Top 50 Gastropub seeks £80,000 to survive pandemic

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

French exit: the 18th century French House is hoping to raise £80,000 to keep its doors open (pic: Gideon Wright, Flickr)
French exit: the 18th century French House is hoping to raise £80,000 to keep its doors open (pic: Gideon Wright, Flickr)

Related tags gastropubs Restaurant Public house Alcoholic beverage

A Soho pub that housed France’s government-in-exile after the German occupation during World War II is seeking £80,000 to keep its doors open amid the Covid-19 emergency.

The Grade II-listed French House in central London, named after it became the unofficial headquarters of Free French forces under Charles de Gaulle, is imploring regulars to donate funds to ensure the 18th century Soho stalwart survives the ongoing pandemic.

Started by Friends of the French House, the 39th placed venue on Estrella Damm’s Top 50 Gastropub 2020 list​, is seeking £80,000 via gofundme, with donors being offered a French House T-shirt or tea towel in exchange for a £20 pledge or 25% off a meal for two with a complimentary bottle of wine if they donate in excess of £100. 

What’s more, those generous enough to back the pub to the tune of £1,000 or more will be rewarded with a specially designed three-course meal for four with £200 off their drinks bill. 

At the time of writing, 921 donors had contributed a total of £28,329 towards the Soho favourite’s £80,000 target​ just a week after it opened.

Beating heart of Soho 

The French House, which has stood on Dean Street for some 129 years, is more famous for serving wine, Champagne and bottles of Breton cider than its beer – which it typically only serves by the half pint – alongside an upstairs restaurant run since 2018 by former executive chef of the Merchant’s Tavern in Shoreditch, Neil Borthwick. 

The pub’s online appeal reads: “The French House has been the beating heart of Soho for over a hundred years. History has been made here. De Gaulle wrote his rallying call to his fellow countrymen in the bar upstairs. Dylan Thomas left his only copy of Under Milk Wood​ here. 

“Artists Francis Bacon, Augustus John and Lucian Freud were regulars and, today, the French continues to attract and support the brightest creative lights. And Lesley Lewis, its landlady for over 30 years, actively encourages local artists and photographers, as well as contributing to the local and wider community. 

“It is Soho’s ‘village pub’ but a village pub that welcomes everyone, from young to old, from regulars to newcomers, from royalty to rascals, a place where everyone is made to feel a friend and part of a family. And friends and family look out for each other. 

“In these difficult and uncertain times, and until life gets back to normal for us all, the French House is looking to its friends, its fans, and its family for help. 

“The French means so much to all of us. It’s not just an important piece of Soho history, it’s a resource for an entire community as well as being among the last bastions of old Soho.

“With your financial support and sponsorship, the rent can still be paid and we can ensure that the French will be able to reopen post these strange days. And when it does, there will be some great parties (pints might even be served!)”

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