The team behind the successful Barber Shop venues are breaking into the pub game with an English tavern-style tribute to the eponymous Duke of Clarence.
Acclaimed bar maestro Mikey Enright and career drinks professional Julian Train form Barrelhouse Group, which four years ago opened the first Barber Shop in York St, and later a second in Barangaroo.
Enright hails from Liverpool in the UK, and actually began his working career in hairdressing back in the 1980s, entering hospitality in the early 90s, training as a cocktail bartender in London, and moving to Sydney in 1999.
Train has worked across bars, restaurants and pubs for two decades, seeing industry acclaim for innovation through projects such as Mixxit and the Formula bartender training app.
He still holds a four-day-a-week position with Amatil, heading up the company’s on-premise department, sharing the week with his and Enright’s Barrelhouse business.
The directors thought their background and collective abilities, atop their success in small bars, could make for a cutting-edge concept in the Sydney pub scene.
“We both felt while we’re not in the pub game, we could certainly have a crack at it,” Train told PubTIC.
Leveraging connections in the UK, Enright and Train have devised the Duke of Clarence, to be located in Clarence Street in the heart of Sydney. The original Duke of Clarence went on to become England’s King George IV, who brought powerful reforms to the British Empire at the time, including the abolishment of slavery. The historic Street in Sydney was named in his honour.
The Duke of Clarence hotel will be a truly authentic English pub, sporting all antique dark timbers, hardwood flooring, light fittings, panelling, stained glass and furniture, sourced from pubs and former churches in the UK. The group has had a contact in the UK working full-time for months on the project, and the design was done in collaboration with famed UK set designer Sara Mathews.
There is also a 12-metre long timber bar with oak panelling and stained glass, an open fireplace and a library corner. Entrance to the Duke is via a hidden alleyway beside the Barbershop, and will sport a Victorian tiled wall and aged timber staircase, under a painting of its namesake.
On the drinks menu will be a 500-strong line-up of spirits from Britain and the group’s specialty of world-class cocktails. Beers will be served from ornate English beer taps, with a strong focus on cask ales, not yet common in Australia.
“No-one’s mixing the whole cocktails and beers thing really well,” offers Train. “We feel we’ve got the skillset to do both of those.”
The kitchen is being steered by Dave O’Brien, also from Liverpool, with classic pub fare based in a “clear British sensibility”.
Offering that he dearly misses what he calls a “proper pub”, Enright says the Duke is their nod to public house days gone by.
“This is everything I’ve ever wanted in a pub; a real English boozer where reading the paper over a pint is as welcome as a round of extra dirty martinis,” he says.
“It’s going to have great tunes, perfect lighting and enough spirits to keep the most distinguished ladies and gents satisfied. But we want it to feel as fresh and forward-thinking as it is nostalgic, so the drinks will very much reflect this.”
The subject of mad debate in the UK, the cask ale phenomena has not yet gained a lot of traction in Australia, but could become an increasing part of the craft landscape.
Train says the complex project has been a while coming.
“It feels like it’s been years in the making. It’s the culmination of a lot of work.
“I’m looking forward to getting it open, sitting down and having the first cask ale.”
The Duke of Clarence will open its doors to the public mid-November.