Tapping The Admiral steers out of choppy waters

Thursday, 3rd February — By Tom Moggach


Cosy and traditional – Tapping the Admiral in Chalk Farm

AS pubs emerge from their Covid hibernation, some are struggling to find their feet. Habits have evolved in the last few years; some regulars vanished and may never return.

But on a back street in Chalk Farm, Tapping The Admiral has roared gloriously back into life. In fact, an evening here reminds you what traditional pub culture is all about.

The pub nestles under railway arches on a backstreet near Kentish Town West Overground station. People often struggle to find it – which may help to explain its allure.

Last time I cycled by, a random local waved me down on the street. “It’s a great pub,” he said, keen to usher me in.

Push open the door any evening and you’ll be hit by the happy hum of conversation. This much-loved venue is buzzing right now, as people rediscover the simple pleasure of a drink with friends.

You may even experience a spontaneous sing song at the bar or find the musician Whiskey Mick, who plays his tunes every Thursday.

It’s been a long slog for the owners of Tapping The Admiral, who also run The Pineapple and Lady Hamilton in Kentish Town Road.

They bought this run-down building around a decade ago – a brave move given its obscure location.

The cosy interior is heavy on the nautical decoration, with festoons of flags, coils of rope and shelves of naval biographies. Even the pub cat is named after Nelson.

With a large choice of beers, the pub has won several awards from Camra, the Campaign for Real Ale.

On the food menu, proper pies have always been star of the show. For the last eight years, these have been rolled, shaped and filled to order by chef Matt Weston.

“I’m not convinced by a puff pastry or flaky lid,” he admits, referring to the abhorrent practice of serving half-baked pies in metal dishes. “For me, it’s got to have the base and the pastry all the way round – it needs to be self-contained.”

Right now, his menu includes four pies – all priced £12. There’s a vegan number with squash, lentil, tomato and tahini. Meaty options include a classic beef and ale or chicken and leek.

I opted for a vegetarian pie with celeriac, mushroom and Gruyére cheese. This was clearly made with skill, the thin slices of cooked celeriac providing a textural contrast to the cheesy sauce and crisp suet pastry. In clumsy hands, most pie fillings turn to mush.

All pies are served with greens, gravy and mashed potato. Other menu options include flatbreads, burgers and a mushroom risotto with truffled mascarpone. These are a steal for £10 – nowadays, you won’t find many London pubs where the food is so reasonably priced.

If you wondered, the pub is named after a peculiar legend. On his death, Horatio Nelson’s body was stored in a brandy barrel on his ship. The crew tapped the liquor and took shots in his honour – through straws of macaroni.

Tapping The Admiral
77 Castle Rd, NW1
0207 267 6118

Related Articles