The Rose & Crown opens in Southbank today, steered by expat pub operator Alex Derrick.

Derrick returned to Australia in early 2023, after more than two decades in the UK. In that time, he ran several large pub groups, including The Capital Pub Company which grew from 13 to 35 sites under Derrick’s direction; and The City Pub Group which had more than 50 pubs in the south of England and Wales when Derrick finished up as MD.

Derrick said that not only did he want his children to have the experience of living in Australia, but post-covid it felt like the right time to move back.

“Covid hit the UK hospitality industry particularly hard. And so it’s still very difficult over there and probably going to be very difficult for the for the foreseeable future. It seemed the right time to look at a change in life.”

Having a look at the Brisbane scene and it’s many variations on style of pub, Derrick found that there were no real London-style gastropubs in the market, and that it was a gap in the market that he could fill.

In UK gastropub tradition, the Rose & Crown has no pubs or TAB, and has a small, but constantly changing menu with only seven or eight entrée and main options, but with at least two in each category changing daily.

“One thing I’m really wanting to do is inspire people to visit the pub more than once a month. People that live around us to come once a fortnight or even once a week, which is probably more in keeping with the English pub culture. Keeping the menu fresh should help encourage that.”

Leading the kitchen is head chef Kevin Honeywood, another Aussie expat who spent decades in UK pubs, as well as working as a private chef in Europe. The menu will be traditional English fare like Scotch eggs, steak and ale pie and beer battered fish and chips. On Sundays there will be a big focus on roasts, as is tradition in the UK. The Rose & Crown will offer up three different roasts, as well as all the traditional sides like Yorkshire pudding, cauliflower cheese and roasted potatoes.

The beverage offer will also be focus on products from the UK and Europe. The Rose & Crown will be the only pub in Queensland serving traditional cask beer, direct from the cask. Tap beers will include Birra Moretti, Brewdog, and Magners. Derrick also claims they’ll be serving up the  creamiest pint of Guinness this side of Dublin, thanks to a couple of technical secrets he picked up in his travels. The 40-bin wine list will primarily focus on Old World regions and varietals, with only a few Australian wines on the list.

Southbank site

The Rose & Crown is situated in Southbank, in the pub formerly known as Little Big House. The building is a heritage-listed Queenslander residence built in 1889 that was redeveloped by Solotel in 2018. Little Big House’s offer was geared towards younger demographics, before being sold by Solotel in 2021.

Derrick said the site and building were perfectly suitefd to his plans for the Rose & Crown.

“Where it’s located in Southbank is perfect, because it has what I call the five key markets, which would be local residents, office workers, students, tourists, and shoppers. That’s all really well covered in Southbank.

“And also the building itself being one of the oldest in Brisbane is a heritage-listed beautiful old building, it really fits in well with the style of the pub. So it really ticked all the boxes.”

Bella Derrick, an accomplished interior designer and Alex Derrick’s wife, has fitted out the Rose & Crown using an eclectic mix of old dining tables and chairs to replicate the look and feel of London pubs.

“Everything looks very handmade and there will be blackboards around with the menu written up every day, handwritten by one of the members of staff, just to sort of get across that it’s all genuine,” stated Derrick.

Opening and future plans

The Rose & Crown had a soft opening to family and friends earlier this week, and is now open to the public. Derrick expects the pub to do well, particularly with anyone who has experienced the British pub scene.

“We’ve already had a lot of interest from expats. We don’t want to just appeal to British expats, although there’s loads of them, and they’re an obvious market. But even amongst my friendship group, just about all of them have lived in London for at least two years of their lives, and really understand what the pub scene was like over there. And we’re all missing that.”

The Rose and Crown is just the start of Derrick’s plans to leave his own imprint of the Australian pub scene. The Rose and Crown is the first pub for his business, Avalon Pubs, with the hope to open another three or four in and around Brisbane – but not all necessarily following the Rose & Crown model.

“With the companies I had in London, our mantra was just make it the best pub in its area. And that could be a different style of pub, depending on the area. So we had some gastropubs, we also had some really fine-dining restaurants, we had nightclubs, we had student pubs. So it’s more about finding the opportunity, finding an area that has a viable site, and then working out what the best offer is to go into that site in that area.”

Whatever opportunities ensue, Derrick believes being genuine is what will gain the most traction with pubgoers.

“I think being genuine and obviously tailoring what the offer is to the location and to regular customers, that’s where you get that real loyalty from people inside your venue.”

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