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New pub company takes on two Star Pubs & Bars sites

Brewmish Pub Company, launched in 2020 by Chris Brewster, former licensee of the Unicorn in Dedington, has taken on two Star Pubs & Bars sites, The Duke of Marlborough just outside Woodstock and The King’s Head in the town.

The King’s Head, which has been closed for two years is about to undergo a £350k joint refurbishment with Star Pubs & Bars transforming the site into a locals’ pub with wine bar and international small plates restaurant.

The company will also reopen The King’s Head, which will be now known as The Back Lane Tavern, its historic name which many locals already call it, in mid-August.

The Duke of Marlborough, a beautiful family and dog friendly coaching inn with 13 letting rooms reopened on 17 May following a lockdown refurbishment.

Prior to launching this new pub business, Brewster spent 15 years in the licensed trade managing hospitality establishments and working within in the drinks industry. This included a spell as an account manager with Majestic supplying the hospitality industry where he developed his wine knowledge.

The team Brewster (pictured centre) has put together at The Back Lane Tavern includes general manager, Hugo Kelly (left) who has worked for a number of hospitality venues in Woodstock and the surrounding area and Brewster’s former business partner at The Unicorn in Deddington, Johnny Parke (right) who is taking on the role of head chef.

The team at The Duke of Marlborough includes General Manager Richard Gibbs and Head Chef Tomek Wisniewski.

Brewster said, “Taking on two pubs during lockdown was frustrating as it meant the business hasn’t been able to grow as quickly as planned. However, it opened up new opportunities.

'We were able to trial a taco takeaway truck business from the Duke of Marlborough – a mini Duke on wheels. It’s a model we will look to expand as this style of operation that can thrive during a pandemic and also be used for events and to serve outlying villages.

'Once The Duke of Marlborough and The Back Lane Tavern are firmly established, we plan to take on a further two or three pubs in the Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Buckinghamshire or Berkshire area.

“Although they’re close to one another, the two pubs cater to a different market. Both had been underperforming, but were great sizes, historic pubs and in good locations, and so offered real opportunities. The Back Lane Tavern is all about bringing back a top-quality locals’ pub in a town where everyone focusses on tourists. The Duke is a family pub with accommodation offering street food.

“In the short-term we like many other hospitality businesses are facing the challenge of staff shortages, but I feel very positive about the future. It’s all about the long-term. In 12 months both businesses will be humming as people are desperate to socialise.”

Funds are being spent at The Back Lane Tavern reconfiguring the interior to make the bar more accessible which will improve the internal flow. A new commercial kitchen is also being installed to allow the pub to serve small international tapas style plates.

Typical tapas dishes include: Pata Negra Iberico ham with Kohlrabi, dandelion, boquerones; Cornish Scallops with lemongrass, caviar, Salcombe crab and lime leaves and Corgette flower with pear, truffle honey, candied walnuts, chickory and ricotta.

Outside the large south facing courtyard garden, a key feature of the pub, will be upgraded and extended to create a continental style oasis, increasing capacity to 100.

There will be an extensive choice of wines both by the glass and by the bottle and a range of craft beer, real ale and top-quality continental lagers, as well as a premium sprits list, incorporating popular local gins.

Says Paul Linton, Regional Operations Director for Star Pubs & Bars, said, “We’re delighted Chris has taken on The Back Lane Tavern and The Duke of Marlborough. His local knowledge, enthusiasm and innovative ideas I am sure will result in great pubs, locals can be proud of, and that visitors and residents alike can enjoy.”