There’s no denying that the Good Mixer is one of Camden’s top three legendary pubs. The other two? Oh, you can fight that out amongst yourselves.
So it was something of a shock to see the boozer close in January, after the family who had run it for 30 years moved on. But happily it’s escaped the luxury flats curse.
Most Londoners know of the pub, even if they haven’t popped by for a while. It was the two-roomed choice of musicians and supermodels throughout the 90s, where Elastica signed with Deceptive Records, and the Blur vs Oasis feud kicked off between guitarist Graham Coxon and the Gallagher brothers.
A decade later, it became one of the many hangouts of Amy Winehouse – and yet for most of us, it was just a damn good place for a cheapish Camden pint and a chat.
“It’s been about 25 times as much work as we thought it would be. But as we’re renting the pub, we wanted to get it open as quickly as possible on a shoestring budget. For us it’s all about reusing or reopening spaces that would otherwise be lost or bulldozed.”
“Landmark buildings or ones with character,” adds her co-partner Dan Harris. “That’s what we go for: the thing that attracted us to the pub was its history. Growing up in Wembley, I used to come here when I was 18. And even now I live round the corner.”South African-born Sarah, who’s now based in Bethnal Green, came to London for university in 2003. “This was my haunt,” says Sarah.
“The Lock Tavern was my local, and I came here and played pool many times. When the pub came up, Dan was like, have you heard of it and I said: of course, who hasn’t?”
What of the myth behind the name? Although a pub called The Cricketers existed here from the 1700s, it was rebuilt on a bomb site in the 1950s – and legend has it that a cement mixer was absent-mindedly trapped in the cellar during its construction. “I checked with the owners of the Dublin Castle and they said it was true,” says Dan. “So we’ve hung a cement mixer outside the sign – as we’re convinced it is.”
And don’t fear: the idea is to retain the Mixer’s traditional roots. “The main thing is to keep the actual layout and structure exactly as it was,” says Sarah, as we walk around what can only be described as a rather stylish Mad Men-esque interior.“So we’ve polished up the island bar, which you can see straight through, and all the upholstery has been redone, and we’ve repainted it the blue of the original sign. But overall, it’s the same saloon bar feel: the floor is original, and all the wood has been sanded down, which has come up beautifully.” Above the bar are shots of Camden faces by photographer Jeff Davy.
As previously, the venue remains split into two halves: the eastern side is “music orientated”, with a 1980s jukebox, filled with classics, and a tuned piano from Camden Piano Rescue standing in pride of place. “Regular pianists and anyone who wants to tinkle the ivories can pop in – and we’ll be booking the odd gig, singer songwriters and acoustic artists,” she says.
The other half of the pub is the games side: table football, dartboard, live sports and, beyond, a little private bar for gatherings. Peckish? You can gobble hearty fare, as they’ll be serving pie and mash from acclaimed Bristolian caff Pie Minister: “And we’ll also have gluten-free and vegan options, plus scotch eggs and sausage rolls,” says Sarah.And finally, the beer? “Camden Hells of course, plus Wild Card from Walthamstow and Signature Brew from Leyton, with its repurposed microphones for tap handles. We’ll also have two rotation craft taps, two pumps and Irish Pale Ale.”
For warmer times, benches outside will maximize alfresco drinking and the pair are keen to explore using more of Inverness Street with possible street parties in the future. “We want to work as much as possible with the community and give a little back,” says Sarah.
Main photo: The Mixer’s resident pianist in action. Photo: PR