The Travellers Friend restored
PUBLISHED: 16:42 24 July 2017 | UPDATED: 16:42 24 July 2017
How rundown Woodford pub, The Travellers Friend, has undergone a stunning transformation thanks to two locals
Discussing the new bar menu at The Travellers Friend, Woodford, with joint owners Scott Randall and Andrew Zacharia, my stomach audibly starts to grumble. Homemade Scotch eggs with runny yolks, yum, yum; short rib of beef croquettes, yes please… by the time we get to the hot roast sandwiches, I am positively salivating. Note to self: don’t do food-related interviews on an empty stomach.
Not that visitors to this lovingly refurbished early Victorian gem are likely to go hungry for long these days, what with the introduction of the said bar menu and a brand, spanking new 60-seater restaurant set to open its doors in the next month or two. With an open-plan kitchen, serving top-quality, locally sourced, seasonal British fare, the restaurant will mark the end of nearly four years of renovation work for Woodford residents Scott and Andrew, and their relief at being within spitting distance of the finishing line is palpable.
Two ex-bankers (Scott was an equity trader, Andrew in bond exchange), the pair originally quit the City to focus on property development, but when The Travellers Friend came up for sale in 2013, they could not resist owning such a landmark, if somewhat dilapidated, building, and thus their careers as publicans began.
First off on their to do list was to turn the waste land out back into one of West Essex’s most beautiful pub gardens, and indeed, their efforts won them the accolade of Best Pub Garden in Redbridge in 2014. Then it was the turn of the pub itself, which was first recorded in the 1841 census as a ‘beer shop,’ but its history is thought to go back much further back than that.
“It was more of a restoration job really,” says Andrew. “This place is so steeped in history we really wanted to be respectful of it’s past and keep the character. That’s why we’ve restored the snob screens (glass panes in movable wooden frames installed in public houses of the era that enabled middle class punters to sup undisturbed by the hoi polloi).
“We’ve also had the name the pub is known by locally, The Spivs, etched on the window above the door. It was called this because it was frequented by duckers and divers during the Second World War selling black market goods such as stockings and chocolate.”
Being mindful of The Travellers Friend’s heritage has also extended to the clientele. “In the past we’ve been seen as a ‘drinking man’s pub,’ and of course we don’t want to alienate these people – that’s why we still serve seven different real ales,” explains Scott. “But we’ve consciously wanted to bring more women and families in too, so we now serve prosecco in miniature bottles, goldfish bowl gin and tonics and Aperol Spritz, plus a food and drink menu for children who are welcome in the garden until 8.30 at night.”
Both men sound evangelical about the changes they have wrought to The Travellers Friend. “We’ve turned this place in to what it should be; it’s 100 times better than it was and people seem to really like it,” say Scott.
“Not only that,” interjects Andrew, “we’ve taken a Woodford landmark and brought it back to the community.”
But this time with tempting bar food and fine dining thrown in for good measure, and not a spiv in sight.
Get in touch
The Travellers Friend
496-498 High Road,
020 8504 2435