Primrose Hill Set angry about threat to their 'village pub'

It is the preferred drinking establishment of north London's intelligentsia – David Miliband and Jon Snow among them – and celebrity regulars include Harry Enfield, Jamie Oliver and Sienna Miller.

The Engineer, the independent Primrose Hill watering hole considered one of the founding fathers of the gastropub movement, is under threat of new ownership after its landlord, Mitchells & Butlers, issued notice to the proprietors that it planned to take over the pub next year.

The M&B chain, whose franchises include Harvester, Toby Carvery, All Bar One and O'Neills, intends to manage the distinctive pub as part of its estate of 1,600 high street operations when the 10-year lease extension expires at the end of this year.

The news has been greeted with derision by locals and triggered a campaign spearheaded by the north London celebrity circuit.

"London is a series of villages for which the pub is the last point of contact," Jon Snow said last night, promising to "rally the intelligentsia".

"The idea of doing a Blitzkrieg and neutralising old independent boozers in favour of a dilation of identikit offerings akin to Piccadilly Circus is very sad indeed."

The television presenter Dermot O'Leary described The Engineer as a "local institution". "Its appeal is something that a pub chain, no matter how hard it tries, simply can't replicate," he said.

"I've lived in Highbury for six years and we have a perfectly decent chain pub that no one goes to, because there is no soul, no heartbeat, and no identity to it."

Mr Miliband described the move as "really stupid". He said: "Louise [his wife] and I have been going to the pub for over a year." He wished the campaigners luck.

Harry Enfield, who famously hosted lunch at The Engineer on his wedding day, said: "Without their personal input and the dedication of their team, I'm certain there will be a slow and inevitable decline in standards and staff until it returns to the lousy pub it used to be. The landlords think they can swipe the profits and keep the magic."

This plight of The Engineer is the latest headache for the bohemian residents of Primrose Hill, who pride themselves on resisting the homogeneity of the high street.

The suburb has one of the lowest ratios of chain stores to independents in the capital. Recent plans to open a Starbucks struggled to take off, while the branch of Café Rouge that opened in the area lasted less than a year.

In 1994, the current proprietors, Abigail Osborne and Tamsin Olivier (the daughter of Sir Laurence) took the lease of the pub, then a rundown London boozer, off the hands of Bass Taverns. During their 17-year management, they have championed a menu sourced from organic suppliers in Islington, Sussex and Devon. Tracy Macleod, a restaurant critic for The Independent, said yesterday: "The move from independently sourced suppliers to what at worst could be boil-in-the-bag catering could certainly be felt by the custodians of North London's finest gastronomy."

A spokesman for Mitchells & Butlers defended the takeover plan, promising to maintain the pub as a "distinctive, individual and characterful London landmark".

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments