The Dean Swift, Bermondsey

The Dean Swift pub nestles in what feels like a secret beery corner of old London town — all cobbled streets, wharves and warehouses. You will find it just east of Tower Bridge on the south bank of the Thames, set a short stroll back from the river near the site of the old Courage brewery. The Institute of Brewing and Distilling is just around the corner.

Why do I like the Dean Swift so much?

Despite being so close to Tower Bridge, this is not a touristy area. Out-of-towners tend to stick to the other side of the bridge, going no further than City Hall with its ample opportunities for selfies featuring juicy London landmarks in the background.

Even the local beery massive seems to pass it by. This part of south east London is a famous destination for thirsty beer fans keen on supping some authentic suds direct from the brewery. The Southwark Brewing Company, representing the top of the Bermondsey beer mile, is less than half a mile away – you could walk there in five minutes or so. And yet these backstreets feel hidden away. The Dean Swift feels like a secret to gloat over.

I visited recently and found myself wondering — while I waited for my companion to arrive — why it is I like this place so much. The beer plays its role of course. You can’t have a good pub without good beer. And whoever orders the beers for The Dean Swift does a very good job; the selection here is always fresh, varied and interesting. But good beer alone is not enough to explain the quickening in my pulse when I arrange another visit to the Dean Swift, or the lightness I feel in my step when I’m walking down Tooley Street from London Bridge, deciding which beer to order first.

There are so many things right about the Dean Swift. The staff are attentive and knowledgeable. The food is solidly good without taking focus away from the pub’s primary business of being a boozer. You can eat well here but it’s not a gastropub. The decor is clean and fairly stripped back but the seats are comfortable. It’s unfussy without being austere. The size of the place is like something out of Goldilocks, not too big nor too small. The atmosphere is relaxed. And yet none of these alone quite explain why I like the Dean Swift so much.

Perhaps it’s feeling like I’m in the know. That’s always part of the fun of a really good pub. Feeling like you’ve discovered something. Like you’ve winkled out this little jewel that other people don’t know about. Then you get to give it a quick polish and show it to your friends and say: “Look! Look what I found!” And if they’re any kind of friend at all they too will be thrilled by what you’ve chosen to share with them, which makes your enjoyment of it all the richer.

The Dean Swift
10 Gainsford St, Butler’s Wharf, London, SE1 2NE

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