The ideal pubs for a midweek catch-up

Meeting an old pal after work? These places have atmosphere, free seats, and no hellishly loud music

The Singer Tavern EC1

The Singer Tavern (EC1)

After the initial surge of one-pint-after-workers succumb to the lure of that Tesco Finest paella in their fridge, it thins out significantly at 6.30 or so. You're left with a cavernous (and weirdly leafy) space with one of the best tap selections around.

If you're eating: The "bar snacks" section is by far the best – try the Scotch egg with Marmite mayonnaise.

The Porterhouse WC2

The Porterhouse (WC2)

Improbably huge for a very central pub. Early conversation gold, right there. "Big, isn't it?" "Yeah, real big." And they're off! You're not going to get your quad-hopped Hipster Juice IPAs, but there's a solid selection of Irish-brewed grog.

If you're eating: The Porterhouse Frying Pan: bacon, chorizo, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, eggs and cheese, all served in the pan.

The Drayton Arms SW5

The Drayton Arms (SW5)

There's a lot of earnest fussiness in South Kensington, but skip past the always-empty furniture boutiques and you'll find this relaxed gem. It's still not exactly one for tie-burning University Rugby Club drinking games, but it's lively enough. And what's this upstairs? A theatre? Jeepers!

If you're eating: Do so on a Wednesday. You can get a burger and a drink for £11.

Electricity Showrooms N1

Electricity Showrooms (N1)

An airy pub, with light flooding in through prominent windows. It's like you're drinking outside, just without the temptation to steal a cigarette and blame your bent-double wheezing at five-a-side on it four months later. Look past the pumps and into the fridge – the can selection is terrific.

If you're eating: Three sliders for £9 is the way to go. Lamb kofte with garlic yoghurt if you just want one.

Harrild and Sons EC4

Harrild & Sons (EC4)

This one's an easy sell to anyone. "Peerless transport links," you'll say, leaning weirdly on estate-agent patter. "It's halfway between Farringdon and Blackfriars!" And if it does get a bit chaotic upstairs, shimmy down to the intimate cocktail area.

If you're eating: Make it braised pork shank with aubergine caponata.