Food, drinks and live music marked the official reopening of The Olive Branch, in Horsham’s Bishopric.
Antony and Sarah Abel, who are now running the Olive Branch, welcomed guests to a very successful launch party on December 8.
Wine flowed, and the chef took the opportunity to show how well he could handle a challenge, providing an impressive supply of buffet food for the crowd.
Antony said the venue had struggled in the past, being located just slightly out of the way of passing pedestrians.
Flamboyant former landlord Andy Crompton seemed to have found the winning formula in 2013, with customers flocking to the venue during the summer months.
He quit in October of that year, saying that trade had suffered terribly since the end of summer.
Antony said that, with plans afoot for more development at the west end of the town centre - including a new John Lewis branch - he is confident that he can make The Olive Branch work.
“Andy Crompton left very suddenly about 12 months ago,” he said.
“He obviously had a plan and for whatever reason it didn’t take off in the way he wanted it to.”
The venue was run by a holding company ever since, until Antony and his wife Sarah took an interest.
“Over a number of trips we saw this vision,” he recalled, “of a lot more than just a pub.”
The Olive Branch features bar and dining areas, including a conservatory dining room, and a deli counter.
It will provide an environment for networking groups and solo workers, with unlimited wifi, and plenty of charging points.
They are also launching a coffee club, which Antony said will feature the best coffee in Horsham, offering unlimited coffee at a flat weekly rate.
“We’ve been here five and a half weeks,” he said, “spent five and a half weeks creating an identity.
“My wife Sarah and I have met as many people as we can, to find out what foods they like, what drinks they like - the whole vision of this business is that there’s something here for everyone. We’re not pricing ourselves out of the ordinary.
“Everything here is locally sourced, and served with the greatest care and attention. There’s been no advertising yet - it’s all been word of mouth.”
The front of the pub has an old fashioned feel, with inglenook fireplaces and ‘upcycled’ furniture providing a cosy and rustic feel.
At the back is a conservatory dining area, giving a sense of space in a more modern setting.
Early in the evening, local singer/songwriter Jodie Munday played in the front bar.
The talented performer, whom you might recognise from the acoustics section of this year’s Battle of the Bands, from Brighton’s Latest TV, or from any number of pub gigs, kept the crowd entertained with a spirited set.
Later on, local band Hey Blondi performed in the conservatory, showing off their distinctive blend of haunting vocals and solid musicianship.
With the songs themselves showing more and more polish, singers Camilla and Gabriella look increasingly comfortable acting as their own comperes, keeping the set lively without disrupting their flow.
Richard (keyboard) and David (guitar) did their usual deceptively subtle job, providing the solid backing which kept the performance together.
Pictures courtesy of Steven Jenkinson