North London's Cultural Guide

All hail our boozers: #12, The Grafton

Landlord Joel Czopor on how he got to be at the helm of the Great British Pub of the Year

Joel Czopor: ''Photos: © Dan Hall
Joel Czopor: ”Photos: © Dan Hall

Tell us how you came to run a pub.
I grew up in Farnham in Surrey, and going into hospitality had never crossed my mind until I came back from travelling aged 21. My musician dad had leased a very modern-looking venue in Woking, needed a cleaner and that was my job for six months; a serious learning curve. After a year we changed the business from a nightclub into a tapas bar and restaurant. So in twelve years I’ve learnt a lot about how not to do things, and it has all led to the Grafton we know today.

Winning the Best Pub Award 2014: The Grafton's Joel & Susie
Winning the Best Pub Award 2014: The Grafton’s Joel & Susie
Who drinks there?
As my fiancée and co-owner Susie always says, “a good pub appeals to all”, so we’re proud to see all kinds of folk here every day: men, women, families, the old, the young and people from all the ethnic backgrounds you’d expect to find in Kentish Town.

Best moment to date?
Winning the Great British Pub of the Year 2014. I’m bowled over that a team of industry experts felt that what we are doing is something to excite and interest them. A pat on the back after three years of hard work.

Backbar. Photo: Dan Hall
Backbar. Photo: Dan Hall

Divulge a funny story.
They usually revolve around customers who haven’t taken too kindly to being barred from the pub. One such lady spotted me in Kentish Town Road while out shopping one day and followed me down the street pointing and yelling in a sing-songy voice, “BALD-Y, BALD-Y, BALD-Y!”


Beef shin. Photo: The Grafton
Beef shin. Photo: The Grafton
What’s next after streetfood?
Health. For us this means moving back to our own in-house kitchen and recently launching a new menu that eases the transition from street food to pub grub via healthy eating, a concept we call ‘street-meets-pub’. We are now able to cater not only to health-conscious diners but also to those with specific dietary requirements. There will be vegan and gluten-free options as well as raw food dishes.

Finally, any celebs been in?
Lots. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, who came as a couple before they were an ‘un’. And Damian Lewis also pops in reasonably regularly these days.

Find The Grafton at 20 Prince Of Wales Road NW5. Read our review of their new kitchen here. Their new pub the Gipsy Queen opens on Malden Road NW5 mid-June. We’ll keep you posted with more details.

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The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.