The Eagle Has Landed
Words & Podcast: Toby Harris
Ten minutes’ walk from Homerton station stands London’s first fully vegan pub, The Spread Eagle. To anyone casually considering its façade from the curb, it might seem like your regular boozer; cross its threshold and the interior tells a different story. Keen drinkers and avowed eschewers of animal products will find a place replete with charm, heritage and even an impressive shrine to Prince (yep, there’s an actual temple to the late purple lord). The architect of such brilliant eclecticism? Co-founder Luke McGloughlin, who has pulled off an unlikely fusion: the traditional English pub with veganism, a food and environmental movement that seems to be gaining mainstream traction by the day.
Opened in January, The Spread Eagle’s raison d’etre is as much about paying homage to history as it is about serving its community and creating something trailblazing and new. Like all the best boozers, it has existed in various incarnations; dating back to 1752, its walls would, if they could, spill riveting tales, not least of which would pertain to its known links with east London gangsters of yore. Known variously as The Jack Door and Star, and later The Jack Door and Stump, McGloughlin decided to return to its original name: The Spread Eagle. On a mission to find out more about the pub’s history, he’s busy gathering old photographs and collecting anecdotal accounts of its chequered past through local word-of-mouth.
The Spread Eagle is the fruit of shared labours, those of a group of good friends who so happened to bring complementary skills to the table. McGloughlin is hands-on behind the bar despite also working a full-time job in medical technology, while his best friend brings the management expertise. The vegan element took root at Secret Garden Party only last year where, as McGloughlin describes, “I was having a catch-up with one of my best friends who had always run bars and restaurants in London, and she floated the idea of opening a pub together. Then this came on the market and it seemed like a project that was too good to miss.”
Soon afterwards, they partnered with caterer, Club Mexicana, which has been trading for five years at residencies, festivals and pop-ups. As McGloughlin explains, everything from the food and drinks to the fixtures and fittings are vegan and sustainably sourced. “We reclaimed the old leather from the furniture and sent it off to companies that make accessories and wallets, so it would be reused and wouldn’t go to waste. The leather sofas we sold and acquired new ones.”
Furnishings are one thing; having a vegan-friendly drinks offering is somewhat trickier. “The most challenging thing was making sure that the drinks were fully vegan. Wine is easier to accommodate than beer because a lot of the good quality, natural wines are vegan.” As such, they’re mostly air cask ales, specifically made without the finings used to make beer clear and which are often made from fish eggs.
The pub has quickly found its feet and it won’t be long before national expansion. McGloughlin says: “This is only our fourth month and it’s been like a runaway train.”
Watch out: this eagle is poised to spread her considerable wings.
The Spread Eagle, Homerton High Street E9 6AS;