“We’ve had some massive names. The thing is, at the time, you don’t realise how big they’re going to be, and you wish you’d paid a bit more attention!” laughs Hayley Pellegrini, who has owned the pub with husband Steve since 2004. The pub, which stands on the corner of Chesterton Road and Milton Road, has long had a reputation as the place to discover great bands still under the mainstream radar, and for local bands to cut their teeth in front of an appreciative, music-savvy crowd.
“It was very important for us to keep the live music going, as well as the live comedy,” adds Hayley. “But we also wanted to make sure we’re a pub as well. We want it to be a community place.”
In 2012 The Portland gained a designated 200-capacity function room which has greatly improved its offering as a performance space. It also boasts a patio garden – prompted by the smoking ban – which has just been revamped.
So, what else keeps the streams of people coming back to The Portland?
“The staff – we’re really lucky to have some fantastic staff,” confirms Hayley. “And just the community spirit, really. I think that’s important, especially for people who may be on their own now. If they don’t come out to their pub they might not see another person for days.” In 2009, the future of the beloved Portland Arms looked uncertain as developers threatened to close the pub to make way for new flats. “When we were under threat from developers the way people rallied was amazing,” Hayley admits. “When you see things like that you realise how much people think of The Portland – and long may they continue to do so.”
It offers a traditional pub menu, with home-made burgers a particular hit. “We have The Portland Big One, which is a burger with hash browns and onion rings and everything,” says Hayley. “But we’re more entertainment-led, with the live music and live football, so we wanted to keep the menu simple. We’re constantly investing in the place – we call her a she!” Hayley laughs. “We feel that if we show her some love she’ll do the same back.”