There aren't many boozers anywhere that tick all - or most - of my boxes, and only a couple in That London. One is the Harp, this is the other. The Old Mitre can be tricky to find even if you know where it is. Thoughtfully, on Hatton Garden there's a sign on a lamppost showing the way to happiness. The alley leading to Ely Court used to be part of Cambridgeshire, and the pub still gets the odd letter addressed to 'Cambs' . This is a hangover from the days of the Bishop of Ely having his London palace on the site. The pub itself grew organically out of the servants quarters, and dates roughly from about 1546, though the Mitre as it is now was built in 1772 and the dark panelled interior is from a 1920s refurb - I think we're all glad it wasn't done in the 60s or 70s. I'm sure a purist would have something to say about those heavy oak Hollywood-Arthurian thrones in the front bar. A lot of the interior is original though, and the place is creaking with a genuinely old patina.
It's not a pub for a quiet drink on your own - it's almost always rammed with loyal regulars and the odd tourist with a good map, squeezed into three small rooms. Despite the crush, service is quick and the beer always on top form, served up with old-school slickness and banter. The bar area is so small that the pumps are double-clipped. On our last visit you could have chosen Deuchers IPA, Adnams Broadside, Adnams Bitter and the Beartown Brewery's Snoopy Special. This was a new one on me, and was a fruity, tangy, hoppy delight with a tight head that laced the glass down to the last delicious drop. It travelled well from Cheshire. The Mitre's one of the few places in London to have a 'real' cider always on offer, typically from Thatchers, if you fancy a change. Hungry? Have a toasty, a sausage roll or a pork pie. That'll be £1.50, please squire. If you need the gents, they're outside in the yard, sir. No music, no TV, just the murmur of conversation, the squirt of the pumps and the thud of full glasses settling on tables. To tick all my boxes, a pub has to have a dog. The Mitre doesn't have one. or so I thought. Just as we were leaving the guv'nor was leading his spaniel out for a late night walk round Clerkenwell. Tick.
This is a classic pub - one of the best anywhere. Get to the Mitre and leave London behind. If you can find it.