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So much more than a cookbook: award-winning London gastropub the Bull & Last celebrates its rich history with a book

So much more than a cookbook: award-winning London gastropub the Bull & Last celebrates its rich history with a book

By Claudia Besant |

whitefox: helping brands, thought leaders and writers create beautiful bespoke books

The challenge

Ollie Pudney and Joe Swiers always knew 2020 would be a landmark year for the Bull & Last, the much-loved Highgate gastropub they took over in 2008. To celebrate 300 years since the first mention of the pub in local records, they planned an ambitious refurbishment that would add six boutique guest rooms to the top two floors, restoring the Bull & Last to its roots as a coaching inn while retaining its hugely deserved reputation as one of the best places to eat in London. They duly called time in October 2018 and called time – ready to revamp the pub and reopen in Spring 2020. It turned out to be a memorable year in more ways than one.

Having put so much effort into celebrating their tercentenary, giving up was not an option. While head chef Ollie worked flat out to transform his dine-in menu into a takeaway experience, Joe focused on completing their other passion project: a Bull & Last recipe book. The pair had approached whitefox in 2019 with a partial manuscript, the promise of a foreword by Giles Coren, and a vision to create something beautiful and collaborative that would reflect the North London community that had stuck with them through both planned and unwelcome ups and downs.

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The solution

As things turned out, the hiatus of 2020 gifted them the time to get their tribute to the pub’s devoted suppliers and visitors just right. Ollie had already pulled together over seventy recipes inspired by farmers, fishmongers and greengrocers who share his passion for ethically sourced seasonal British food. With recipe testing, editorial, design and production work being managed in the background by whitefox, the shuttered pub was brought back into service, hosting photoshoots in the Spring – and then a marathon 1,000-copy book-signing during autumn’s second lockdown. 

‘Collaborating with the whitefox team has been a total pleasure. Combining creativity, expertise and innovative thinking, they helped us turn what started as just an idea into the most beautiful cookbook.’
~ Ollie Pudney, Head Chef & Co-owner of the Bull & Last.

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The result

Since its publication in December 2020, The Bull & Last cookbook has appeared in The Times, The Caterer, Stylist and Observer Magazine, with Fay Ripley declaring it ‘one of the best [pubs] in the country’. Featuring stunning photography by Joe Howard and a cover that evokes nearby Hampstead Heath, alongside notes on decor and nods to some of the pub’s loyal canine friends, the book is a visual celebration of the Bull & Last’s long history and heritage. Copies can be found proudly presented in bookshops such as Waterstones, Hatchards and Foyles, as well as online retailers. One very happy five-star Waterstones reviewer commented: ‘now this has to be the most fantastic cookbook. The recipes are brilliant and tasty and it is a treat to read this big fat book of delights.’

The cookbook is a true collaboration – for, by and about the local community – completed in a time of extraordinary upheaval. Sometimes it really does take a village. In this case, it was Highgate.

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