'The good times are back': Brendan the Navigator pub opens in Highgate

The team from left: Eleanor McLoughlin; Michael Spurgeon; John Rynne; James Gavin

The team from left: Eleanor McLoughlin; Michael Spurgeon; John Rynne; James Gavin - Credit: Polly Hancock

Brendan the Navigator has poured its first pint for punters – and proclaimed “the good times are back”.

The new pub at 90 Highgate Hill opened on Thursday evening (April 22) after much anticipation and excitement from the local community.

The free house, a fusion of Irish and English influences, says it will focus on live acoustic music, “recognisable, homely food” – and “creating a good night”.

In the building once home to the Old Crown, it is being run and restored by musician John Rynne and head chef Michael Spurgeon – who fashioned the idea over “a few drinks” last August.

John said he was “over the moon” to serve Highgate, while Michael told the Ham&High: “It seemed like this idea was written on the back of a cigarette packet and nothing would come to fruition... then all of a sudden we’re here. 

Landlord John Rynne pouring a pint of Guinness

Landlord John Rynne pouring a pint of Guinness - Credit: Polly Hancock

“Everyone's been really enthusiastic and I think people right through Highgate are quite thrilled about it.  

“I mean people say the English pubs are dying out, and they are, but it's good to have a place where people can come in and put the world to rights.”  

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Michael said the pub’s opening was a positive sign coming out of the pandemic, and that he hoped it would reflect “a 1920s-style renaissance of good times, back again”.

“We want people to come in here and make it their pub,” the chef added.  

The watering hole is named after the sixth century explorer Saint Brendan, which John says has captured the interest of locals – young and old. 

The landlord said he had “fallen in love” with the landmark heritage site, and that its unamplified acoustic music would make people “part of the night” – rather than having something “piped at them”.  

Instead of pointing out their differences, he said the pub was a celebration of commonality between England and Ireland – from culture to music to drinking.  

The landlord thanked Islington Council for its support, and said that it felt it “surreal” to welcome customers for the first time.

“It’s almost like: did we actually just do this? This was only an idea and here we are... we’re open.”

Brendan the Navigator is not currently taking bookings  it is open for walk-ins. 

Onwards and upwards for Brendan the Navigator

Onwards and upwards for Brendan the Navigator - Credit: Polly Hancock