The Red Lion and Sun
25 North Road, Highgate, N6 4BE
WLC Rank : 77
Glass from : £ 5 (125 ml)
BEST FORA wine aware landlord
Special order langoustines
Two gardens and log fires
Countertop Enomatic featuring the likes of Bibi Graetz’s Soffocone
Remarkable shop sales
A brilliant, revitalised, stalwart pub with Asian flourishes in dishes, a top Sunday roast, and depthful list, including retail, supplied by Bibendum.
“Everyone is off furlough and happy to be back at work. I’m lucky I have a great team,” says Heath Ball of Highgate’s handsome Red Lion & Sun. Ball grew up in New Zealand, receiving exposure to the world of hospitality young via his grandfather who opened the country’s first hamburger restaurant in 1939, “being the first place in the country to sell Coca Cola.” He the Land of the Long White Cloud in 1993, working for Hugh “Sooty” Corbett, the mind behind Slug & Lettuce and Harvey Floorbangers.
Ball’s first UK business was the Drunken Monkey in “frontier territory,” Shoreditch. To the initial “horror” of staid regulars, he brightened-up Highgate’s Red Lion and Sun on taking over in 2007, followed by The Wenlock Arms six years on, saving it from demolition.
Confronted with the shock of having to shut down for lockdown, Ball had a “quick-footed” conversation with Bibendum’s on-trade channel director, John Graves. “We pivoted the business into a retail wine shop and takeaway, becoming Bibendum’s biggest on-trade customer”” Both the retail shop and reserve wine list proved a runaway success. “Locals who wanted support the pub had the opportunity to purchase really good wines at amazing prices. I found myself with a bunch of private wine clients which is great.”
Ball also created the world’s furthest from winery cellar door during this time with Paul Pujol of Prophet’s Rock, Central Otago. “We sold a lot of his wine, including tasting kits. The 2014 Riesling flew out in days.”
Before lockdown, Ball began to take Pinot Grigio seriously recently. “I was annoyed at myself for having a really average Pinot Grigio so did the maths on what I would have to charge to make the same cash margin for selling the ultra-sustainable, biodynamic one from Alois Lageder in Trentino-Alto Adige. I only had to increase the selling price by £5 per bottle to maintain the same margin. Granted the GP dropped, but you can’t bank a GP. Now my customers can enjoy a stunning Pinot Grigio from a beautiful, family estate.”
Despite having his hands full “with the 3 P’s – Poppy, Pixie and the Pub,” before lockdown, Ball recently managed a trip to La Guita, Sanlúcar de Barrameda. “On returning I had an infectious love of Sherry and now my customers are enjoying the wine.”
By Douglas Blyde.