skip nav  

Kings Head and Dive Bar, Chinatown

back to pub details

user reviews of the Kings Head and Dive Bar, Chinatown

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

When I met my partner, Bob, in 1972, he was working part-time (evenings) in the Dive Bar. I got a job upstairs for 2 or 3 evenings a week. May and George were great. I remember them going out one night, all dressed up in evening dress and furs (May) for a boxing match in the East End. They were from Aldgate, originally.

The Dive Bar was gay, or most of the staff were. Paul, Bryan, John from Enfield and Ron. Tony and Sue, Vera and Andy were regular customers. It was not always very busy down there! The staff all drank CC & Coke.

Upstairs could be quiet too. Regulars there were Rose & Marie (the latter over 70 and still "on the game"), Chinese dealers and bent coppers. Highlight of the night was when the dance troupe and their dresser came in from the Talk of the Town on their "tea break".

Alan Lake used to come in looking for Diana (Dors).

Oh, happy days!

We now live in Spain but have fond memories of our 4 years at the Kings Head. We still use the egg spoons from a breakfast set May gave us when we got together.
johnash - 17 Oct 2010 19:06
Thought I would add a post in 2010 to keep it alive. I used to work there late 80's for about 3 years I reckon, upstairs one night with the super Michael (now in his own pub The Blue Posts in Rupert Street) & more often than not downstairs with fab Tel, some super nights there, enjoyed it so much. Hi to all those who read this with fond memories ( although not of the toilets!). Maybe see you in The Blue Posts one day. adam
Adam1964 - 14 Mar 2010 18:28
I was visiting london for work last week and was shocked to see it had been replaced by another restaurant. I worked there for a couple of years back in the early nighties.. the place was a special place, George and Mae were a wonderful couple - its sad to here he's passed away - i'll always remember him coming down stairs to the upstairs bar and spending ten minutes winding up the morning club (local gentlemans club manager, his head barman, a local classy prostitute and believe it or not occasionally the milk man) once they'd bitten he'd dissapear back upstairs hahaha.

Its also very sad to hear Terry has died - he was such a gentle loving person with a great sense of humour - without him the dive bar wouldnt have been the same - the same goes for Micheal who was managing the upstairs bar at the time - ill be sure to pass by your new place on my next visit :)

the first time i wondered into the dive bar i didnt know what was hidden behind the old doors downstairs - as soon as i opened them there just a thong of people and fantastic music...i liked it so much i went back a week later and enquired about a job - no luck - then two weeks later they called me and it was some of the best working years of my life - thanks to all of the people who worked there and the regulars who made the place so unique

Mike if you read this its mike m who moved to edinburgh - i've now been in amsterdam for the last 8 years drop me a mail
dharmasoul - 19 Nov 2007 16:43
Although not actually demolished. Only the facade remains. The entire building was gutted inside. The stairs down to the Dive are now an Air Conditioning outlet. Very Sad. (rating for when still open.)
JohnnyCrow - 10 May 2007 16:54
Sorry to see the guvnor died. I worked in the upstairs bar for a short while when I was 21. It was a great place. I'm 45 now living in Malta. The reason I thought of here just now was because I used to pinch a small pork pie off the bar and have some Coleman's mustard with it. I am tucking in to one as I write. RIP George. Lovely fella. Somebody once told me in the bar he was a jockey when he was younger. Anyone know?
WhyLose - 3 May 2007 11:33
Having worked at the Kings Head for 2 years before it closed (it has NOT been demolished, it is now a chinese reatraunt)and living in the area, I can say it is a shame that such a piece of history could have been destroyed. HOWEVER, a majority of the regulars and most of the staff are now at the Blue Posts on Rupert Street. We've been there for almost 3 years now and, even though it will never be the Dive Bar,it does retain a certain spirit of quirkyness and community.
Regarding the interior, if you are asking about the panelling in the upstairs bar, i believe it got thrown away when shafesbury estates (the ones who refused to renew the lease, hence its closure after 55 years in the same hands)charged in there and gutted the place.
A real shame, especially haveing worked there. But come to the Blus Posts and see what you think.
DirtyPanda - 10 Feb 2007 21:36
I went past the former Kings Head, Dive Bar two weeks ago I had heard it had shut but to see it closed was so sad.....the times we all had with Terry (bless him) and the rest of the staff they were all friends. A large group of us west end boys (and girls) mostly gay first went there in the late 80's when we got barred a pub in St Martins Lane for calling a clone barmen 'Magnum' we said if you don't want our money we'll spend it else where - and we did, for years and years in the Dive Bar what fun, outrageous evenings, camp parties fondly remembered sadly missed
binaroundtheblockabit - 24 May 2006 15:38
Anybody know what happened to the old interior?
Albert_Campion - 10 Mar 2006 13:59
Okay look, I feel guilty about withholding the name of the 'secret' bar, especially as anyone still visiting this page is obviously alright as they're a die-hard Dive Bar devotee (we should get over it and get lives...).

It's the New Evaristo Club at 57 Greek Street. There's no sign outside, just an anonymous doorway and some dingy carpeted stairs leading down to the basement. There you'll find a tiny bar that looks like a throwback to illicit 1950s Soho, with the atmosphere of a prohibition-era speakeasy.

Visit during the day and you'll most likely find mafioso-style old men sitting around and playing cards on big baize-covered tables. On Friday and Saturday nights there's generally music, though the schedule is pretty inconsistent. Recently Saturdays have generally been laid-back jazz. Best night i had was a Friday, when there was a four-piece, bluesy, rockabilly band on with the most extraordinary, tiny frontwoman, who jumped up on tables with her guitar, and the whole tiny place was rammed, sweaty and jumping - and utterly free of attitude, clique or aggression.

Just as with the lamented Dive Bar, no one will ever just stumble on this place off the street, so everyone is there because they have been shown it by a mate, so you have that old Dive Bar feeling of owning a little piece of it. If that sounds elitist, well hell, that's what made Dive Bar great.

This place won't be for everyone, but it certainly helped with my withdrawal symptoms. Just don't go blabbing to everyone about it, because it's already a fire hazard with the number of oddballs swigging whisky in its single, shoebox-sized room.
gmcg - 10 Feb 2006 14:55
A bit of 'real' London died when this place closed. A crying shame.
Albert_Campion - 9 Jan 2006 11:30
Pub now demolished.
JohnnyCrow - 13 Dec 2005 13:35
Sorry, just wanted to post again. I just noticed in one of the posts that Terry died. What incredibly sad news. I used to work at the Dive Bar with him. May he rest in peace, he was truly an amazing and gentle person to work with. Lots of Love and Light. Mo Abersheid.
LAmo - 21 Sep 2005 06:24
Hi there - I used to work at The Dive Bar back in the early 90s. I remember Mae and George very well. Extremely kind people. I moved to Los Angeles since then. Can anyone update me as to the status of the bar when it closed? Haven't been to London or Soho for that matter for about ten years. Are there any bars that resemble the dive bar still around? Thanks very much and take care. Mo Abersheid.
LAmo - 21 Sep 2005 06:22
Hi there I used to work in this pub. Sad to hear about George and Terry, very sad. (RIP) I saw Mike has a bar called the Blue Post, does anyone know where this is for sure. There are a few Blue Posts and I would like to find the right one.

Pint4Lacey - 8 Aug 2005 15:20
If you didn't get round to visiting.. you missed out.
It was the sort pub that is fast disappearing. Spainboy is right in saying that, the Dive never really recovered from the death of Terry.
He was the Dive Bar.
The final drink was rammed & the bar drunk dry. Down in the Dive it was very sad to think it was all over.

TuftUno - 4 Jul 2005 13:47
Is Michael, the barman from the Kings still working in the area?
BWW - 9 Jun 2005 16:24
Mae decided to sell the Kings last year following the death of her husband George (he was in his eighties). So god rest George and, of course, god rest Terry - the Dive was never quite the same following his untimely death four years ago. And Steve's right, you must go visit Michael and R in the Blue Posts - they've got a great little pub there. As for the crossword clue (sorry about this G), it's the New Evaristo on Greek Street - can't comment further as I've not been. Has anyone been to the Arts Club since they moved the bar, painted everything magnolia and allowed the old carpet to walk out of its own accord? Please tell me they haven't wrecked that place too? (so far I've only seen photos)
Spainboy - 25 Apr 2005 20:24
Yeah what did happen to the Dive Bar? It is sadly missed. Any one know what this secret is (Posted on 19 Jul 2004 by g) All i can make out is that it is on either Goodge/Gower St? Another place worthy of your attention is the Phoenix Club on Charing Cross Road. It's a private members club but it's cheap to join and it has late closing most nights. Also check out the Toucan Club which is located on that curved street that runs between Tott Ct Rd & Oxford Street.
No membership is required and its like going round someones front room for a drink.
ganger - 12 Mar 2005 13:05
The Blue Posts on Rupert Street just round the corner has been taken over by the Dive Bar folk. You'll even find the same staff working behind the counter! They've also done a bit of redecorating.

It will never be the Dive Bar but it's got a pretty decent upstairs room.
Steve - 15 Sep 2004 12:07
could someone tell me why it shut, did the owners sell up, i used to go for many years and really got to know the landlady Mae well. Having not been in london for 2yrs i've only been going on rare occassions now, and so last time in london i was gutted to find it shut.
can anyone fill me in why? thanks
Sarah - 16 Aug 2004 13:57
Yes shame this lovely gem was closed.It truly was atmospheric downstairs and chilled out,why is it all these nice pubs and bars have to disappear and be replaced either by flats or some crap gastropub affair?
Nick Hamer - 23 Jul 2004 18:44
Have found a worthy successor to Dive Bar (RIP). But I can't tell you, as it's a secret. Clue: It's the _ e w E_ _ r i _ t _ C _ u _ . It's on G _ _ _ _ Street. Good luck; maybe see you there.
G - 19 Jul 2004 11:56
Sadly missed. Another victory for property developers.
Darryl - 26 Apr 2004 12:21
What a great send off that was!
Thanks to everyone there for being part of one of the friendliest nights in London I've ever been to...
How sad that it's now gone.
Naomi - 8 Mar 2004 16:47
yeah we'll be there on sat to wave godbye - to a fine unusual london place.
It's the only place I've been to in london which actaully still looks likeit must have done about 20 / 30 years ago. Being underground makes it darker and more atmospheric especailly when Earl Gateshead - the Fine DJ is on the Decks ... blasting out some fine old records.
vicc - 5 Mar 2004 14:06
Can't make Saturday but the DJ playing fantastic dub reggae is there again next week and says he has a crowd going down.

I've been there every week since I heard the news and am having my goodbye drinks on Friday.

Have to find somewhere else with an ounze of character in town now - not got high hopes though.
Dave - 4 Mar 2004 11:49
I'm trying to get some people together for some goodbye drinks on Saturday - anyone here up for it?
Naomi - 3 Mar 2004 11:57
I was talking to the little old dear who works there on a Saturday night (might not just be a Saturday but I don't really go there any other time) and she seemed to suggest that it was all signed and seeled. What are we gonna do, petition number 10? It's over, face it. Such a tragedy.
James - 11 Feb 2004 13:55
It's one of the few good bars in central London and a crime it's shutting. Is the decision final or is there anything anyone can do to help? Libertines and Ed Harcourt were in there last night alone and I'm sure Evening Standard would be interested if a couple of minor celebs came out in support.Any ideas?
Matt - 11 Feb 2004 12:29
This is indeed very bad news. Is it absolutely confirmed that the Dive Bar will be affected? This is terrible. Hope it doesn't become a Starbucks or something. I am crestfallen beyond myself.
Steve B - 11 Feb 2004 11:07
This really is very bad news. The Dive Bar is/was one of the best places to drink in London. SOHO will be a poorer place after it has gone. I'm just really sorry that I can't get to London before it goes.
Steve Cox-Ranger - 11 Feb 2004 09:41
Totally agree, a real shame this is closing down. Since the old Spice of Life was re-fitted and ruined this is has been one of the great Soho haunts for all sorts of people over the last twenty years. I wish I was still in London to pop in for last orders!
Steve - 11 Feb 2004 09:23
devastated this is going. one of the last bits of old soho. is there a petition to stop it closing? surely the standard/timeout/metro should campaign. i'd even chain myself to the skanky loo! also, is it true they're going to do the same with the new piccadilly caff?
sarah - 10 Feb 2004 10:56
Just to confirm also been told - by a barmaid - that March 6th is the last day. She didn't know what it would become - she suggested a strip club, but I reckon a restaurant is more likely. Do any Dive Bar devotees have recommendations for similar, well-kept secrets that we can decamp to once Dive Bar breathes its last?
G - 9 Feb 2004 15:36
The King's Head closes on March 6, it is to be turned into a restaurant, just what Chniatown needs - another restaurant
Chris Balfe - 5 Feb 2004 14:49
That is the single worst piece of news I've had in a year. It feels like a death in the family. What soulless chain is taking it over? Oh god, I feel sick...
G - 2 Feb 2004 16:47
I think the last day is 21st February. I'm not going to be in London then, but I'll be in there a lot between now and then!
Naomi x - 27 Jan 2004 14:11
When is the actual close date?

First the Clinic. Now the Dive.

Dave - 27 Jan 2004 12:13
Does that mean the Dive Bar is going too? This can't be!
thenationofjames - 27 Jan 2004 10:10
The King's Head is closing! It's been muscled out by the big businesses taking over Chinatown.

This was my favourite pub in central London - go and check it out now, you only have three weeks!

Boycott the chains, because if you don't soon there won't be any pubs left.
x - 27 Jan 2004 08:58
I've been going here for years and never realised it's gay lineage until very recently!

This is one of my favourite drinking holes anywhere and totally agree with G. I was shown this place by a friend and have passed it on to (selected) other friends since.

Have never drank upstairs. Hope this place never changes (doesn't look as if it's ever changed) but would welcome a late licence.

A treat but best keep it quiet.
Steve B - 26 Jan 2004 17:27
Stop talking about Dive Bar now! The joy of it is that people never just stumble in there and discover it by accident, because the entrance looks like it might be the dank cellar of the King's Head. Everyone who goes there feels some sense of ownership because they've been shown it by a friend, so there is a nice atmosphere of friendly conspiracy. Yes, I'm elitist and exclusive and proud of it.
G - 17 Dec 2003 11:02
Actually, I really like the upstairs pub. It has dark yellow lighting and this great 70s veneer on the walls. Plus when the old guy's serving they place great tunes on the hifi.
anonymous - 15 Dec 2003 22:43
Forget upstairs - it's the Dive Bar where it's at. Saturday night and there's this middle aged guy who plays his jazz/funk/ska collection. In the alcoves the ceiling drips with sweat. Save for an over enthusiastic doorman this place is as near as goddam perfect.
Good for: The tunes man!
thenationofjames - 27 Nov 2003 10:31
excellent bar, nominally gay ,lots of chines guys there all the time with no visible means of support. A credit to the city
matthew jones - 21 Aug 2003 16:54
this is a gay bar right? i mean i saw guys kissing in there-lots of them! dancing to doa...a fun place it seems...
bankersclerk - 12 Aug 2003 12:22
The Kings Head is pretty non-descript, but the Dive Bar is a great little unpretentious place, a bit of a Londoners' secret, and long may it stay that way.
Darryl - 11 Aug 2003 13:20
very fun, unpretentious pub/bar. it's dark, a bit dirty, usually crowded, I love it!
anonymous - 18 May 2003 23:31
A little basement bar just off Chinatown, which has got great leather alcoves where you can sit, relax, drink and chat all evening. Occasionally great music at the weekends. And then when you stumble out, the smells of Chinatown all around you begging you to go for something to eat!
Andrew Wong - - 5 Apr 2003 22:50

got anything to say about this pub?

Please read our reviews policy before posting.
Only registered users can post reviews. Please log in. If you don't have an account yet, register here.