Monday, November 28

London Landmark Reopens


Often billed as the UK's original gastro-pub The Engineer in Primrose Hill, North London, has re-opened after an extensive make-over. The once knock-about corner pub, popular with the local film and TV fraternity and named after the Victorian maestro Brunel, has emerged with plenty of glossy interiors, but minus the grit and personality which made it so popular throughout the 80s and 90s. As a resident of Gloucester Avenue, The Engineer was much more than a local -- it was a meeting place for the full panoply of life in NW1, from high to low. The legendary Sunday lunches were a particular highlight. Things turned sour in 2011 when the landlords, Mitchells & Butlers, chose not to renew the lease of long-term managers Tamsin Olivier and and Abigail Osborne. A rally to save the pub was attended by a Who's Who of the British entertainment world, including the actor Robert Powell. Despite M & B's assurances that The Engineer would not be absorbed into one of its pub chains, that's exactly what seems to have happened. A glowing press release describes the new-look interiors ("muted blue tones and pretty flowered walls"), extensive list of craft beers, "curated" wine list and classic cocktails.The food offering has also been dumbed down to include burgers, fish and chips and "tapas-style plates". But with so many pubs closing in the UK at the moment, perhaps we should be grateful that The Engineer has survived into the 21st Century. According to the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) 1,444 pubs closed in the UK in 2015 – 500 in London alone. Anyone who is prepared to save a pub, even with  mint arancini balls and overpriced pinot grigio, should be applauded. So I will reserve judgement on the new-look Engineer until I see it for myself. Give me Robert Powell and a couple of pints of London Pride and I'll be happy.

The Engineer, 65 Gloucester Avenue, London, NW1 8JH. Phone: 020 7483 1890; www.theengineerprimrosehill.co.uk


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