Bermuda’s culture, history and British heritage come together at The Hog Penny, one of the island’s most iconic pubs. It’s legacy dates back to 1957 when it became the first licensed establishment in the City of Hamilton. Since then, it has maintained a reputation as one of the most homely places to eat and drink in the city, with loyal customers from around the world returning again and again.
Lucian, the pub’s manager, tells me a story about his recent experience with a visiting customer who has been patronizing The Hog Penny since long before he was hired. See that picture on the wall over there, it says 1967 but it was actually taken in 1963. The gentlemen in that picture just came in last week to tell me that date is wrong, he says, explaining that the customer was
actually the man in the photograph.
Next he begins to point out all of the little antique features that give the site its beloved character. “That mirror over there has to be over a hundred years old,” he says pointing to the aging glass on the wall next to the bar. It’s covered in vintage stickers from decades of happy drinkers who sought to make a mark at their favorite establishment. The bar and woodwork throughout the place were imported from an old Watney’s Pub in England and date back to the early 1900s. Other relics include a set of old butcher’s tools hanging above the bar, left as a reminder of when the pub was once a meat shop. “This is how a pub should look,” Lucian says, relaying the sentiments expressed to him by customers over the years. There’s no place more original than this, not even in London.
Located on Burnaby Street, from the outside the restaurant looks very unassuming. On the inside it’s a reflection of how traditions live on, one generation inspiring the next. Mama Jo has been the Lunch Manager since 1970, she has seen the city landscape change drastically over the decades, but despite a few minor interior restorations – her pub has hardly changed at all. She testifies to the number of customers who keep coming back over the years, and the impact the venue has on people as she proceeds to tell me a story of two Americans who stumbled upon the place in the 60s, “The two gentlemen stayed for drinks. They were from Boston, and when they went back home they told their friend about it. So he came down the following year to see and he loved the place. It inspired him to create a bar just like this one in his city,” she recounts, how the Hog Penny became the original inspiration for the popular Cheers Bar in Boston.
It’s not a restaurant “it’s an institution” Lucian says proudly, reciting the phrase as if it were the company motto. I’m really starting to believe him too, as I scan the wall covered in awards they’ve received over the years. Ten years in a row they’ve been called ‘Best Pub in Bermuda’, Two years in a row they ‘ve been lauded for having the ‘Best Entertainment in Bermuda’. “Every weekend until 1pm we are the busiest bar in Hamilton,” says Lucien, noting that while other bars and nightclubs across the island usually have a DJ, they are the only place to exclusively feature live entertainment by local bands and musicians.
Foodies will want to try the Fish Chowder, for which they’ve also won multiple awards. Other cult favourites from their menu include the Chicken Pot Pie, Fish & Chips (batter made with locally brewed beer) and a Table Side Flaming Banana Fritter served with Gosling’s rum and Bailey’s ice cream. From appetizers to dessert, “Everything is made from scratch in our kitchen” confirms Mama Jo. Even the French fries are hand-cut on site. As for the bar, you can try locally brewed ales from their sister establishment, The Dockyard Brewing Company, or choose from the extensive selection of draft and bottle beers.
Behind the Name:
Hog Money was the earliest British Colony currency, and, as written by Governor Nathanial Butler in his 1630 account The History of the Bermudas or Summer Islands, was given its name because of it: “having a hog stamped upon it on one side (in memory it should seem of the great number of wild swine found upon the islands at their first discovery in 1609 by the shipwrecked crew of the Sea Venture) and was, in a scoff, termed by the people hogge money.”