This year top chefs Mark Sargeant and Tom Harris have become publicans, with Daniel Clifford set to follow suit in November. Chris and Jeff Galvin will also make their pub debut, in Essex, in 2016.
The Galvin brothers – who operate five restaurants in London and two in Edinburgh –have bought a pub in their hometown of Chelmsford and are on the hunt for more sites for their newly created Galvin Pub Co. In contrast to the pair’s restaurants, which major on French food, The Green Man pub will serve British food alongside a large range of cask ales.
“It’s not a gastropub, it’s a proper British pub that happens to have outstanding food. Securing restaurants in central London has become almost impossible – it’s just too expensive. We need to expand in order to retain and reward our loyal staff, they need somewhere to go, and I think the pub sector is the answer,” said Chris Galvin, speaking at Restaurant’s R200 Club summer event at Henley Regatta last month.
The Galvins have appointed property agent Christie + Co to find them more pubs in the London suburbs and along the Thames Valley.
A few miles up the road from The Green Man, in Little Dunmow, two-Michelin star chef Daniel Clifford is to reopen The Flitch of Bacon in November following an extensive refurbishment. The 35-cover pub will serve traditional dishes including steak and kidney pudding and Black Forest gateau. Much of the produce will be supplied by Clifford’s farm in Ongar, which he purchased last year.
Though restaurant chefs entering the pub world is not a new phenomenon, an increasing number are being attracted to the trade because pub property is easier to come by in comparison to restaurants. There is also good availability in most parts of the country, including some areas of central London, although pubs in prime London locations can still be very expensive. In addition, the larger pubcos (the property companies that own and rent pubs) are happy to work with known chefs and have – in some cases– made concessions to their terms to attract talent from the restaurant sector.
Earlier this year former Gordon Ramsay Group chef Mark Sargeant opened his first pub in Ickham, near Canterbury. The Duke William is described by Sargeant as a pub that serves simple food done well. Starters begin at £5 and mains from £11.50.
“We’re not trying to get stars or other accolades,” says Sargeant, who also operates and consults for a number of restaurants in London and runs Rocksalt in Folkstone. “We haven’t created a restaurant in a pub. Many chefs try to do that because the rent is cheaper than a restaurant but I think that’s detrimental to the pub scene.”
In London, Tom Harris – who attracted a Michelin star for his cooking at St John Hotel back in 2012 – has taken on a pub with friend Jon Rotheram, formerly executive chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant. The duo took over The Marksman, in Hackney, last month and have managed to retain the pub’s pre-existing customer base of drinkers while attracting new customers with their food
“We wanted to keep the heart and soul of The Marksman while giving it a much-needed overhaul ready for the next chapter of its life,” says Harris.
“The Marksman is first and foremost a pub – a proper ‘London boozer’. There will be good food, naturally, but people are more than welcome to pop in for a pint, as they are to stay for dinner.”