My Pub: the Kenton, Hackney, east London

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Norway! Yes way!: Egil Johansen opened the former Admiral Taverns site 10 years ago
Norway! Yes way!: Egil Johansen opened the former Admiral Taverns site 10 years ago
When Egil Johansen grew tired of his marketing job in Norway, he took over the Kenton pub in an area of east London that was pretty raw 10 years ago. After an overhaul, the business has won an array of honours

Facts 'n' stats

Pub name: The Kenton

Address: 38 Kenton Road, London, E9 7AB

Web: www.kentonpub.co.uk

Wet:dry split: 80:20

The pub

It is a traditional Victorian-style building constructed in 1864 but, after poor management and little trade, it closed in 2007. I knew the pub from living in the area and used it for watching Tottenham games, which it screened.

I had just sold my flat and bought another one in 2008 and, having a profit in the bank and leaving my job after five years as a marketing manager promoting Norway, I took a gap year to try to figure out what to do with my life. Then my friend told me I should pursue the Kenton – so I did. I got in touch with Admiral Taverns and managed to get a deal and, after a refurb, I opened it in March 2009.

The pub got a complete revamp: ripping the old carpet up, decorating and filling it with memorabilia from Norway with a moose head on the feature wall that my grandfather shot in 1976 back in Norway. The pub is a traditional British pub with a Norwegian twist. I won the award for Best Newcomer in London 2010 at the Great British Pub Awards, which was a good start.

It is very much a local pub in the Homerton area of Hackney, but it also become a destination pub especially at weekends for people having their birthday parties in. The main features include a lovely beer garden, a Wes Anderson themed outdoor snug that we use for birthday parties for up to 60 people, a back room for parties for up to 30 people, and a DJ booth and dance floor. There are also three projector screens for showing major sporting events.

The pub became free of tie in 2015 when my current landlord bought the building from Admiral Taverns, and that was a revolution in terms of being able to offer any drinks I like. The same year we also won the award as the Most Loved Pub in London by Time Out Love London Awards.

Publican

Roll of honour

Best Freehouse Pub national finalist – Great British Pub Awards 2018

Most Loved Pub in London runners-up – Time Out Love London Awards 2018

Most Dog-friendly Pub in London runner up – Dog-friendly Pub Awards 2018

Most Loved Pub in London – Time Out Love London Awards 2015

Best Newcomer in London – Great British Pub Awards 2010

The publican

I’m Egil Johansen and I’m the landlord. I am 42 years old, from Norway, and have lived in London since 2004. I fell in love with UK and its culture after studying for three years at the University of Brighton (1998-2002, BA International Tourism Management), especially the pub culture, football and Brit Pop.

After graduation, I moved back to Norway to work as a marketing manager and travelled the world promoting Norway, but I missed the UK and established a pilot office in London, focusing on the UK market in 2004.

But after almost 200 travel days a year, I wanted something different and to keep my feet on the ground then this pub came up so I took it over – plus I got a dog at the same time – and this became the first pub in this area of Hackney that had a complete overhaul. This area was still very rough in 2009.

The trade

The demographic is mainly locals aged between 25 and 45 – a mix of women and men. It is very much an evening pub during the week where people come after they have dropped their bag off home after work, it is very residential around here.

We also get teachers from nearby schools, and nurses and hospital after-work drinkers.

The pub sells 80% drinks, 20% food and most of the drinks are draught beers.

Moose

The team

We have a small team of eight people, with one general manager, one assistant manager and a supervisor.

We use a lot of technology such as PlanDay for the rota and staff communication, Slack for daily reports between the management, Cluster to upload pictures to for use on social media, UpWave as a task manager, plus I also use several apps to control the CCTV, accessing the till, controlling the music, etc. I can pretty much run the pub using technology.

The kitchen is outsourced, which means that we have a food operator residency in our kitchen where they sort their own kitchen staff, buy all ingredients and deal with food waste.

We pay all utility bills, plus oversee the equipment. We then take 30% commission on all food sales. This has been very successful and it is also less risky in terms of kitchen staff costs and waste.

We just invested in an online bookings system through Design My Nights, which has proven very successful.

The drinks

We serve all the obvious drinks a pub has, but we focus extra on local breweries from east London so we can support local businesses. We have 13 draught lines and half of them pour local beers.

Our best-seller is our own branded Moose Juice Pilsner that we buy from a Belgian brewery called BAVO, plus Big Wave Golden Ale from Hawaii is something everyone loves.

As I am from Norway, we also specialise in the traditional Norwegian schnapps Akevitt and have a nice selection.

We always make sure to have frequent wine tastings, brewery tours, Akevitt training for all the staff to help with getting their knowledge up to scratch.

Drink

On the menu

Snacks:

  • Olives £3.75
  • Chips – £3.50
  • Onion rings £3

Starters:

  • Halloumi fries with mint and chilli sauce – £5.95
  • Squid with salad and tartar sauce – £4.95

Mains:

  • Wild mushroom risotto with garlic bread – £9.95
  • Beer-battered haddock tail with chips, mushy peas and tartar sauce – £11.95
  • Norwegian meatballs with baby potatoes, gravy and lingonberry sauce – £10.95
Roast (1)

The food

Our current residency has just started, he is a chef with background from Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, and he makes traditional British and European food, but also curry every Monday. The Sunday roasts are the best and we are normally booked out.

We also have special nights: Monday is curry and a pint of Moose Juice for £10, Tuesday we focus on sharing platters for the quiz goers, and Thursday is date night with any two mains plus a bottle of wine for £30. With the competition around, it is important to have these offers to draw people in.

Saturday is great during the day for lunch-time trade. We don’t do any lunch trade during the week as there is not enough footfall, so the pub only opens at 4pm weekdays.

The events

We do a lot of entertainment such as a quiz on Tuesdays, karaoke on Wednesdays and a DJ on Fridays.

Four times a year we have a vinyl record market. We screen football, rugby and other big events on our three projector screens all the time.

There is a classic jukebox for people to use and there’s also a vintage arcade table where people can play old computer games such as Space Invaders.

Other events include rock and roll bingo, wine tasting events and charity events.

We do not cater for weddings or allow exclusive hire of the pub because we do not want to close the pub to our regular customers.

Garden

The future

We want to build more banquet seating to increase capacity, and to improve the kitchen to be able to produce more roasts on a Sunday and to cater for office parties during weekdays.

We also want to use the first floor and the plan is to build four en-suite bedrooms there and open an inn.

We are also set to decorate the whole exterior this year.

To find out more about pubs for sale, lease and tenancy visit our property site​.

Related topics: Marketing

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