (picadilly), and found a proper office job.
I am now back in France (Lyon), but I will never regret my old days spent in this pub, I really had fun there, it was a great time and if anyone recognize me, the browned hair french girl, you can contact me!
Cheers and have a good Craic!
Leilathebarmaid - 16 May 2007 08:15
Along with KiwiPhil, I would like to ask where have all the good bar staff gone? Used to drink in here regularly a few years ago and popped back in last night, wish I hadn't of bothered.

The Barmaid shortchanged me for a £20 note (Gave me change for a £10 note) and then got very abusive when I challenged her. She then proceeded to serve around me next time I had the audacity to order another drink.

Won't be rushing back.

DickieC - 30 Mar 2007 09:46
Sunday (evenings) a good time to go. Live music, inexplicably the far superior band's on earlier than the other one. Even more inexplicably the place is full of Irish folk. Beer's in good nick. Young staff are shy but polite. But like someone said, "all chains are evil."
theStickler - 15 Feb 2007 01:12
A nice little place,a decent pint and slightly out of the way of the main road.ok for a quiet drink.
DirtyPanda - 10 Feb 2007 20:14
Don't go here if you are foreign, expecially Asian. WE went last week and the manager was checking passports for anyone who wasn't British. Everyone in our group was obviously over 18. He wouldn't even accept German ID cards. I can come to Britain with an ID card but I can't drink a beer in O'Neills with it. The manager was coming out with all sorts of explanations/laws which my British friend said was rubbish. Not a friendly atmosphere.
ponta - 2 Feb 2007 15:18
I only visit this pub on a Sunday evening when they have live Irish music usually from 6pm but this has been a bit erratic these last few month's I would'nt bother any other night it's usually too packed. It's definitely not as good since Dave Lenihan and barmaid Leila have left although I find that the present staff are quite pleasent & friendly.
david737 - 4 Jan 2007 18:36
OMG , what has happened to this nice little pub , where have all the good staff gone? , where is the sky sports? ok , i know its a chain pub and was never the best pub in town , but we enjoyed coming here when we worked around the corner. anyone know where dave has gone? I asked the new manager ( boy in mans shoes???) he was about as help as a roll of sandpaper in an outhouse. It was nice to see Anna still there so our drinks wernt total cocked up. wont be back in a hurry!!!
kiwiphil - 6 Sep 2006 17:02
It's was sad to see Dave go, however the pub really started to decline once Leila the French barmaid left eighteen months ago. Surely the best looking barmaid in london.
anonymous - 7 Aug 2006 13:02
I don't mean to be rude amra, but this isn't, never has been and never will be one of the best pubs in Covent Garden. Try going somewhere that isn't a chain with your work colleagues! Chains are evil.
anonymous - 5 Apr 2006 14:15
Our company (Amra) have regulary used this pub for corporate entertaining as well as staff drinks every week day for the last 3 years. The previous landlord (Dave Lenihan) was the best we have known, fantastic hospitality & always a warm welcome - hence our repeat business.
We have recently encountered the new manager and have to say that we are currently looking for an alternative venue - the only thing keeping us there at present are a couple of the bar staff - Raquel & Carlos - they are always friendly, pleasant & efficient. All of our staff have commented that the new landlord/manager appears aggresive & has been unwelcoming & rude. Im sure if ONeils were to check with the previous manager they would find that our employees have been a mainstay of weekday trade for some time.
Amazing how the atmosphere can change so quickly - Im sure we are not alone in our thoughts.
Used to be one of the best pubs in Covent Garden - is now on a rapid decline - very sad indeed.
amra - 5 Apr 2006 14:01
Wouldn't have gone there if I wasn't meeting friends. "Good by O'Neill's standards" sums it up. No proper beer available only Irish Keg shite served by rude staff. Crap chain, crap pubs. Crap.
BothamsAshes - 8 Feb 2006 17:00
Only had a brief stay in this pub as I was forced to leave. Me and my girlfriend sat at a table and looked at the food menu. Suddenly a over-energetic Aussie girl in her early 20's appeared and asked if she could get us any drinks. I asked for a pint of guinness and she asked me for ID. I only had a NUS card but as I'm 24 don't really feel I need ID. My girlfriend brought her ID which showed she is 25. I then suggested to the barmaid that would a female in her mid-20's date a 17 yr old boy!!! She said you never know and that I should try some less strict pubs in the area!!!! I acknowledge that I don't look 24 but I have been asked for ID just 3 times since turning 18 in 1999. The barmaid was so rude and very naive, so be aware of this before you enter the pub!!!!
manchesterjon - 23 Jan 2006 11:29
Personal favourite pub. Great atmosphere, great barstaff (especially if you're a regular, and there are many). Great Music. Best pub in London, I'd recommend it to anyone.
RiffRaff - 10 Jan 2006 13:28
Look at the review by kiwiphil as he is right. Far better pubs in the area if you are prepared to look around.
Knocker - 24 May 2005 17:20
total crap , why do pubcos insist on employing eastern european girls with no english?
this being a classic mitchells and bulters site , the one or two competant staff must be sick of it.
the worst guinness poured on st pats day this year
kiwiphil - 30 Mar 2005 21:31
good by O'Neills standards
moclips2002 - 19 Feb 2005 14:38
As O'neills pubs go bar, not bad.
TheGP - 10 Aug 2004 15:47
This used to be the most amazing pub ever, about two years ago though things changed a bit. The bar staff does no longer select music wich means no more requests. The bar staff was also almost entirely aussies, kiwis, irish and british, that was excellent!!!!! But still, beer is fantastic (Caffrey's!) and Dave (irish guy) is still there and there is also a short ABBA-medley left on the CD playing! We are so so so so happy we found this pub four!!!! years ago. Have been going there ever since, as often as we can afford the plane tickets!!! We have had the best of times in this place, thank you!
therese - 19 Oct 2003 20:30
absolutly brilllant!! i had a great time, open all night and they even let us dance on the bar!
the staff are very friendly aswell
I.m definitly going back again!

jackie mcdonnell - 16 Sep 2003 13:44
This pub is now open all night (until 6 in the morning) but no admittance after about 10:45. It's so refreshing not to be shouted at!! It will stay open until 6 a.m. unless all customers leave before then. Normal pub prices, drinking all night, get tube next morning, who cares if it's a "plastic paddy dump"? And furthermore, no loud DJ nonsense.
Tristán - 21 Jul 2003 11:04
I actually thought the Guinness here was shite. Food was good though. Unfortunately it's just another typical fake diddly diddly pub.
Angus - 24 Mar 2003 18:21
How does this pub rate in the top 10? Its the same as all the others. As Irish as Jack Charlton. As for it having the best Guiness - its all the same! You can't cock up keg beer.
anonymous - 24 Jan 2003 16:21
Great atmosphere, a little on the small side - but quite possibly the best extra cold Guinness in London! If it's too busy inside, have a beer outside. They've got table service, so you should never need to leave your table/chair/leaning against the wall! ;)
Scott - 27 Jun 2002 09:00

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