This newly opened, Guy Ritchie-owned pub in Fitzrovia has much more to offer customers than the air of celebrity. Emma Lake takes a look
For six months, Guy Ritchie and his team strived to create the perfect pub behind closed doors, with the film director’s forensic eye for detail – as well as his Wiltshire brewery and estate – serving up innovation in a traditional London boozer.
In February the team, including Acorn Award-winner and general manager Aaron Kibble, very quietly opened the doors to the Lore of the Land in London’s Fitzrovia. There had been no publicity around the launch, with Kibble explaining that the team wanted the opportunity to make tweaks and changes before the hoards arrived.
Kibble says: “It will be known as Mr Ritchie’s pub and our beers are called Gritchie (see panel); it’s at the forefront and we’re proud of that. We think some people will come just because it’s Mr Ritchie’s pub; that’s great, because they’re people we otherwise may not have had – however, we want them to come back because we’re excellent. So, if you’re here for a beer, we want it to be the best beer you’ve had in a long time, or the best service you’ve experienced, or the best food. You might come for Mr Ritchie’s name, but you’ll come back because we’re the best.”
A pub has sat on the spot since 1829, and the floors are uneven, the staircases wind and exposed brickwork provides a sense of historic London. But alongside this rustic charm, the interiors have been thought through. Wood has been carefully sourced and distressed, light fittings hang at the optimum level and the walls are magnetic, allowing the dozens of paintings that adorn the walls to be rearranged on whim.
Kibble explains: “We wanted to keep the old tiles and the unique features this amazing building has; it’s been quite a journey and we’ve had to change things as we go to make sure the right brickwork is exposed – it’s great to expose the backbone of the building, but if its aesthetically filthy, we can’t have that.”
The decor has been carefully considered, down to the curtains, which block the aggressive fluorescent streetlights without excluding all sunlight, to the staff uniforms, which are made by Ralph Lauren. Many of the paintings, by Andrew Joynes, are of food, with the pub hoping to eventually have the artist’s pictures of most of its own produce and dishes on the walls.
Kibble adds: “Everything [Ritchie] does is a labour of love, and the attention to detail we need to have is extraordinary. What we think is perfect is at 80% for him; we’ve had to up our game so much. We’re still getting there. It’s just incredible. The passion and work ethic is inspiring.
“It’s his local pub – he wants it to reflect his personality and taste, but it also has to be the best it can be.”
Lock, stock and barrels
As guests enter the pub, they’re greeted by a selection of cask beers and a warm welcome that may come from Pandy Kouroushi, the former landlord of the Punchbowl in Mayfair, the film director’s previous foray into pubkeeping.
Kibble explains: “We’re striving for that approachability by maintaining everything that is inherently great about a pub. When you walk in, you’ve got a great welcome. We love the fact that pubs were founded on cask ales, so the first thing you see is cask ale pumps – we have lagers too, but the idea is that at the forefront you have these beers with such a great narrative.”
The stairs lead to the 45-cover restaurant and a 20-cover private dining room. In the restaurant, paintings of food are again hung on the green walls, while chefs, led by head chef Mikey Seferynski, work in an open kitchen with a huge, bespoke range and cook up a selection of small plates, displayed on the menu under the headings ‘bites’, ‘sea’, ‘field’ and ‘garden’.
Kibble adds: “The ground floor is the Lore of the Land pub, your proper boozer, and upstairs is a proper restaurant. We’re not talking very fine dining, but a really refined offer of smaller plates.
“We know it’s not going to be for everyone, but we want to make it approachable. In some places serving small plates, two or three can add up quickly; we don’t want to be like that. We want it to be rounded and not crazy money. It’s the same with beer and wine; the whole narrative across the place is to make it approachable.”
A bar menu has been introduced, serving classic pub fare with a twist, including a duck and quail scotch egg with grape mustard and crispy charred potatoes with truffle mayonnaise. Again, the pub will use produce from the Ashcombe House estate, Ritchie’s country estate and farm in Wiltshire.
Drink selections have purposely been kept concise, across spirits as well as the wine list, which on the day The Caterer visited included six whites, six reds and a rosé, priced from £25 to £130 a bottle. Beers begin at £4.50 a pint.
The brewery and the pub are intertwined, and its offering has proved popular – so popular that on opening the Lore of the Land, its punters drank the brewery dry of Gritchie’s session IPA, leaving the pub without it for 10 days.
The pub is using as much as it can from the farm, including lamb that’s cooked over the wood-fired range every Sunday, as well as produce from the vegetable garden and foraging.
Having been open for more than three months, Kibble explains that development is ongoing, adding that another site is not yet being planned. He says: “Our focus and Mr Ritchie’s focus is on this site. We’re playing around with the farm so we can expand the offer and drive forward the brewery. We’re not even thinking about the second yet – our eyes are firmly focused on this.”
The Gritchie Brewing Company
The Gritchie Brewing Company is based on the Ashcombe Estate in Wiltshire. The brewers use Maris Otter malt barley grown on the estate and water from its aquifer.
The Gritchie range is named Lore after the loric traditions of England and includes English Lore, an English pale ale; Angel’s Lore lager; Winter Lore stout; and a session IPA, among others.
Lore of the Land is allowing the brewers to experiment with cask as well as keg and get feedback on their products, and so far the response has prompted an expansion in production.
From the menu
• Sea bream ceviche with seaweed, radish and samphire £5
• Pea and mint tart, burrata, black garlic £5
• Roast gurnard with asparagus and seaweed hollandaise £14
• Whole John Dory, lemon and wild garlic £18
• Glazed goat shoulder with tomato, aubergine and feta £16
• Sticky lamb bun with lime pickle mayonnaise £10
• Crispy charred potatoes and truffle mayo £5
• Sweetcorn and harissa risotto with black garlic and crispy corn £12