Pub Culture in Strike

Posted on 22 May 2024

Robin and Strike at the pub

With a (hopefully) sunny bank holiday coming up in the UK, the thoughts of many British people turn to the pub. While this national institution is in our minds, we thought it would be a good opportunity to look at Strike and Robin’s pub life, and the key role the watering holes of London and elsewhere play in their lives and investigations.

The Local

Strike’s ‘real’ local, is the Victory Inn in St Mawes, the town where Strike spent large parts of his childhood. It was in this squat building of whitewashed Cornish stone, the steps beside it winding down to the bay, he first managed to get served without ID, and where he still meets his oldest friend, Dave Polworth. Robin too has a local, the pub she first started going to as a teenager in Masham, North Yorkshire. The Bay Horse, also a white building, sits on a road off the market square in the small town. It was where she celebrated her A-level results with her then boyfriend, Matthew, before they left for university.

In London, Strike’s regular haunt is the Tottenham, where he enjoys the serene Victorian atmosphere of gleaming scrolled dark wood and brass fittings and its frosted glass half-partitions, its aged leather banquettes, its bar mirrors covered in gilt, cherubs and horns of plenty speak to him of a confident and ordered world, which serves as a marked contrast to the chaos of ongoing building works outside. And they serve Doom Bar, a Cornish beer which reminds Strike of home.

Strike has to avoid the Tottenham for months in the aftermath of his capture of the Shacklewell Ripper (A Career of Evil), because journalists sometimes lay in wait for him here, but when they give up the hunt, he returns. By the time Robin and Strike are investigating the Universal Humanitarian Church (The Running Grave), the pub has changed its name to The Flying Horse, which was its name during the nineteenth century, but otherwise it seems unchanged, and they still serve Doom Bar.

The Tottenham becomes an extension of the office in many ways. Strike hires Sam Barclay in the pub, meets the young man who is key to the mystery of Lula Landry there (The Cuckoo’s Calling), and, under its new name, it’s where he calls together the key players in the final stages of his and Robin’s investigations into the UHC (The Running Grave).

When Robin first arrives in London, she falls in with her fiancé Matthew’s likes and dislikes, and his favourite gastropub is the Windmill on Clapham Common. A gastropub, for those who aren’t as steeped in pub culture as Strike, is a pub which serves slightly more upmarket food than the usual offerings. Matthew seems to like pubs with food. When he and Robin meet Strike for drinks, he chooses a pub which serves Thai near Waterloo, the King’s Arms.

For Robin, the pub that most represents her marriage though seems to be the White Swan in Deptford, near where she and Matthew live after they are married. The single carved swan, high up on the corner of the building, reminds her of the swans on the lake at her reception venue on her disastrous wedding day when she realised going through with the ceremony had been a terrible mistake.

Meeting Spot

Strike often meets his police contacts in the Feathers, on Broadway, near Scotland Yard. It’s another Victorian pub which serves Doom Bar, and large enough so Strike can usually find a quiet corner to have discreet conversation if he needs to. He often meets other sources in pubs too. He finally gets to talk to beautiful Kea in the squat, dark brick of the Maids Head, in King’s Lynn after a nasty encounter with her mother’s man-hating cockatoo (The Ink Black Heart); and Henry Worthington-Fields, who chooses to meet Strike in the Grenadier pub in Belgravia (The Running Grave). Behind the smartly painted red, with a blue frontage, the walls are decorated with military prints, paintings and hundreds of banknotes in different currencies are pinned up on the ceiling. This is one of the pubs where Strike runs the risk of meeting a ghost as well as a potential source. The pub is supposed to be haunted by a soldier who was beaten to death after being discovered cheating at cards. The money left by visitors is to pay the ghost’s debt. Strike does end up encountering a ghost of sorts though, his ex-fiancé, Charlotte, knows Worthington-Fields and turns up as his interview ends, her beauty running through the room like an icy breeze.

According to the tourists Robin overhears in the Flask in Hampstead that pub is haunted too, by the ghost of a Spanish barmaid. The pub is very old, but Robin, with tomato juice and a packet of crisps on the table by the fireplace beside her, is more interested in modern ghosts, the online avatars representing characters from the cartoon The Ink Black Heart, moving around a digital graveyard on her iPad (The Ink Black Heart), while Strike meets a potential suspect in another part of the ancient inn.


Strike is a fan of pub food as well as beer, though pubs traditionally serve staples like pies, burgers and fish and chips, none of which are helpful to Strike when he tries to lose weight. During the investigation into the fate of Owen Quine, he and Robin have lunch in a pub twice in one week, and Strike reckons they should have a pint every lunchtime to break up the working day after enjoying his steak and ale pie. At this time though, in the run up to her disastrous marriage, Robin has to stick to salads. At Merlin’s Cave, a restaurant in Chalfont St Giles, which the partners visit just before Robin goes undercover at Chapman Farm (The Running Grave), the tables are turned and Robin, knowing she won’t be getting much to eat at the farm has the chips, while Strike regretfully sticks to chicken.


The Tottenham is a refuge in dark times for Strike and Robin. When Strike learns of Charlotte’s engagement, just after Robin starts working for him, he goes there to drown his sorrows. By the time Robin finds him there, having tried the Intrepid Fox, Molly Moggs, the Spice of Life and the Cambridge, Strike is on his eleventh pint. Robin manages to steer him out, which reminds her of leading the enormous Clydesdale her uncle had on his farm, with the promise of a kebab, and so she becomes the first person Strike tells about the lies which finally ended his engagement.

It is also The Tottenham that Robin heads to, when she breaks off her engagement with Matthew (Career of Evil) and this time it is Strike who suggests leaving to get some food. Robin informs him, with dignity, she does not want a kebab. The wine she has on an empty stomach though gives her food for thought. Alcohol she finds, buoys you up and it washes your eyes clean. She remembers the Latin tag, in vino veritas, and with her newfound clarity tells Strike about the violent attack which led to her leaving university and the agoraphobia which kept her confined to her room in Yorkshire for months.

Even when alcohol is not involved, the pub is a place of refuge. It’s to the basement dining room of the Tottenham they decamp after Pat, the office manager, saves Strike from the pipe-bomb which nearly destroys the office. 

Alone Time

As well as a place to meet and talk, Strike finds a pub a good place to concentrate. He works on his notes about the Lula Landry case in the Tottenham (The Cuckoo’s Calling), knowing it’s a place he can sit and think without interruption, and years later, while in Cromer during the investigations into the UHC he settles to work with a pint of Doom Bar in the beer garden of the King’s Head (The Running Grave). He’s not alone; he finds the journalist he interviews about the church, Fergus Robertson, at work on an article about the upcoming Brexit vote in the Westminster Arms, close to the Houses of Parliament. Strike declines to give him a comment on the vote for his article.

In a pub called the Old Library in Leamington Spa, (Troubled Blood) Robin has time to consider not just what happened to the missing doctor Margot Bamborough, but her feelings for her partner.


It’s also in pubs, as much as in the office, that the two partners get to talk about the cases they are working on, free of interruptions from the office phone, and, as the agency gets busier, from their contractors. Robin tends to stick to tomato or orange juice during the working day, and recently Strike, trying to take better care of himself, often orders zero-alcohol beer instead of Doom Bar or London Pride.

Doom Bar may be his favourite pint to drink as they talk through their thoughts, but when they find themselves in the picture-perfect country pub the White Horse after visiting Chiswell House (Lethal White), a white, timbered building with leaded bay windows, moss-covered slates on the roof and climbing red roses around the door, Strike particularly savours a pint of Arkell’s Wiltshire Gold in the beer garden.

Strike and Robin have learned a lot about each other in pubs, resolved fights, picked over their cases and made plans, commiserated and celebrated. So, if you are visiting one over the long weekend, alone or with friends and family, in London or any other part of the UK, keep an eye out for Robin and Strike, discussing their latest case at a quiet corner table over a pint of Doom Bar and a white wine.