Co-founders Charlie Carroll and Oisin Rogers share the story behind their extraordinary runaway success pub opening The Devonshire


About 10 years ago, Flat Iron co-founder Charlie Carroll met a “slightly odd Irishman”.

Alongside his day job building an insurgent steakhouse business, Carroll had a penchant for spit-roasting pork in his back garden.

Yet what he really wanted to do was spit-roast a cow.

Safe in the knowledge it would probably never happen, the Irishman, namely high-profile landlord Oisin Rogers, invited him to his pub to do just that.

Three months later, to both of their surprises, the pair were laying the early foundations for what would become The Devonshire, one of the most talked about new pubs in memory.

“We had a big bonfire, with a cow on a split, and six-foot cartwheels either side, the pair of us looking at each other, realising we could follow through on these things,” Carroll tells MCA’s Pub Conference.

“For the 10 years since I’ve been watching Osh smash being a publican. I don’t know that many publicans but I’m pretty sure he’s the best in the business.”

In the intervening years, Rogers took The Ship in Wandsworth from a previously quiet pub to one that was doing multiples of the trade by the time he left. He went on to do the same at The Guinea Grill in Mayfair, also owned by Young’s. “It was no fluke”, Carroll says.

For years Carroll pestered Rogers to partner with him on a new project. And around two years ago, they began to make the dream happen.

A third partner was brought in to make up the hospitality super group, former Fat Duck head chef of some 20 years, Ashley Palmer-Watts, who Carroll drolly describes as “reasonable at cooking”.

“It’s been a long process but fundamentally, we started off from trying to do something that we love, to create our vision of what we think the dream pub in Soho could be,” Carroll says.

“For me, all of the stuff that comes after it, the things that we’ve done, and thus far the reception it has garnered just flows from that. That’s the starting point for us doing it for the right reasons and doing it from an emotional standpoint.

“I was focusing on doing this thing that we love and trying to create this dream, rather than trying to make money.”

With an approach to do things differently, The Devonshire has its own in-house butchery, dry-age room and wood-fired ember grill, unprecedented on its scale in the UK.

It famously has its own bespoke Guinness set-up, and makes its own butter, sausages, bacon, and bakes its own bread.

“For me, it all comes from the love of it. What’s our dream? What can we do? And the guests can feel that,” Carroll adds.

“We’re pinching ourselves with how well it’s gone. But I think when we’ve talked about it, people can feel when there’s emotion behind what you’re doing. They can see the detail we have at green room at the back, the artwork, the vinyl, the live music. None of that is defensible from a spreadsheet point of view.

“People can feel that is what we fancied doing and we thought it’d be fun and I think I think that’s really key to us.”

From Rogers’ standpoint, the partnership allows him to focus on his strengths in being a publican.

“We decided very early on, we’re only doing the one thing, it had to be big and had to be fun and we all had agree that we will try and be best in class,” he says.

“It has been incredibly fun. We’ve got an unbelievable team around us delivering great experiences for people.

“It’s really about how people feel and how we feel about doing something that’s unique and that we’re all very passionate about.

“It’s been really well received, but we still think of it right now, even though we’re eight months in, that it’s a start-up business. We can’t think that we will continue to have the same accolades going forward; we have to push in terms of the detail and the staff and making things better all the time.”

One tailwind, which The Devonshire has either savvily taken advantage or itself helped create, is the extraordinary popularity of Guiness in recent years.

Once considered an old man or rugby boy drink, young people and women have embraced the Irish stout, and The Devonshire has been perfectly placed to benefit from this with its Irish-styled feel.

Rogers pushes back against the suggestion that The Devonshire has made Guinness popular - but he’s happy to be part of the conversation, and is a frequent press pundit on the brand’s popularity.

“Guinness was on the up since the pandemic,” Rogers adds. “People really appreciate it, it’s quite a ubiquitous product now that everybody wants to talk about. The conversation behind it is very, very interesting because it is in essence quite benign. It’s quite a nice thing to discuss with anybody knowing you’re not going to offend anybody by talking about it.

“It starts conversations all over the place. It tastes great if it’s done well. Long may it continue.”