The Gamble Free Revival of the Saracens Head
Reintroducing live music, introducing new South American-inspired food offerings, and swapping slots for pool tables and arcade games are at the heart of a revival of historic Saracens Head.
The doors of classic Adelaide pub The Saracens Head were closed for most of 2021 after it fell under its previous owners.
After closing in January of that year, Saracens was not acquired until September by the burgeoning Duxton Pubs group, which had a vision for a revival.
After all, it wasn’t the pub’s fault; it had been a success in the past.
“Saracens is a really good drinking pub,” said Joshua Hillary, director of BSGM Hospitality, which oversees the day-to-day operations of the Duxton Pubs portfolio.
“Historically, it’s been a real late-night party spot, so we wanted to give people a reason to come here again,” says Joshua.
The new owners removed the slots and knocked down a wall to create a games room with pool tables, pinball machines, and slot machines.
Other renovations were purely cosmetic so as not to disturb the heritage character of the interior.
“I really le the aesthetics of the hotel. It’s all original with the exposed brickwork, so we’ve painted it up a bit and spruced it up with new furniture and artwork from local artists,” says Joshua.
This month, the hotel promotes its new menu inspired by Louisiana, New Orleans, and Nashville flavors.
Dishes include Southern fried chicken schnitzel with Louisiana slaw, chicken or vegan jambalaya, sticky pork ribs, and smoked beef brisket.
There are pulled pork sandwiches and cheeseburgers, wood-fired pizzas, and salads. The sides feature house-made cornbread and ribs with buffalo sauce.
“We wanted it to be a nice area where people would want to sit here and have some beers, have dinner, or hang out and play pool,” says Joshua.
“Now it’s just a great pub to hang out in a very social environment.”
With a focus on low-fi, minimal-intervention wines, a new wine store will allow guests to browse wines they wish to order while offering bottle pick-up options.
The pub is also geared towards local craft brewers and distillers. The on-tap Strawberry and Passion Sour was recently produced with Little Bang Brewery.
As with other pubs in the city, removing the slots from the Saracens was not due to the owners’ aversion to gambling. The Duxton group has slots in some of their other locations, but they have removed them from The Lion in North Adelaide and The Brompton, currently closed and under renovation.
“Where slots make sense, they make sense. They are a good source of income and serve a particular sector market sectorJoshua.
“In many of our other hotels, they work very well, and it’s not something we’re against. It’s something we welcome.”
There will be a different kind of gaming, though, and Joshua hopes the arcade games will be well received along with the pool tables, helping create a social atmosphere within the venue.
“It’s good to give people something to do in a pub other than just hang out and watch sports on TV,” says Joshua.
“Last year, it didn’t get a life, but the Saracens have a beautiful old bar that has been cleaned up well, and it’s nice to be able to put a modern spin on a classic building like this.”