HOTELIERS Tom and Jacqueline Brown have seen plenty change in Newcastle since they bought the Crown and Anchor pub in Hunter Street in 2015.
While the chef couple has endured great disruption to business thanks to the light rail, all it takes for them is to stand on the corner of their pub and look east towards the Hunter Street mall.
“All you see is movement, of heads and bodies and stuff happening, like the ocean moving, which is what you want,” Mr Brown says.
The Browns’ city foodie footprint began in 2008 when they ran the Bar Beach bowlo bistro. They then launched Sprout Dining at Honeysuckle and ran offshoots at Newcastle Museum before buying into the Crown & Anchor with a business associate.
Their initial focus was to relaunch Sprout Dining in a sophisticated space upstairs, delivering all their loyal following had come to demand.
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Now they have renovated the pub’s bottom floor, adding a timber screen that divides a back dining area from the front bar, where the carpet has been stripped to make way for timber vinyl.
“It's been hard with the light rail and (Brown Street) demo job, we've been waiting to bring it together, so upstairs meets downstairs aesthetically,” says Mr Brown.
Downstairs has a sportier, swankier feel. Patrons can stay around the bar and enjoy sports events on screen or sit down in a screened area for a different mood.
“[The new space] basically gives people options – a lot of people come in and they don't want to sit in the front bar, and pubs now are more food orientated than they are beverage,” he says.
The pub’s bistro offering remains “simple, honest and fresh”, with all the classics you’d expect but extra touches like home-made pasta.
As the pub has slowly changed internally, so too has its clientele.
“The blessing for us in all the construction is that as much as people didn't want to come in to town, people from the city didn't want to go out of it, so we built our local trade up,” said Mr Brown. “We wanted to buy something to have longevity … this is what we do and we've secured the future for us doing it for a long time.”