1006 SE Hawthorne Blvd,
11:30 am–12 pm
The day The Southeast Examiner stopped by The Toffee Club – An English Football Pub, the place was crowded with excited soccer fans enjoying the “civil war” match between the home team, Everton and Liverpool. Owner Niki Diamond and her bar manager Jack Hoppins busily served up classic English pub food and beers.
Even though the Evertons (aka The Toffees) weren’t doing so well, the fans were enjoying the game, the camaraderie and the food and drink. This atmosphere is one of the aspects of an English pub Niki and her husband Pete had always imagined replicating. Instead of it being in their native country of England, they’ve done it here in Portland.
The Diamonds began actively laying the groundwork to open The Toffee Club about a year ago. Pete, a Nike employee, was transferred to Portland seven years ago. Niki worked as an account manager until the birth of their daughter Lucy a year and a half ago. It was at this juncture they began planning the pub in earnest.
Since they dreamed of opening and pub, once Lucy was born they wanted a family-friendly business where she could hang out with them sometime. (The Toffee Club is all ages until 8 pm.) Then Jack, Pete’s brother, came for a visit a few years ago and met his future wife, and after they were married, he was onboard to help manage the place.
In England, pubs also serve the purpose of community gathering places that include generations and a place where lifelong relationships are established.
“One thing we do that is like a pub is that you place your order at the bar. This gives the bartender an opportunity to acknowledge and start to recognize each customer,” Niki said. After being open for a couple of weeks she’s already starting to know some regulars of the lunch crowd.
Unlike the typical sports bar with games running constantly, The Toffee Club shuts off the two sets they have when a popular game isn’t showing. They have music and on the weekends will be featuring a DJ.
One of the draws of the English pubs (along with the beer) is the food. While auditioning for the job, their cook, David Carbo, admitted he had never made English food before. When he was given the ingredients and recipe for the famous Pie of God, steak and ale, he nailed it, says Niki, so they hired him.
“We gave him a stack of English cookbooks and he came up with the classic menu we serve,” she said. A list of delicious sounding pies, fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding. The menu will evolve as they head into summer with other vegetarian and lighter fares available.
Then there’s the beer. “In England there is always four beers on tap that feature one of each of the different varieties, on tap is Fuller’s ESB, Thatchers Cider, Guinness and Stella.
We’ve kept with that tradition and added a rotating selection of the diverse selection of local beers. Currently they are serving: Fullers ESB, Burnside Oatmeal Pale Ale, Stella, Guinness, Baerla Cream Ale, Breakside IPA, Worthy Kölsch and Thatners Cider
If you are wondering what the back story is on the name The Toffee Club and The Toffees, there are a couple of renditions. The general idea is that a business in Everton village sold sweets including the Everton Mint. Before the start of a game, The Toffee Lady from the shop walked around the perimeter of the pitch tossing free Everton Mints into the crowd. This became one of the most popular nicknames for the team along with the Blues, The School of Science and The People’s Club.
On this warm April day, with the large windows open, sparkling glassware, scattered Oriental rugs, exotic wallpaper, football playing and fans cheering, a person could be anywhere that soccer fans gather: India, England or Portland.
“I am amazed and happy that I am here with my American daughter, my partners and an English pub,” Niki said.