The historic and former William IV pub in Kensal Rise reopened last month as ‘The William’ under the new management of LOCI Pubs, a group that has been restoring neighbourhood pubs such as The Clifton in Camden, The Duke of Hamilton in Hamstead and The Alliance in West Hampstead.
LOCI is run by North London brothers and Kensal Rise residents Ben and Ed Robson, along with their business partners and friends Adam Gostyn and Scott Soteriou. Together they are going about rescuing historic pubs around the city and breathing new life into them with stylish refurbishment and exceptional food menus to reflect contemporary London tastes and welcoming locals, families and businesses.
The William features LOCI’s signature contemporary styling as well as brand-new food, cocktail and brunch menus. And next year when fully refurbished, the 15 ensuite bedrooms above the pub will offer bed and breakfast with a boutique feel and unique classic décor and elegance. There will be a redesigned reception at the entrance to The William.
You will find plenty of beautiful original features with contemporary touches and vintage finds inside the pub, created with LOCI’s typical understated style of a mossy and dark green palate, natural stone and Carrara marble. While the main bar area is spacious and welcoming, the large oak tables and leather banquette seating offers a place for groups of friends to relax, while there are also some cosy corners, perfect for quiet drinks and a meal. As the sun goes down in the early evening, candles are lit, and the lighting turned down to give a warm, cosy feel to the pub which takes on a different ambience, which I particularly like.
Our recent visit just two weeks after The William had opened, was to try the new lunch menu which I have to say was not what I expected, as it was exceptionally good and not what you would normally find in a pub.
My friend who joined me for lunch always asks me to check whether the restaurants we go to offer gluten free dishes, so we were impressed with the fact that the menu at The William has a (GF) next to all the dishes that are gluten free. They also have dishes suitable for vegetarians, vegans and let you know whether any of the dishes have peanuts, sesame or shellfish in.
So, what’s on the menu? Well first off, we both ordered a beer, as the pub offers a good selection of London-based craft brewery beers on draft along with a tailored, carefully chosen wine list. They even obligingly stock a gluten free beer, which was an added bonus. And if you fancy a cocktail, you won’t be disappointed, as they will mix you one of their signature LOCI cocktails, such as a Clarified Whiskey Sour, Maple Old Fashioned or Tommy’s Margarita.
The menu has been created by Executive Chef Scott and includes some signature dishes that have proven to be favourites across the group’s other three pubs, such as the Buttermilk Fried Chicken that comes as a starter or sharing dish and the Chicken Schnitzel with fried egg, anchovies and capers as a main course. Seasonal specials change on a weekly basis and daily specials are displayed on the Specials Board.
After much deliberation, we both decided that the 12 Hour Lamb Ribs with mint yoghurt and honey sounded delicious – we were not disappointed and could have easily had a second helping – they really are that good!
Apparently, the Hand Chopped Beef Tartar is extremely popular as is the Pork Belly and Doreens Black Pudding Scotch Egg. And for vegetarians, the Warm Mushroom Tart with smoked crème fraiche and soy cured egg yolk might be a tasty option.
The William gets its meat from Hampstead Butchers which has an excellent reputation, and so we both decided that the 9oz Bavette Steak with green peppercorn sauce, a rocket salad and chips was a must. We were certainly very happy with our choice as the succulent steak was cooked to perfection. As I did not want chips, the kitchen obligingly made me a healthy avocado and lettuce salad.
As it was close to Christmas, the usual Chicken Schnitzel was substituted for a Turkey Schnitzel and for those of you who like fish, then the Breaded Haddock and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce will surely hit the mark. If you have the children in tow, then The William Cheeseburger might keep them quiet for a while.
A mention should be given to the well thought out wine list which has something to suit most palettes, with bottles starting from £28.50 or £6.50 by the glass. As we were having predominantly meat, I had a glass of a superb medium-body Romanian Pinot Noir which was also incidentally gluten free. With flavours of cherry, raspberries and plums, it has a balanced acidity with a slightly spicy finish. You will find at least four of the white and red wines are also available by the glass if you don’t want to have a whole bottle.
We left just enough room for a dessert as they looked so tempting. These are good old winter warmer puddings – Sticky Toffee Pudding, Gooey Chocolate Pudding and our choice, an Apple, Pear and Ginger Crumble with vanilla custard, washed down with an excellent double espresso – delicious and the perfect ending to a fabulous meal.
After lunch I spoke with Ben Robson, who told me a little bit about the pub’s history and how they came to acquire The William and the work that has yet to be completed before next summer, which includes the bedrooms, as only three have been refurbished so far. He also told me about their Sunday Roast menu which is proving to be extremely popular. On it you will find a succulent Irish Sirloin Steak as well as Pork Belly with apple sauce and a Honey and Mustard Chicken Leg with chipolata sausages and cranberry sauce. They also serve a Mushroom Lentil, Walnut and Apricot Loaf with braised red cabbage and vegan yorkie.
There is a good sized garden to the rear of the pub that has yet to be completed and is expected to open next Spring following an extensive redesign. There is also the Clarence room, which is a beautifully designed self-contained event space with its own bar and access to the garden, which can host around 40 people for dinner and 80 people standing, perfect for private gatherings, birthday parties or special events.
The final word, however, goes to Ben Robson, who commented on the pub’s opening by saying:
“We’re excited to introduce The William, our newest addition in Kensal Rise. It’s more than just a pub; it’s a celebration of the vibrant Kensal Rise neighbourhood. At LOCI Pubs, we believe in creating welcoming spaces where the local spirit thrives. Here’s to community and connection at The William.”
Welcoming it most certainly is, as we were taken by just how friendly and helpful all the staff we spoke with were. The William will no doubt prove popular with locals and visitors alike.
The William, 786 Harrow Road, Kensal Rise, London, NW10 5JX, England.
Tel: +44 (0)208 969 5955
The closest Tube station is Kensal Green on the Bakerloo line, which is about an 8-minute walk, or if travelling by Overground, the closest station is Kensal Rise, which is also about an 8-minute walk. The restaurant is open Monday to Saturday from 8:00am to 11:00pm (kitchen closes at 10:00pm) and Sunday from midday to 10:00pm.
Type of Restaurant: Traditional English Pub & Restaurant with 15 Guest Rooms
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: Do give the Lamb Ribs a try – they are fabulous!
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man On The Ground, a former member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs courtesy of LOCI Pubs