As the founder of Ivy Entertainment, Darren Brown provided live entertainment, DJs, marketing, social media and photography to 36 pubs around Adelaide before Covid hit. “Just about everything,” he says with a grin, “except pouring the drinks.” But when new clients asked for advice on how to increase trade, his first response was pretty simple. “You’d be surprised what good food, good service and clean, wholesome surroundings can do.”
With his core business significantly reduced since the pandemic, Brown has bought a pub of his own own – the Prince Albert Hotel, which closed during the national shutdown in March 2020 – and he plans to bring those values to the longstanding Wright Street watering hole.
The old boardroom has been transformed into an office for Ivy Entertainment and Brown envisions the place becoming a showcase venue so that potential clients can see the many services he offers.
The first order of business was a four-month renovation of the pub, which dates back to 1852. “We tried to maintain the heritage vibe,” Brown says, which meant keeping the jarrah bar and copper fixtures, while replacing gas fireplaces with large wood fires and enhancing the exposed brickwork with new cornicing.
The kitchen has also had a complete refit and launches today (Thursday April 22) with a menu of a dozen dishes. Head chef Ned Sweet (ex-Louca’s Seafood Restaurant) is giving special attention to what would otherwise be simple pub standards. Salt-and-pepper squid will be broken down fresh, “so you’re going to be getting tentacles with it”, and the fish and chips uses saltwater barramundi (with Mismatch ale batter) “that’ll be coming in as a whole fillet before I slice it down, so it's never going to touch a freezer.” The schnitzels will be brined for 12 hours before being crumbed to ensure they’re as succulent as possible.
You’ll also find steak frites, duck-fat potatoes with xo sauce, a cheeseburger with a smashed brisket patty, and a vegan eggplant parmigiana. And there are plans for kitchen takeover nights that might include ramen or fried chicken.
On the beverage side, 14 beer lines are split between CUB, Coopers and three floating taps that will always include a local lager – so far Mismatch and the Limestone Coast’s Loophole Brewing Co. have featured. “When I go out with my mates, we go to Leigh or Peel Street if we want a cocktail and we go to a pub if we want a beer,” says Brown, who sees his venue as sitting somewhere in between. There’s also a tight cocktail offering and a wine list with a strong presence from Alpha Box & Dice, alongside old faithfuls from the Hills and Barossa.
Brown is trying to strike a balance with the entertainment in what he promises will be “a high activity venue.” For now, that means live acoustic sets, vinyl DJs, trivia nights and special events such as bingo. The one thing they don’t have is pokies, and he says there are plans to bring original music back to the bar, which was once an important stop on the circuit for emerging Adelaide bands.
“We’re really lucky because the pub doesn't need to be the sole source of income for the business,” he says. “It allows us to take a punt and do things differently to make sure we get everything right.”
Tue to Sat 3pm–late