Change of Hart: why Hicce's Pip Lacey and Gordy McIntyre are heading down the pub

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Change of Hart: why Hicce's Pip Lacey and Gordy McIntyre are heading down the pub

Related tags Hicce Hart Gordy McIntyre Pip Lacey Pub & bar Jeremy clarkson Restaurant London

The duo behind Coal Drops Yard restaurant Hicce open their first pub together later this month, in Islington.

Called Hicce Hart, the pub will open on Penton Street on 18 November and will continue the pair’s style of modern British food served at their Coals Drop Yard restaurant Hicce. The two-storey pub will have a downstairs bar and kitchen and an upstairs restaurant with Charlotte Harris overseeing the food and Agustina Basilico running the floor.

So, you’re entering the pub business...

Pip Lacey:​ Yes. We waited until the world was properly in the shit and then thought this is the time! We’ve been looking at doing one for a while and there’s never a right time to do anything but it felt right when we first came into it. It felt like home to me straight away, even more than Hicce did. I don’t know if that’s just a second place syndrome and you’re just more used to stuff.
Gordy McIntyre:​ My background is 20 odd years in pubs, so I’ve got a fair amount of history in the industry. The pub is the heart of a community so it just excited us when we walked through the door.

What was the thinking behind it?

GM:​ The idea of the business was never to be a one -trick pony and just have a restaurant, we’ve got more strings to our bow.
PL:​ We have been talking about doing a pub even before we launched Hicce. We were looking at anything, there wasn’t any remit as such. Whether the area felt right,  what we could do with the space, how much it would cost were all factors. We didn’t know whether we would open a restaurant or a pub or maybe even a pizza place. we are open to everything as we’ve got quite a few concepts flying around our black book.

Tell us about the site

GM:​ It was built in 1775 and has a lot of history. It started as The Salmon and Compasses and then it became The Joker of Penton Street and later it was [brunch venue] Day & Night. It has a ‘grandfather’ licence until 4am, not that we’re going to use it.

What changes are you making to it?

PL:​ The previous landlord’s son ran it and he tried a brunch concept that didn’t quite work; it was very bright and the decor suited it’s style of food but it didn’t go to plan so we’ve toned the decor down a bit.
GM:​ It will be our interpretation of a what a modern pub is. The building has some amazing features to work with such as the fireplace. On the ground floor the bar and the kitchen will be united so it’s about theatre and then the function room upstairs is being turned into a dining room. If you book in for dinner automatically go upstairs but we’ve put in some touches to give people a reason to go up there, such as a wood burner.

Pip-Lacey-and-Gordy-McIntyre-to-open-Islington-pub-Hicce-Hart

What kind of food will you be serving?

PL:​ It will be British food and the menu is going to change a lot. Hicce is big so we can’t change the food there that much, there are a lot of staff to train and it’s a different style because of the number of covers, but here there are fewer covers so can be led by our suppliers a little bit. We want it to be competitively priced so we’ll be using ingredients such as offcuts such as with our beef ribs. They are like spare ribs that mostly go into making a sauce but they have still got amazing ribeye meat between them so we are brining them, coating them in a special flour and deep frying them. They will be served with a bottle of aged malt vinegar, which is thick like balsamic, just to cut through the richness. We’ll also serve fish with a classic buerre blanc sauce. Most dishes will have three or four ingredients on the plate. There will also be bars snacks such as nuts, olives and there is supplier that does mini saucisson covered in parmesan. We’d got to think about labour and making it so that anyone can serve them.

What about the drinks?

GM:​ There will be a wine list of biodynamic wines and we’re going to use only one brewery [north London's The Goodness Brewery]. So there will be one lager, one IPA, one stout, one low abv beer, and one cider. There will be no bottles. Everything will be the same price - £5.75 a pint. It has to be accessible; we don’t want to alienate anybody. If you want to sit and have four pints and not eat that’s fine. It is first and foremost a pub, and a pub has to be part of its community. It has to be a place you can just pop in for a drink.
PL:​ We are really confident about the drink. We love their beer, they are a young company and it’s helping them, although it’s not to say we will use them forever. Now there are so many craft breweries and so many different choices but it doesn’t mean they are all great.

Pubs are having a tough time. How are you feeling about the sector?

PL:​ I used to come down to London in my mid twenties and stay with Gordy over the years in the different pubs he was living above. It was always cool to see him taking pubs that weren’t quite right and turning them into something that matched the area. I got to see that first hand. I have full confidence that we will make this work with the both of us together.
GM:​ There’s lots if doom and gloom but we’ve always been pretty positive. We are quite methodical and don’t make rash decisions. Things will get tougher but people will still want that place they can go that isn’t their home.
PL:​ Staffing is still so hard and that will carry on for another four or so years but I feel a bit more comfortable because we have a restaurant nearby. The [Hicce] team there is interested in here so we have got a back up of help. And it’s good to give them a different experience.

Pip, you lead the kitchen at Jeremy Clarkson’s Diddly Squat restaurant. How did that come about?

PL:​ I missed a few emails and at first thought they were spam but then I looked back over them and they mentioned some filming and the penny dropped. It was all quite secretive; I met Jeremy on camera, which was quite scary the first time considering that he’s quite a big bloke. We got on and he asked me to open his restaurant ​and the rest you’ll have to wait and see when the show comes out in the new year.

Can you tell us anything about the experience?

PL:​ It was every emotion possible. It was fun and crazy, but my team and I did a good job.

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