Nestled away on the idyllic Goldsmiths Row, in the middle of one of the most dynamic bits of Hackney, The Virgin Queen has recently been re-opened, following a six-month refurb by Remarkable Pubs. Formerly The Albion, a home away from home for West Bromwich Albion fans, the football memorabilia has been replaced by carefully sourced antique panelling and vintage furnishings.
Remarkable Pubs was established way back in 1985, when Robert and Jean Thomas took a big chance on buying the run-down Prince George pub in Hackney, to restore its architectural charm and turn into the kind of pub they would like. And now with 14, soon to be 16, lovingly restored boozers, Robert and Jean’s tentative venture into the world of drinking holes has resulted in a successful group of traditional pubs.
Robert decided to retain the lovely faux-Tudor timber on the pub’s exterior and complement it with an authentic Tudor-style interior, influenced by the architecture of the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras station. He visited the Andy Thornton showroom to source all the interior woodwork for the bar and restaurant and almost immediately found two panelled rooms that he believed could be reconfigured to create just the look he wanted.
The bar counter and back fitting have been created from one very ornate oak panelled room; the carved panels and floral mouldings between fluted pilasters forming the front bar with a new curved return. The stunning back bar features seven individual carved heads above matching pilasters, with intermediate panels removed to create shelving for spirit and wine bottles.
Adjacent to the bar is the snug area, with full-room height panelling from Andy Thornton and a central heavily carved over-mantel fireplace, which was one of Robert’s eBay finds, with more pilaster panels fixed to the panelling. The homely feel is completed by the inclusion of period settles, pews, bentwood furniture and a traditional rug.
At the back of the pub is Victoria Park run by The Fish House, where they serve ‘posh fish & chips' freshly battered and fried, plus desserts fit for a queen. The fixtures include floor-to-ceiling Jacobean-style linenfold panelling on one wall, plainer antique panelling to the other, with Gothic wrought iron pendants hung from a blue-and-gold painted ceiling. Downstairs is a sort of medieval banquet space for private functions, with a stone fireplace, carved oak over-mantel and ornate chalk board, all supplied by Andy Thornton.
The Virgin Queen now offers a near-perfect pub experience and has quickly become a much-loved local gem, a place full of animated conversation, genuine charm and fun. It is full to the rafters with great wines, a top-notch selection of craft beers from London-based brewers and the hum of witty conversation.