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Jacob unlocks his family history as he takes over at pub that faced closure

Chef brings Louisiana food to former Prince of Wales as he goes back to area he left aged two

28 April, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

Jacob Kenedy with his mother, the Canonbury artist Haidee Becker, who worked on the decor at Plaquemine Lock

AN ANGEL-born chef who runs two successful West End restaurants is returning to Islington – to live above a newly reopened pub themed entirely on his family’s Louisianan heritage.

Jacob Kenedy, who was born in Noel Road but moved out of the borough when he was aged two, bought the closed-down Prince of Wales pub, near Angel, when it was threatened with redevelopment in 2014. After a major refurbishment, the well-loved boozer on the corner of Sudeley Street and Vincent Terrace re-opened this week under a new name.

Plaquemine Lock is named after the waterway that Mr Kenedy’s great-grandfather built in Louisiana, and it is decorated throughout by his mother, the artist Haidee Becker, who lives in Canonbury.

The Plaquemine Lock sits alongside the Regent’s Canal

The pub will serve Louisianan cuisine but retain a standing area and serve real ale, as well as London-brewed beers and cocktails – and punters can delve into Mr Kenedy’s family history.

“Cajun and creole is the most amazing cuisine,” said the 37-year-old.

“I always had a dream of opening a Louisiana-themed restaurant, but this has given me an opportunity to take a more realistic approach to it. And it is very compatible with a traditional British pub.”

Plaquemine Lock is adorned with pictures of his great-grandmother Carrie B Schwing, the steamboat owned by the Schwing family lumber company that was named after her, maps of the land the family owned in Louisiana, and memora­bilia relating to Mr Kenedy’s grandmother, the late actress, painter, marionette artiste and socialite Virginia Campbell.

Punters can also buy a Plaquemine Lock-themed pack of cards and play Ms Campbell’s favourite card game – Posso – the rules of which are on the wall.

Mr Kenedy added: “I’ve always done things related to my family history. So much work has gone into it. But after my grandmother died it became more important to do it in honour of her.

“She would’ve been so happy to see it, she would have been in here every day, drinking wine and playing cards, that’s all she did. She got to over a hundred on wine and chocolate.”

The Plaquemine Lock’s interior

His mother added: “But she was never hungover.”

Ms Becker produced large murals for the pub’s dining area and above the bar. Some of her paintings also adorn the pub, as they do Mr Kenedy’s West End restaurants Boca di Lupo and Vico.

“I’m very moved [by her son’s project],” she said. “My mother died in February 2016. She was a very vital, lively woman and we were preparing a huge party for her 102nd birthday. I hope that our relatives from Plaquemine come to see the pub. The family are so thrilled about the project.

“Isn’t it lovely that it’s called Plaquemine Lock and it’s just by a [Regent’s Canal] lock?”

The pub will serve cajun and creole cuisine – the melting pot of French, African and American cultures found in the southern US state.

The menu includes starters such as smoked pork boudin, crawfish pie and crabcakes, and mains such as po’boy sandwiches filled with slow-roast beef, fried oysters, or shrimp and bacon. Bowls of dark and light gumbo, and cuts of blackened chicken and sides such as smothered okra, grits and fried green tomatoes are also on the menu.

The Prince of Wales looked set to be converted into luxury flats after it was closed down in 2014. Mr Kenedy discovered it by chance as he was walking along the canal looking for a place to live. He enquired about the three-storey 1930s building, eventually managed to buy it for £2.3million and launched his refurbishment project. The new landlord will live across two floors above the pub with his partner David.

The project has received the backing of the Friends of Regent’s Canal, many of whom were regulars at the Prince of Wales, and the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

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