The Windsor Castle, Clapton

There has been talk on the forums recently about the new owners of The Windsor Castle on Lower Clapton Road. The pub has been closed in recent times after some trouble, but has recently been taken over by a new venture. I caught up with it’s new landlords Martin Wade Thomas and Ross Allmark to find out more.

The Windsor Castle

Photo by Emily Webber

Who is behind the project?

Martin Wade Thomas: As well as me and Ross there’s Cinz and Anthony from Birthdays and The Old Blue Last, and Neil Gregory from The Spurstowe Arms and The Royal Oak on Columbia Road. There’s a lot of talk about this being a Vice project but that actually isn’t the case; we’ve done a lot of work with the guys from Vice over the years and continue to do so with the The Old Blue Last but as with Birthdays this is an independent venture.

What are your plans with the pub?

MWT: At the heart of it we want The Windsor Castle to be really great local pub, which will mean first and foremost ensuring that it has a friendly and inclusive atmosphere. We’re in the process of installing a brand new kitchen, although we can’t say what the food offering is just yet.

Ross Allmark: With The Windsor we want to keep it simple; create a friendly, authentic pub with a good quality food and drink offering and then let it evolve from there. In the end it’s the people that frequent an establishment that really make it.

There are a lot of local breweries, are you planning to stock their beers?

MWT: I think with the quality of what’s on offer we’d be stupid not to. As with the other sites we run we’ll be offering locally brewed beers from breweries such as London Fields, Tap East, Kernel, Meantime and Trumans, with which The Old Blue Last especially has a historic relationship.

Are you keeping the pub’s name?

MWT: The subject of re-naming did come up, but in the end it just felt wrong; there’s been a pub called The Windsor Castle on the site since the 1820s and given that there are so few of the original pub names in the area we really didn’t want to change it.

The Windsor Castle circa 1880

The Windsor Castle circa 1880

There are rumours that you were looking locally in the past, what drew you to Clapton?

MWT: I’ve actually been looking at sites in Clapton on and off for years – I looked quite seriously at taking on The Lord Cecil a few years ago but at the time the amount of renovation works required meant it was well beyond my means. Sadly given the current state of that site I get the feeling it might be lost to us now, which is a huge shame considering it’s potential. We started looking again about two years ago but despite getting quite a long way down the line with one site in particular it didn’t quite pan out, so we focussed our energies on setting up Birthdays over in Dalston. Then late last year the guys from The Windsor got in touch and this project was born.

RA: I live just round the corner on Evering Road so I’ve ended up spending quite a lot of time in the area, especially down at the Pembury which is a great boozer. Still it felt like Clapton was a little under-serviced compared to areas like Stoke Newington and I think we can definitely offer something different to the other operators in the neighbourhood.

Do you plan on getting involved with the local community?

MWT: I think if you’re running a pub you can’t help but get involved with the local community, at least if you’re doing it right. We’ll be looking to employ staff who are as local as possible and we’re hoping this piece will be help open up dialogue between us and the wider community in Lower Clapton.

RA: I think to some extent we’d probably consider ourselves part of the community anyway, we both live locally and we’re certainly no strangers to the other bars in the area. That said I think engaging with the wider community is really important… Even on a purely commercial level we want to make sure we get our offering right.

What do you love about Hackney?

MWT: I’ve been living here for fifteen years, I can’t really imagine living anywhere else to be honest.

RA: Yeah, there really isn’t anywhere else in London like it is there? It just has a totally unique character to it, partly I think because of the huge diversity of social and ethnic groups that have passed through over the years, each one leaving there mark on the borough. There’s just no way that kind of thing can be replicated.

When do you plan to open?

MWT: I don’t want to jinx it so let’s just say spring for now.

Anything else you’d like to add?

RA: Just the usual stuff: if you want to reach us drop us a line via hello [at] thewindsorcastleclapton.com or there’s the embryo of a website up at http://thewindsorcastleclapton.com, you can find all our social media stuff from there – we’ll be posting loads more information over the next few weeks.

-o0o-

The Windsor Castle is at 135 Lower Clapton Rd, London, E5 8EQ

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15 comments

  1. GavinRedknap - 26 March 2013, 2:50 pm

    Best of luck with this, chaps. I cant help feeling, like I did with the Clapton Hart, it’ll be an inevitable success – more so even given that there’s going to be a nice little cluster there with Biddles and Rileys close by.

  2. saladefolle - 10 April 2013, 4:14 pm

    Nice! Really pleased they are taking the pub’s heritage into consideration. LCR (or more like Macchiato Mile nowadays) is looking like it’s having a major facelift, these are exciting times indeed!

  3. monkchips - 19 April 2013, 9:54 am

    bittersweet. these chaps seem lovely, and i am sure the pub will be excellent, but i feel a bit bad that the jamaican community has lost another pub.

  4. Murray - 14 May 2013, 2:59 pm

    It’s good to see the pub re-opened, looking good and with good quality ales on the bar. I think they may have misjudged the menu, however. I loved the seared pigeon but at £7.50 for a starter sized portion, I won’t be eating it too often. The food in the Clapton Hart is more appropriate and better value for money. And another thing that’ll get me into the Clapton Hart more than the Windsor Castle is their generous discount on real ales for members of CAMRA.

  5. Bab - 19 May 2013, 9:39 pm

    Another venue in Clapton that’s been sanitised to appeal to new residents. The Windsor Castle had problems in the past but will the people that used to drink there want seared pigeon for £7.50? The clientele is young, white and middle-class and not even remotely reflective of the diverse community.

  6. rossallmark - 20 May 2013, 11:13 am

    Hi Bab, Murray,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I should start by saying that when we renovated the Windsor we certainly weren’t looking to target one social group specifically; in fact quite a lot of the work we did was done with the intention of making the pub feel more inclusive and welcoming, especially to women and – during the day – families. As to whether we have achieved this I would say that I’m reasonably satisfied we have, however that’s not to say I don’t think there’s room for improvement.

    For pub’s the question of inclusivity is a difficult one for the simple reason that you can’t be all things to all people, and as you endeavour to appeal to one group of people you alienate another. Whilst I think that – sadly – it may be impossible to create a space that’s the perfect microcosm of the community, we’re totally open to feedback on how we can get as close as possible to that ideal whilst working within comercial pressures of operating a pub in the twenty-first century, which as I’m sure you are aware are many and various.

    To address your comments regarding the menu specifically, the reason we took this route was that it felt like more traditional pub food (pizzas / burgers etc) was already well covered in the area, and we wanted to do something a little different. I’m really proud of the result but at the same to I do feel we could take steps to make the menu more accessible, so we’re going to working on that over the coming weeks. Getting feedback from customers and local people is really important to this process so thanks for taking the time to leave these comments.

    All the Best,

    Ross // The Windsor Castle

  7. Ross - 29 May 2013, 9:47 pm

    Is it true,from what I hear from old locals, that you’re only giving a 4-pint max to deter them from drinking at a public house to get a younger ‘Vice/Birthdays’ crowd? l love the set up and wish you the best, however |’m intrigued x

  8. rossallmark - 30 May 2013, 4:41 pm

    HI Ross, glad you like what we’ve done with the place!

    As regards the four pint thing, I think someone might have been pulling your leg I’m afraid; even if we wanted to specifically target a younger audience I’m pretty sure that running a limit on drinks would essentially have the opposite effect.

    Chances are if someone’s been refused a drink based on how much they’ve consumed, it’s because we’re concerned for their safety or wellbeing.

    Cheers!

  9. Paul - 1 June 2013, 11:57 am

    Hi, Loved what you’ve done to the place, but not really delighted with what you’re doing with the menu. Maybe there is a reason why other pubs don’t do their menu like this(!?). The standard of cooking was excellent, the service very good and attentive. But unfortunately your menu is too confusing, and a bit expensive It’s not tapas, yet it looks like it’s designed for sharing, but the portions too small and not really the kind of thing you can actually share (e.g. a steak). All the elements to make a proper plate of food (i.e. a main course), are there, but not quite. So, I think what I’m getting at is it would be a lot more pleasant and simpler to order if you just did starters, main courses and deserts – and it would be easier to see how much the meal was going to cost, and a bit easier to gauge how much food to expect. If you wanted to do something different with the menu then why not just choose interesting and different dishes (e.g. wild boar, thai curry, lobster, purple potatoes, burritos, buffalo, suckling pig, Springbok, Kohlrabi or Kale etc)… I’ve not see any pub in Hackney do food like that, but I would certain come in regularly to try it.

  10. Gillian Guy - 6 June 2013, 8:15 pm

    Looking forward to seeing this new venture on Friday evening
    GG

  11. monkchips - 7 June 2013, 12:33 pm

    hey @RossAltmark The fitout is LOVELY. my wife is very jealous of your furniture, and is stunned that some of it is now out in the rain. would love any information about where you got the furniture, and whether you have any spare. i am a lot more positive about the menu, but some kids options would not go amiss. 🙂

  12. Ra - 15 June 2013, 6:54 pm

    The pub has been fitted out so beautifully, I absolutely love the space. I recently went in to try out the food, and was disappointed by the poor service in the restaurant. The food was good, but for the price I would have expected better service. Slow, standoffish, no one took our drinks order (finally we just ordered from the bar) and we weren’t given any water. It wasn’t a particularly busy evening either. We won’t be back to eat but maybe to sit in the lovely courtyard for a pint in summer.

  13. Bruce - 9 August 2013, 7:05 pm

    I will be attending this pub for the first time as I have heard that there is finally a 3rd pub for me on this route from the crooked billet to the hart then you. I basically look for a pub with a bit of edge but not too much, just like Clapton. I like a quick chat with a local but not too personal just enough to make me feel a little brave and a tiny bit local myself but not so much that i actually have to find anything more about the rigours of their life.
    It all sounds wonderful, I wonder if i’ll be the coolest person in tonight, I do hope so. I’m going to try to look indifferent and slightly apathetic, please only talk to me when this wears off cause i’m stupidly friendly and it gets in the way of my apathy. I’m wearing the beard i bought in Stokie. Yippee! Cheers.x

  14. thoracic2 - 6 November 2013, 6:26 pm

    I went in a few months back. Very nice atmosphere and nice n spacious, just how I like it.

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