John Rynne from Ennis, Co. Clare is bringing a new pub to Highgate Hill says it is aiming to restore the history of the building and the area.
Brendan the Navigator will be an Irish-influenced gastro pub at 90 Highgate Hill, which formerly housed the Old Crown Inn, and most recently Tourian Lounge restaurant.
The “navigator” in the name is also intended to reflect the 19th century Irish, who laboured in the construction of England’s canal system – the “Navvies”, whose efforts inspired the regenerated “Navigator Square” beside Archway Station.
John says he wants to create a welcoming pub vacant of television screens that serves a ‘proper Guinness’.
Named after the sixth century explorer Saint Brendan, the new drinking hole will host live acoustic folk music and plans to open on April 12, when pubs can serve customers outdoors.
John, who is known around London as a musician, told The Irish World: “For me the main thing is that it is a TV free zone and the conversational, welcoming, social aspect of it and that’s why all our music will be acoustic. We’re not going for amplified bands or any of that kind of thing.”
Brendan the Navigator’s menu will include fresh Cornish fish, Carlingford oysters, Hereford beef, Scottish wild salmon, burgers, Middle Eastern lamb wraps, beef-shin nachos, triple-cooked chips, pates, and a Sunday roast.
“You’ve got your stereotypical Irish pubs galore and they celebrate their difference in some ways. There’s a lot of shared issues. There’s shared culinary styles and food, there’s all those kinds of things that both countries are good at. There’s a lot of shared things we can do in terms of menu and food and culture, to share the things that we often don’t see that we do have in common.
“That is in terms of music as well. I suppose the strength will be in traditional Irish music. We will host the absolute best traditional Irish musicians from all over London and the world at least once or twice a week initially and more often if the feedback warrants it but being a musician myself and knowing what’s out there, there is also high quality English folk music and even Scandinavian.
“We’re certainly hoping to be open in some form to catch the first ones out the gap in April.
“If there are no spikes and people are safe to go out, then I expect we will see a good summer. Obviously we’ll be trying to maintain safety all the way through and be led by that. I would expect there’s a good summer ahead.”
John’s business partner and head chef will be Michael Spurgeon. From Birmingham, MIchael has heritage in Labasheeda, Clare.
Michael previously ran The Lamb pub in Holloway Road, and was head chef of Nickel in Crouch End, and Season Kitchen in Finsbury Park.
“He would have the direct pub experience. I have a lot of experience of festival organisation, gigs, tours, entertainment. Between the two of us we’re confident we can deliver on the food and on the music and then on the service generally. Hopefully a right good pint of Guinness which is essential for me. There are many Irish people going around the place saying they can’t get a proper pint of Guinness. It’s a mission of mine to make sure I have that in place as well as a broad range of everything.”
The site’s history as a free house dates back to the 19th century, when it was a popular destination for London holiday-makers.
“Then there’s the whole community aspect. It’s a heritage listed building with a long history and lots of lore and legend attached to it. There’s stories of Queen Victoria’s horse having bolted and the landlord helping to restrain the horse. People have been married in it.
“I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from the community indicating that they have a strong regard for it there. It’s a conservation area and various groups and interests around the area are very keen to see it restored and operating in its original guise.”
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