Brendan the Navigator: New pub coming to Highgate Hill

The site of the new pub (left); landlords John Rynne (top right) and Michael Spurgeon (bottom right)

The site of the new pub (left); landlords John Rynne (top right) and Michael Spurgeon (bottom right) - Credit: Andre Langlois/John Rynne

A new pub set for Highgate says it is aiming to restore the history and “glory” of its Victorian home. 

Brendan the Navigator, an Irish-influenced gastro pub, will move into 90 Highgate Hill, which formerly housed the Old Crown Inn, and most recently Tourian Lounge restaurant.  

Named after the sixth century explorer Saint Brendan, the new drinking hole will host live acoustic folk music and plans to open on April 12, when pubs can serve customers outdoors. 

The site’s history as a free house dates back to the 19th century, when it was a popular destination for London holiday-makers. Its latest landlords are John Rynne and head chef Michael Spurgeon.  

John, an Irish musician who lives in Highbury, told the Ham&High: “We’re looking to have a proper service offering that's thoughtful and responsive as opposed to a blunt money-making operation.   

90 Highgate Hill, where the new pub will stand

90 Highgate Hill, where the new pub will stand - Credit: Andre Langlois

“You have to create a sense of identity that fits in with the community and we're very anxious to do that, and explore that with people.  

“Being a start-up we don't have the deepest pockets in the world so we're going to be improving as we go along in response to the community, rather than trying to put a product right into people’s face and say ‘that's what we've done – like it, love it or hate it’.” 

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On opening a business before restrictions are fully lifted, John said: “It gives us an opportunity to gently test and find out if people like what we're doing.  

“We want to create both a destination-style pub for our food and music, but also one that creates a sense of community belonging and ownership that we can share with the neighbourhood.” 

The Old Crown Highgate Hill

The Old Crown pub, pictured in 2012 - Credit: Nigel Sutton

“Completely and utterly avoiding” sport, pool tables, darts and duke boxes, John said his pub’s “friendly” and “welcoming” folk music would help celebrate the commonalities between Ireland and the UK.  

Business partner Michael previously ran The Lamb pub in Holloway Road, and was head chef of Nickel in Crouch End, and Season Kitchen in Finsbury Park.  

Brendan the Navigator’s menu will include fresh Cornish fish, Carlingford oysters, Hereford beef, Scottish wild salmon, burgers, Middle Eastern lamb wraps, beef-shin nachos, triple-cooked chips, pates, and a Sunday roast.  

Drinks will include craft beers and an “unpretentious” wine list. There will be accommodation for guests above the pub.