The Clifton pub in St John’s Wood, London stood empty for several years and faced threats of redevelopment before Ed and Ben Robson – the brothers behind Boopshi’s in Fitzrovia – decided to reinvent it for a more contemporary clientele. Paul Farley spoke to Ed about the project’s aims and challenges prior to re-opening …  

Time was called at the bar, but Ed Robson and his brother Ben simply didn’t feel like leaving. The North London duo started out in the world of pub dining in 2007 when they took over the first place they ever drank in – The Horseshoe in Hampstead.

They followed up by launching a successful schnitzel and prosecco bar, Boopshi’s, in Fitzrovia.

Last year, an opportunity to revive another old watering hole of theirs, The Clifton – a historic pub which had been reinvented through the centuries, but had stood empty since 2013 – proved enticing enough to draw the brothers back to their first love.

The pub’s London brick Georgian façade belies a colourful history – for instance, King Edward VII used to secretly take his mistress Lillie Langtry to The Clifton, and reputedly ordered that the venue change its name from ‘hunting lodge’ to ‘hotel’ to accommodate him, as royals were not allowed to drink in pubs.

The brothers’ challenge lay in striking a balance between old and new to create a destination that appeals as much to locals as to  visitors from further afield.

The pair looked to rejuvenate the interior while preserving the pub’s heritage, original features and community feel. Original features such as fireplaces and wood panelling were retained – the spacious interior, designed by Red Deer [Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings and No. 197 Chiswick Fire Station] is an open, light-filled space with loose furniture, chesterfields and slouchy armchairs.

The menu they developed is progressive, too – a light, Sunday brunch-style affair that favours seasonal ingredients and vegan dishes over traditional roasts. At the bar, local and craft beers join a wine list curated with the help of celebrity sommelier Raul Diaz.

Wishing to reinstate The Clifton as a comfortable hideaway, lively social eating house and relaxed drinking spot for locals and visitors alike, Ed and his brother have had their hands full in their latest effort to prolong the lock-in …

Find The Clifton on Twitter here, and read Paul's full interview with Ed in the first issue of Hospitality F&B magazine, coming soon …