Many people ask about the name. If anyone has lived in Hong Kong or Southern China, they would realise the connection. Old China Hands is a rather affectionate term for expats who have spent most of their lives living and working in China. My parents, grandparents and myself are all Old China Hands - all of us born in China and living there most of our lives. Londoners will also know that Old China is Cockney rhyming slang as in old china (plate) for mate. It ties my previous life in Asia to my present life in London which is now home.
We are not the coolest pub. In fact we're probably the uncoolest, if there is such a word, with no social media and rather old fashioned ethics. We try to buy everything from small independent or family owned businesses in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Since monastic days beer has always been made plentifully on these two islands which help make up the British Isles (geographically, not politically) and gin has always been in our blood. Now there are many other products which are making headlines in the drinks business so we try to help them by supporting them. English and Welsh wines have come into their own at last and you can try any of the twenty odd bottles we sell by the glass. You can't get that anywhere else in the UK! How fun it is to be able to talk to and visit the owners and to meet the brewers and the winemakers.
I've never owned a pub before so it was a bit of an eye opener in the beginning. Clerkenwell wasn't the most salubrious of areas back in 2005 when I bought the pub. But I remember walking around and then seeing Moro in Exmouth Market and I thought they can't be wrong so I took a chance. It was a chance which has paid off.
I think I've got the best customers in the world (don't we all though?) and rarely do we ever have a problem. It makes my life and my staff's lives much easier and I hope this will never change.