Catching Up with the Cat and Fiddle

Interior of the Cat and Fiddle Pub and Restaurant at 742 N. Highland Ave.

We’ve been meaning to write about the neighborhood arrival of a Los Angeles institution – the Cat & Fiddle Pub & Restaurant – since it opened in its new location on Highland Ave., just north of Melrose, in June of 2016.  It somehow slipped through the cracks, though, so we were delighted when co-owner Ashlee Gardner invited us for a visit last week.

Ashlee Gardner, daughter of Cat and Fiddle founders Kim and Paula Gardner, behind the counter at the pub.

According to Gardner, her father, British musician Kim Gardner – who played bass with Ronnie Wood (later of Rolling Stones’ fame) in the bands The Birds and The Creation – started the Cat and Fiddle in Laurel Canyon in 1982, hoping to recreate the friendly neighborhood British pubs he grew up with, which were gathering spots for neighbors, family and other musicians.  After two years, the business relocated to Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, where Gardner’s wife, Paula, also joined in, and their daughters, big sister Eva and younger twins Ashlee and Camille, grew up in the space.

The Cat and Fiddle remained a Sunset Blvd. institution even after dad Kim passed away in 2001, and the girls grew up and moved on to other things.  (Eva is now an accomplished rock bassist in her own right – she’s toured with Cher and Pink and has a signature Fender bass named after her – while Ashlee and Camille, both moms of young children, have solid music, business and restaurant credentials of their own).

Among their other ventures, though, the girls also remained involved with the Cat and Fiddle…until, as Ashlee explained, it ran into a roadblock in 2014, when development pressures and a dispute with the landlord forced its temporary closure.

The Gardner sisters and their mom spent the next two years looking for a new home for the family business and finally settled on the old Mud Hen Tavern/Street/Highland Grounds space at 742 N. Highland Ave.  And since reopening, says Ashlee, it’s been humming along again, with the same family-run vibe and dedication (mom Paula still pitches in on weekends)…as well as about half of the former staff, who moved with them to the new location.

But there are some new elements, too.  Gardner says, for example, that there are now “more locals” among their customers, as opposed to the more tourist-based clientele they had on Sunset. But that’s fine with her, she said, and it fits her father’s original vision of a family-friendly neighborhood-oriented pub.  Also, Ashlee said, they’ve added many “healthier” food options to their more traditional menu offerings, such as gluten-free fish and chips, and vegan items…as well as a kids’ menu, and even a doggie menu (until 6 p.m. only).  Gardner said the pub now attracts more daytime/lunch/brunch business than evening business, which is also a change from its former location (and a change from the previous establishments in the current space).  And, said Gardner, they now offer delivery for website orders, and do more catering than they used to.  And all the food is homemade, except for the “sliced bread,” which is purchased from a vendor.

In the future, Gardner said, there could be some other additions as well.  For example, she says she’d like to explore adding a tea service – perhaps something that falls somewhere in tradition between an afternoon tea and a high tea.

In the meantime, though, there are still the pub’s traditional Tuesday trivia nights, acoustic musical performances, $5 happy hours, and, of course, a big St. Patrick’s Day event coming up on Sunday, March 17 with a parking lot party and food specials such as corned beef and cabbage.

Gardner, who is also active with the Hollywood Media District Business Improvement District these days, said, “I just want to bring people together — that’s my whole goal.  It’s fun for us and it’s fun for the neighborhood.”  And she remains dedicated to her parents’ legacy at the Cat and Fiddle.  “It’s not just a bar,” she says. “It has such a deep history.”

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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - first in the Sycamore Square neighborhood, and since 2012 in West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill. She was long-time board member of the Sycamore Square Neighborhood Association, currently serves on the board of the West Adams Heights/Sugar Hill Neighborhood Association, spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

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