Property Secrets: Christo Tofalli from Ye Olde Fighting Cocks

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks Landlord Christo Tofalli is cooking 200 meals for St Albans Food Bank. Picture: Danny Loo.

Christo bought the Fighting Cocks in 2012. - Credit: Archant

A lifelong fondness for St Albans' Verulamium Park culminated in Christo Tofalli buying Ye Olde Fighting Cocks nine years ago. He told Jane Howdle why this part of Herts means so much to him. 

Where are you from originally? 

I grew up in Radlett, but my affinity to St Albans started in the days of the St Albans Carnival, which my mum and dad used to do the catering for. Also, I was in the Sea Cadets which was at Verulamium. I grew up on the park. I walk around it as if it’s my back garden.  

When I used to visit the park when I was courting with my wife, we always had to go for a coffee at The Inn on the Park because she didn’t want me getting tucked into a few beers. I bought the pub so I didn’t have to worry about that!  

When was that? 


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April 17 2012. The pub was closed not long before I bought it and when I took over it was in the worst condition you could possibly imagine. 

What made you decide to buy it?  

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My brother died. I’d got a job in Australia, we were going to move out there for three or four years, then basically retire. I was in sales and was going to be a commercial director of a commercial waste business. It’s what my whole life professionally had worked towards. Then my brother died, sadly, and I inherited a niece of about 13, at which point we decided to stay and I bought the pub. It was the worst time you could ever buy a pub, a derelict one virtually as well. People said, “Why did you do it?!” 

Do you have any regrets?  

No. I knew the day I bought it that that was it. Everything went into it. It still is everything and more. 

The beer garden at the Fighting Cocks. 

The beer garden at the Fighting Cocks. - Credit: Christo Tofalli

It sounds like a labour of love? 

People say, “How do you manage with the pressure?” But I'm having the time of my life, it’s really hard to beat. There’ll be a book coming, we’re always looking ahead. This is where I live, my kids grew up here. This is my home community. It’s just brilliant.  

You must feel lucky to love both your job and where you live? 

I am lucky. I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was about 40 and I bought this place. I didn’t have a clue!  

When did you buy your first property? 

I was 18. It was a three-bedroom house in Abbots Langley with two of my best mates. We grew up together. It was brilliant. We lived there together for about a year and a half.  

Where did you live next? 

I bought a place in Hemel Hempstead. Eventually I went travelling and I was off for five years. When I came back, I got back together with my childhood sweetheart, Sarah. We moved around a lot because of my job. We bought our first place together in High Wycombe, and lived there for 18-months. Then work changed again and we ended up coming towards home. We had a really nice house on Pancake Lane, Leverstock Green for about 16 years. We loved it.

Who do you live with now?  

My wife, Sarah, and sons, Alex, 16 and Thomas, 13.    

How did you end up in your current home?  

Christo's garden in How Wood. 

Christo's garden in How Wood. - Credit: Christo Tofalli

At some point after buying the pub I needed to buy out my business partner, so we sold the house in Leverstock Green and moved to How Wood where we rent a house. One of the kids was going to school in Bushey so it was much easier to live on this side of St Albans. It made such a difference from being in Leverstock Green traffic. We’ve lived here for about six or seven years now.  

The disabled parking space at How Wood shops

Christo is a regular at How Wood shops. - Credit: Archant

The pub’s not big enough for a family upstairs, it’s a two-bed apartment, basically.  

What do you like about How Wood?  

It’s nice and quiet where we live, with green spaces right on the doorstep. You can go and wander off or get on your bike and be right in the middle of nowhere, like down by the gravel pits, in seconds. 

The gravel pits are a short walk from Christo's How Wood home. 

The gravel pits are a short walk from Christo's How Wood home. - Credit: Archant

We’ve got a great little parade of shops that we use a lot, and great neighbours. The area feels like home. To me it beats everything. It is beautiful.  

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?  

That’s a really hard question! At the moment I’ve got two kids, I don’t see them leaving home anytime in the next couple of years. If it’s for today, I’d like something local, a little bit of space. Maybe somewhere on the Gorhambury Estate. Nothing too big. Definitely somewhere around St Albans. I’m really happy here.  

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