North London Food & Culture

All hail our boozers: #9, Tapping the Admiral

Last week the popular local picked up the CAMRA North London Pub of the Year for the second time running. We meet manager Phil Stewart in the latest in our weekly series

Phil Stewart:
Phil Stewart: ‘Tapping is still considered a bit of a secret in Kentish Town which makes everyone appreciate it that little bit more.’

Tell us how you came to the Admiral?
I grew up near Farnham, Surrey, and started working in the local village pub when I was old enough. Moving to Kentish Town I got a job at the Abbey, then worked my way up through that company, eventually becoming GM at the Crown & Goose for its last year trading. Since then I was part of the team that re-launched the Adam & Eve in Homerton, before taking over at Tapping the Admiral last November.

What it’s like running a local in 2015?
I love a place that feels like part of the community. Tapping is still considered a bit of a secret which makes everyone appreciate it that little bit more.

What’s been your worst experience?
Probably the end of the Goose. That place was a real hub of Camden, and when it closed its doors for the last time, it felt like a lot of people lost their home. I feel privileged to have been a part of it.

And best?
Being presented with CAMRA North London Pub of The Year award last week. Tapping has always had great ales and won the award in 2013 too, so I’m proud we were able to keep that up.


What has been the biggest surprise?
While working at the Goose, a football was kicked through the window by some local kids. One of the regulars ran out and made them feel about two foot tall by the end of it.

Still something of a secret:Tapping The Admiral. Photo: Stephen Emms
Handsome:Tapping The Admiral. Photo: Stephen Emms

What’s the funniest story you can tell us?
Probably the woman who came into one of my previous pubs and ordered a glass of wine. I asked, “white or red”, to which she replied: “They come in colours? I’ll have one of each”, then when I served them she asked which was which.

Who are your regulars?
We have a lot of CAMRA members who, contrary to popular belief, aren’t all old bearded men who drink out of horns. They range from twenty year old students, to eighty year old seasoned ale drinkers. And we also get your usual Kentish Town mix of teachers and young professionals who live and work in the area. Plus our more dedicated regulars. If they’re happy, you’re happy.

What do you do that’s unique?
The biggest thing for us is, and always has been, the ales. We have eight ale hand-pulls, two cider lines and the space for plenty of people to find a seat. Plus the new kitchen, which still offers honest pub food (pies, roasts etc), but done to a higher standard.

How do you see the pub industry in five years’ time?
Predicting trends is always impossible. All I can hope is that companies, such as Faucet Inns, stop taking over pubs to develop the sites into accommodation. This seems to be what they are doing to the Steeles, Dartmouth, and the Black Cap, and is a real blight on an already struggling industry. Even with new laws in place, it still doesn’t seem to be enough to stop them.

Tapping The Admiral: an illustration by Lili Bé
Tapping The Admiral: an illustration by Lili Bé

Is the rise of craft beer a good thing?
It’s a term – which I think is way over used – to describe microbrews, and it’s definitely not a bad thing. It has led to the resurgence of ales and has kept the industry interesting. I don’t think they will be called “craft beers” for much longer, but I do think the trend for flavour will last. We have Lagunitas on draft for £5+ but it’s brewed in America and is 6.2%. People that know that beer, and know it will come at a cost.

What’s next after streetfood in pubs?
It now feels like most pubs have already given up on the streetfood trend, and are going back to their roots. Especially in Kentish Town. Most seem to be offering fresh British cuisine, with a bit of flair. I guess that’s the next trend.

Who’s the most famous face you’ve served?
A few of the Game of Thrones cast came in together, Robb Stark, Jon Snow, and Theon Greyjoy. I had to call the missus and let her know that s#!% was about to kick off! Michael Caine would be my dream customer; he has the air of an absolute gentlemen, plus I’d get bragging-rights to the folks.

Enjoy that? Read the series. Tapping the Admiral is at 77 Castle Road, London NW1 8SU. Artist Lili Bé’s illustrations of Kentish Town’s Top 10 pubs are here  

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