The perfect place to stay for roughly 10 consecutive hours.
London’s Highbury area stretches around Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, a web of supporter bars overrun on game days that doubles as a network of classic London neighborhood pubs otherwise. The Bank of Friendship has anchored the area since 1881, exactly the type of pedigree befitting a pub that is every inch the classic, dripped in rich, dark wood aesthetic of a classic London pub.
Bank of Friendship is a neighborhood pub in every sense, blending in a bit with the largely residential area around it, a simple red sign over the door inscribed with the name of the bar adorning a building only slightly set apart from the townhomes next door. But inside, the pub offers everything a neighborhood London pub should, from the deep red padded seating in the window to the low lighting complemented by on-table candlelight throughout.
The space rotates around a centrally-located bar, splitting the bar into two halves populated by classic low tables and upholstered seating built into the walls of the pub. The years of operation can be seen in the flooring, where red carpet in places gives way to threadbare, dark wooden flooring that adds to the warmth of the interior. A perpetually-lit gas fireplace supports that vibe, with the tables on either side of it by far the desirable spots on a cold London night.
The artwork nods to the Arsenal fandom that runs through the building, with a classic O2 jersey among the treasures. The pub prides itself on its craft beer selection, supported by a ring of taps along each side of the bar. And for some added character, pub and beer stickers populate a handful of surfaces behind the bar, accentuating the neighborhood feel.
When the weather turns tolerable, a lengthy back patio dotted with picnic tables transforms into a north London garden oasis, a space that also features open fires when the weather doesn’t cooperate to make the space usable.
In the end, ‘cozy’ is the word that comes to mind when I recall my time at Bank of Friendship, a post-game evening drink after an Arsenal win, a windy night outside and a gas fire at my feet. The neighborhood vibe is strong, easy to blend into and worth the trip for everything that’s great about a local London pub.