Published on June 5th, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
The very idea
Some people relish a challenge. It’s often not that they simply look forward to the hard work and anxiety that goes with big projects, but that their ideas and gut instincts will eventually be proved to be correct.
Entrepreneurial publican Dave Carr (think Brandling Villa, South Gosforth, Newcastle, and the initial transformation of The Tannery in Hexham) is one such guy. His ideas for how a pub should look, how it should welcome guests, and how it should function, might be offbeat to some and out of kilter to the traditionalist, but it’s safe to say a brewing giant like Heineken wouldn’t be investing the thick end of a million in the transformation of the Punch Bowl in Jesmond if they had any doubts about his approach.
“It’s quite an overwhelming size of a job,” says Dave, picking his way through the building site that, come mid-July, will be one of Newcastle’s liveliest pubs. “Two weeks of delays have taken it to a 15-week project. It’s definitely not going to be a craft beer pub, but strong on cask, so there’s a lot of pressure on me.
“The Punch Bowl will be like those Spanish and Italian bars where young and old gather happily. The Brandling Villa grew organically and we’ve learnt from that.”
Dave Carr is happy to admit he takes ideas from places he has been to all over the world and combines them into his notion of what a pub should be like. New large mirrors at the Punch Bowl, for instance, have been inspired by the glorious La Morte Subite pub in Brussels.
Dave’s left-field taste in literature will see books such as Soviet Bus Stops available to read. Two vintage record players playing Nick Drake and the Velvet Underground, Japanese toilet seats that talk to you, a train set running round above head height, toy soldiers, art exhibitions, chesterfield settees with dog-friendly attachments, jazz guitar workshops, poetry sessions, stand-up comedy, free cinema, and Question Time panels featuring local politicians like Nick Brown MP, are all in the Punch Bowl mix.
Live music, regular events, an eclectic menu, plus a fabulous range of beers right across the board from straight-forward and old-school to the more experimental and one-offs, dished up with a whole lot of fun, are Carr standards. A dedicated Vermouth Bar will also make quite a point of difference.
Dave says: “I took my mam to Madrid to try and get her into vermouth, thinking if she can get a taste for it, anybody can. She did and we missed the flight home.
“We’ll also have a cinema which we won’t charge for but people can donate to the Maggie’s cancer centre at the Freeman Hospital.”
This will be themed on Soviet space travel (something of an obsession). The Bobik Room is named in honour of one of the first dogs in the Russian space programme which ran away just before blast-off. Dave likes that sort of positive mentality, particularly from a dog.
Several upstairs rooms are being converted into small bedrooms, particularly for visiting bands who would normally have to be accommodated elsewhere.
“We’ll get artists to design them individually who’ll then ’sell’ the room and get a percentage of the booking fee,” says Dave.
An area of vintage wallpaper has been uncovered on the main bar ceiling, which is being retained – and reconstructed where it’s damaged – as a reminder of where the pub stands in people’s memories. And there a lot of them. The Punch Bowl is visionary; we’ll see you there for 9am brunch.