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The Fox & Hounds
29 Passmore Street
What’ll it be? Glass of wine
In charge since: 2002
Claim to fame: Writer Tony Warren lived on the street, and his script about his local pub was picked up by Granada and became Coronation Street
“This pub is a community. It’s a place where people have always come to meet friends and have company, which I think is extremely important. If someone who usually comes in for a half-pint every afternoon hasn’t turned up for a day or two, then we make sure we send someone to find out why. It’s all about looking after people. It’s always been associated with the arts. Once upon a time the Royal Court Theatre didn’t have a bar, and all the actors would call this their green room. We’ve always been big on musicians as well, and it’s a kind of base for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
It was built as a working man’s pub in 1864. The people who lived in this particular area were workers who serviced the big houses up in Belgrave Square. It always had a good community. The pub didn’t actually have a spirits licence till 1998 – the duke at the time didn’t want people who worked for him getting drunk on gin during the day. I refuse to modernise too much. When I first came here 18 years ago the brewery, who I pay my rent to, wanted to make it into a modern-looking pub, but because I’m the tenant I have control over the decor. I decorated it when I came here the way I felt it should look, which is very traditional. It kind of went against the grain at the time, but now we’re nearly 20 years on and old-fashioned Victorian-type pubs are back in fashion.
The Nags Head
53 Kinnerton Street
What’ll it be? Half of bitter
In charge since: 1982
Claim to fame: Former Doctor Tom Baker is a friend of the pub, as is boxer David Haye.
“I used to run the Man in the Moon on the King’s Road, and I got to know Poly Styrene and The Clash. Malcolm McLaren was starting with the Pistols, and in the dive bar downstairs I was doing a punk night. When the Man in the Moon ceased, I was looking for something for me. We’d all like that in life, to be independent. I took this place on and got to know there’s only one place in London like it. The clientele’s mostly workers in Knightsbridge, from insurance offices, or embassy staff. But it feels local. When I was starting to drink, there were publicans. You don’t see them now, unless you go to the countryside. In the inner cities we’ve lost that knowing voice saying, ‘Behave’. This pub is still run as a proper boozer.
We don’t do fries, we do a good sandwich and today a venison pie, homemade. Was there ever a good story told over a plate of lettuce?
I have jazz here every first Sunday of the month. I’ve got my 80th birthday coming up, and I’m having a big jazz concert. The musicians I know who have all now grown up and stopped being lunatics, they’re going to come and play for me here. A good landlord is there to put his personality on the pub. It’s my gaff, and I put my stamp on it. I have that privilege of saying to people the way I want to run it. Phones aren’t allowed in here; I want people to talk to each other. I’m still trying to be in the last century I think, and I’m enjoying that. The old character of a pub I think still lives here, with me.
The Star Tavern
6 Belgrave Mews West
What’ll it be: Pint of Frontier
In charge since: 2019
Claim to fame: One of only a handful of pubs to feature in every edition of the Good Beer Guide, which has been published for almost
“Running a pub is always about the people, both those who visit and those who work there. A pub should be a fun, relaxed place to be, and that starts with a team who take pride in what they do. Every day is a team effort. You have to care about everyone feeling at home and having a lovely time in your pub. I hear more and more about the history of the pub every day. It has quite a colourful past, being where the Great Train Robbery was planned, and it was one of the first pubs that Fuller’s took over 150 years ago. I really enjoy hearing stories that customers tell me from when they used to drink here three or four decades ago.
My favourite part of the building is definitely the Library Room upstairs. It’s such a beautiful room with chandeliers, a fireplace and some really cosy seating. Especially at Christmas, when it’s covered in fairy lights, it’s the kind of place I could sit for hours. We’ve started doing jazz up there on Sunday afternoons, and the setting is perfect for it. The clientele is a wonderful mixture of people who like a friendly atmosphere, a decent pint of beer and homemade food. We have people who visit regularly and tourists who only come in once, and they all add to the story of The Star.
18 Wilton Row
What’ll it be: Pint of Camden Hells
In charge since: 2010
Claim to fame: Cedric the ghost, who’s haunted the pub since the 1800s
“Every pub is unique. It’s the layout, the location, the history, the team, the manager. You’ve got to be welcoming to everybody. This is a cosmopolitan pub and we get customers from all over the world. People from America and the Far East and Russia all have different personalities. Owing to the location we also get a lot of celebrities – Brad Pitt, Burt Reynolds, Harrison Ford, Nicole Scherzinger – the list is endless. We have a reputation of being a country pub in the middle of chaos. It’s 300 years old this year, but we try to keep up with people’s expectations. We need the mod cons, but we don’t change it too much.
They want to come into an old-fashioned pub, like going back in time. There’s so much history in this place, plus it’s a grade-II listed building so you can’t change a lot. It was built in 1720, as the officer’s mess to the grenadier guards, and a watering hole for the Duke of Wellington. A soldier was murdered in the cellar over a game of cards. Now they say it’s a haunted pub. I’m a sceptic, but I clearly remember seeing a man dressed as a soldier – I went towards him, and he vanished. I never told anyone, but a week later my deputy manager said, ‘I saw somebody last night’, and what he saw was exactly what I saw. That’s when the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.
Words: Alex Briand Photographs: Andy Lowe