Opening its doors in October 2018, The Black Dog Beer House represented the dreams and passions of Pete, Ash and James, all of whom travelled the globe to set up shop in the contested county town of Brentford, Middlesex.
Pete and Ash had spent 9 years running craft pubs for other people and Pete’s brother, James, had travelled the world delighting punters with his wonderfully eclectic cuisine. This was always going to be a recipe for success.
Despite its tender age, The Black Dog Beer House has made an impressive impact. A quick look at the traditionally caustic pages of TripAdvisor reveals a series of fans waxing lyrical about this self-styled ‘boozer’. ‘Fantastic addition to the West London beer scene’ says one happy punter, ‘Ridiculously good pub’ says another, ‘Brentford’s best pub’ adds a further devotee; the complements go on.
Browsing the offer, it’s not hard to see why The Black Dog Beer House has become so popular so quickly. With 14 keg lines, 5 real ales, 5 real ciders and over 50 bottled beverages one will not be short of choice. Then there’s the menu. James calls this simple food done well. That’s just Antipodean modesty (?!). Try grilled Angus ribeye, chimichurri, roasted sweet potato, grilled broccolini and fries on for size. Or maybe twice cooked pork belly, yellow bean gravy noodles, pickled shiitake and chili jam. Even the vegan options sound awesome, rice & wakame stuffed cabbage roll, miso roasted king oyster mushrooms and tofu, avocado, cucumber & ponzu dressing anyone?
And then there’s the pub itself. Pete insists it’s a traditional boozer. If this is true, maybe we should all spend a little more time in Australia. To be honest, the outside is a typically London affair with stained glass and flashes of exposed brick between the rendered pillars. Step inside and you’re welcomed into a well-appointed cultural mixing pot featuring more exposed brickwork and fixings reminiscent of the capital’s industrial past, flashes of Australian heritage and a large dose of the team’s individual personalities. There’s even a turntable playing vinyl from Pete’s extensive collection. This is cool.
So exactly how did the stars align to create this wonderful watering hole?
“The Black Dog, or The Albany Arms as it was then, had been on our radar for a good three years before we took control,” says Pete, “Ash and I had been running craft beers for 9 years for other people, so we had a good idea of what we wanted to create.
“It’s surprising how difficult it is to find a truly free of tie pub, unless you want to take on a freehold of course. That wasn’t an option for us, so Wellington’s model suited us perfectly.
“We spent a long time on the business plan, we knew we wanted to create a destination pub attracting people from further afield as well as locals, and with our experience we knew we could do that. The Wellington Pub Company reviewed our business plan and basically let us get on with doing what we do best.
“We had complete freedom to create our pub. We decide what drinks we stock, what food we serve and what environment we create. That’s essential for us, when you believe in a concept you really don’t want someone else diluting it.
“It took us a couple of months of solid labor to get the pub the way we wanted it and we’re really happy with the results. We’ve even set up our own on-site microbrewery, Fearless Nomad, and our first beer is due soon.
“Wellington have been great to work with and we will no doubt work with them again when we’re in a position to expand.”
Brothers Matt and Tim Taylor have hospitality in their blood. Independently, they ran bars and restaurants in London, Manhattan, Fort Lauderdale, The Alps and Canada before reuniting to make an impact on the Brighton pub scene.
Marriage and children saw both brothers move to nearby Worthing; an altogether calmer place to raise a family.
“When we moved to Worthing, it was interesting to see that everyone still travelled to Brighton to go out for a meal or a few drinks,” said Tim, “Of course, Brighton has a unique atmosphere and a wealth of pubs, clubs and restaurants, we just couldn’t understand why Worthing had nothing to offer.
“Matt and I decided that we’d open The Beach House on Worthing seafront in 2013. It was very cool and was immediately popular.
“Having proven the formula, we set about looking for a new venue. We’d noticed that The Corner House was available, and it seemed perfect, with plenty of outdoor space and a very versatile interior with some great original features including high ceilings and big windows.
“We contacted the agent and negotiated a deal with the outgoing tenant, before preparing a business plan for the landlord (Wellington Pub Co) which was accepted. As soon as we completed the lease assignment we started the renovation by putting in new floors, new electrics and a new boiler. We then installed a trade kitchen, renovated the 1st floor apartment and opened 6 weeks later.
“It was completely Free of Tie, so we were free to offer an interesting range of local craft beers and explore trends, like the current popularity of craft gins. Our eclectic range of drinks mixed with locally sourced food are vital ingredients in our unique business model, something a tied pub is unable to offer. We understand that in this day and age, we must offer a luxury product, and provide our customers with what they want. Every customer must leave feeling they’ve had a great experience.
Customers love our hearty home cooked food and we take pride in the fact that we prepare a lot of the ingredients ourselves, even down to our bread and ice-cream which is lovingly created by our chefs on-site.”
“That was in 2015 and we haven’t looked back!”
Relocated from Ego’s Sheffield restaurant, Jodi runs the newest outlet in the 3Sixty empire. And just 3 months in to her role, she can report an impressive 1,300 covers per week – 40% above target!
But to what does Jodi attribute her success?
“We focus on the basics,” explained Jodi “And we do it very well.”
“We serve well cooked, fresh food in a welcoming family environment; we’re very active in our community and we absolutely understand the power of social networking and customer loyalty.”
Indeed, Ego Restaurants can boast 80,000 Ego Club members and an average of 4,000 Twitter followers per outlet.
CEO James Horler explained, “Our Ego brand has demonstrated that social media and local marketing can make a difference. We now have one of the highest numbers of followers on Twitter and our Ego Club continues to go from strength to strength. We are keen to continue expanding the business within our own resources and it’s with the hard work and dedication of people like Jodi and her team that we are able to achieve that.”
“We were introduced to the Beverley Arms by a third party. It was in a bit of a sad state when we saw it and required a significant investment to bring it up to our standards. We worked very closely with The Wellington Pub Company to achieve this and the whole process has been very smooth.
“The Beverley Arms is only our second pub conversion, but we anticipate doing many more. It’s a great way to keep the property alive; by introducing a quality food offer we can make it more profitable. I’d say we’re trading at ten times what The Beverley was doing before.”
“We are looking for new opportunities throughout the Midlands and the North and I hope Wellington can provide more suitable sites.”
Standing in an idyllic location on the bank of the River Yare, looking out over Norfolk’s flat plains, this beautiful oak and stone fronted pub has been unloved for a while. Unfortunately, since its closure, many other businesses in the vicinity have struggled to attract the passing custom that breathes life into a small village with a population of just 900.
Enter brothers John and Michael Higginson. They are a team who are not shy of a challenge. And the Lord Nelson, latest pub in their six strong portfolio, is certainly challenging.
“When the Wellington Pub Company showed us The Lord Nelson, we jumped on it straight away,” explains John, “It’s a gut feeling really, most people will have looked at this and thought there’s far too much work involved in getting it ready to open. But we fell in love with it.
“It’s going to take us a good six months to refurbish it, but once complete, we hope it will breathe life into Reedham once more. It occupies such a prominent position by the river that you can’t help but notice it as you pass by. It gives people a reason to stop and experience the village.
“That’s not to say that this is a wholly altruistic project, we obviously need to make it work. Throughout our portfolio of North Norfolk pubs, we work with local producers of beer and food. The Lord Nelson will be an ale pub with a focus on good quality freshly prepared pub food. Add live music into the mix and I believe we’ll have a recipe for success.”
The Lord Nelson is the second Wellington Pub Company property in the brothers’ portfolio. And they don’t plan for it to be their last.
“The Wellington Pub Company are so easy to deal with,” continued John, “We just deliver our business plan and receive an answer very quickly. They have a true entrepreneurial spirit and that shows though. You feel that they really want you to succeed and they don’t stand in your way. As long as the figures add up, they’re right behind you, 100%”.