We have developed a bit of a ‘pub crush’ on the newly reopened Wenlock Arms – pork scratchings, good beer, dog friendly and chatty dog owners too. What’s not to like? Read our interview with its proud new owner Heath, a genial chap with an eye for detail and a love of beer, both serving and drinking…
So Heath you have just come back from San Sebastian for a ‘special’ birthday of yours and your twitter feed suggests you were partying fairly hard. Just how rough are you feeling today on a scale of 1-10?
Definitely a 9
When was it 10?
Hmm, possibly Ibiza when I was much younger! It is impossible not to drink and eat a lot, the social scene there is pretty awesome. They have the Basque region equivalent of tapas called Pinxto which are pretty conducive to hanging out drinking and relaxing.
San Sebastian is a real foodie meca, would you consider yourself a ‘foodie’?
I suppose so, my parents back in New Zealand owned a few restaurants and I was always surrounded by it so I just fell in love with everything about it. My Grandpa was pretty cool too, when he was in the Navy and stationed in San Francisco in the 20s it inspired him to bring over that kind of casual and fun dining to New Zealand and he owned a really successful burger joint that was the first place to sell Coca Cola in New Zealand. So yes, I guess I have always been fascinated with it from an early age.
You have form for great food and drink at your other pub the Red Lion and Sun in Highgate so as well as your impressive beer range of 10 cask, 10 keg and cider to boot will the Wenlock be doing a range of food? I reference the lush pork scratchings and salt beef sandwich I tasted.
The Wenlock is different to the Red Lion and Sun so it won’t be a full menu but we will continue with the snacks like pork scratchings, salt beef sandwich, pork roll, ploughmans and maybe eventually a Sunday Roast.
* rubs tummy * You once described your vision for the pub to me, it sounded just perfect…what was it again?
Click here to view our Vine of the Wenlock Arms.
No pork scratchings or Wandle were harmed in the marking of this video!
I think I would say that the conviviality of the pub is the most important thing with the range being the pleasant backdrop to that. I love the kind of proper boozer where a Barrister can quite happily chat away to someone with a more chequered passed and visa versa and everything just centers on a good beer at the local. I really want to offer a broad beer range so everyone has something for them. We get all kinds of people, those that wanting to try new beers and those that want a constant pint like Wandle or Hophead. So I’m trying to keep some regular beers and some changing. It is really important to me not to alienate people. Cider and Whisky seem important too, those are our next biggest sellers behind beer.
The ‘back bench’ of keg beers also proving popular
It seems you are on the way to your vision with Time Out giving you a 5* rating this week!
Yes we are pretty over the moon with that. To be honest though the best buzz has come from the locals and CAMRA folk who have got behind it. We are pretty pleased with all the feedback to date.
What is the biggest job you have had to undertake since taking the keys?
There was a lot to do in many ways but I think the biggest job was the clean up operation. I just can’t believe that a pub that was so loved was left to get so dirty. It is just basic stuff that anyone can relate to. If you have a special pair of shoes, you clean them and cherish them. I can’t believe it wasn’t cherished it’s a gorgeous pub.
Some of the success is down to your General Manager Marcus. I love Marcus, he is super cool. Would you liken yourself more to the Batman and Robin of the pub world or the Laurel and Hardy?
* laughs nervously* Well I am going to have to say Laurel and Hardy
Who is who?
Marcus is much skinnier than I am so I guess I’ll have to be Hardy. Although I think I’ll loose weight pretty quickly at the Wenlock because I am up and down the stairs all the time changing casks and kegs. I clean between every cask and the other day the Wandle had just gone so I was down in the cellar and as soon as I was done cleaning another beer I had just hooked up it had done 38 pints in 20 minutes. It’s mental but it’s good though because it keeps the beer flowing and the quality high so that pleases everyone.
Laurel and Hardy behind the bar – can you guess who is who?
Some of our readers will know that there is another key member of the team -Silvester your Spaniel who is often seen at the Red Lion and Sun. Will Silvester be making appearances at the Wenlock?
For sure, I love dogs and think it is nice to see them in pubs in London. We have the park opposite the Wenlock so we get a few in already.
Heath and Silvester having in a management meeting at the Red Lion and Sun
What went on in-between was a good 10 minutes of dog chat. We have not included this for obvious reasons.
Apart from Silvester and his new friends any other interesting characters at the Wenlock?
To be honest everyone has character, that is what I love about it. They are proper beer drinking folk who just love to go to the pub and chat to everyone around them. It really is cool seeing all the different people just hang out over a beer and not necessarily analyse the beer for hours, just enjoy it, but most importantly just enjoy being at the pub.
Sounds great, any more in the pipeline?
I’d love to one day, my friend in the industry (Scott Collins) thinks I am a bit slow of the mark but it takes time to build a good pub and that is what I want to do. I have some other plans for the Wenlock first. I want to work out what beer works best, introduce the roast, some schooners and that kind of thing.
So what is your favourite Sambrook’s product?
I quite liked the new Lavender Hill personally but I think the Wandle with its consistency and ABV is a good all rounder.
Thanks Heath, you do look a bit worse for wear by the way. I guess you are getting an early night after your weekend.
We love Heath and the new Wenlock. It is right up our street and we are sure that with Heath’s attention to detail and warm hospitality that he is notorious for will it make the very best of additions to the London pub and beer scene.
To find out all about the goings on at the pub follow Heath and the team @Wenlockarms
CAMRA members are offered a 10% discount at the bar.
If you see Sylvester give him a cuddle from the Sambrook’s team!