Real estate phrases such as “lots of potential” and “renovator’s delight” are code for properties that are falling apart. But the team behind Redfern’s The Norfolk and sustainable, organic and biodynamic wine delivery service DRNKS are up to the task – transforming the ho-hum Enmore pub The Duke of Edinburgh Hotel with a new look, new menu and “the cheapest fancy-pub wine list in the world”.
The biggest challenge? The pub’s wacky design. “The old owner [plasterboarded] over everything, and someone at some stage has ripped out all the tiles everywhere. ... The layout was really weird – it was like a collection of hallways and weird small spaces,” says James Wirth, who co-owns the hospitality group International Worldwide (previously called Drink ‘n’ Dine) with Michael Delaney. The pair also gave The Carrington in Surry Hills and Petersham’s The Oxford Tavern the “nice pub” makeover treatment, before selling the venues in 2016.
The team has been “deep in the trenches with the tradies” for two weeks, taking their hammers to the odd and charmless space. Out came the old dodgy wiring and “the ugliest paint colour [ever] seen on a pub, like baby poo mustard”, and in went some tasteful neutral-toned tiles on the walls; light wood panelling in the front bar; and a brown, yellow and green tartan carpet on the floor (it’s the same self-designed pattern Wirth and Delaney used in their renovation of The Abercrombie Hotel in town).
In the back room, they’ve thrown out the strange furniture (that was “probably found on the street”), and have filled the beer garden with plants to create an “afternoon Margarita sort of vibe”.
They’ve enlisted Toby Wilson of Ghostboy Cantina and Bad Hombres fame to redo the menu, and are promising plenty of vegetarian- and vegan-friendly pub food options, porchetta whole or by the slice, and “cheap” and “expensive” steak options: a $19 flank steak, and a $38 dry-aged porterhouse.
DRNKS’ Joel Amos will design a wine menu to satisfy all budgets and palates, whether it’s a $7 sav blanc or a $100 bottle of fancier stuff. There’ll also be a takeaway bottle shop behind the bar, with the option for customers to pay $20 to drink in.
Change is in the air on Enmore Road, with a slew of new restaurant and bars opening on the strip in the past few years: Jacoby’s, Wish Bone, Saga and Cairo Takeaway have joined more established faithfuls such as Hartsyard and Cow & the Moon. The team behind the Duke are more than happy to be part of the neighbourhood.
“Newtown is becoming more like Kings Cross, and Enmore is a slightly more chilled alternative for locals. It’s a good mix of people – there are always people on the street, they’re friendly and proud to be locals. It’s kind of ticked all the boxes,” says Wirth.
The Duke is slated to reopen on December 11 at 148 Enmore Rd, Enmore.