An historic Ponteland pub has been given a new lease of life by a pair of Newcastle entrepreneurs who have poached Café Vivo head chef Glen David Robson for the venture.
Chris Armstrong and Lee Douglass set up FOUR&20 and acquired the lease for The Blackbird from Newcastle pub group Leopard Leisure, the owners of venues such as The Hotspur on Percy Street and Rosie’s Bar on Stowell Street.
Ten jobs have been created in the move, with plans for further recruitment in kitchen and front of house roles.
The undisclosed deal will see the business partners employ Glen David Robson formerly head chef at Terry-Laybourne-owned restaurant Café Vivo on Newcastle Quayside.
Glen, who has worked at restaurants around the world, including in America and Australia, was head chef at Café Vivo for six years.
The Grade II listed pub had been closed for several years until Leopard Leisure took over the running roughly 16 months ago.
Now Chris, supported by his partner Leanne De Silva, and Lee, supported by his wife Gemma, have launched a new food menu and stocked the bar with a range of real ales and wines.
Chris, 39, ran his own media business before selling it on and now runs The Dogwalking Company. Lee 32 previously worked for PwC and now works with hedge funds and invests in real estate.
Chris said: “Lee and I would have the occasional pint in The Blackbird and talked about how much we liked it and how much potential it had.
“When it came on the market we moved fast and met with the owner and management.
“Other pub groups were interested, but we were incredibly enthusiastic about what we could do here.
“We feel we are bringing something new and refreshing to Ponteland through a mix of great food and beer, and superb wines.
“There are two other pubs in the area and it is well served by Indian and Italian restaurants, but The Blackbird specialises in exceptional fresh quality food with a menu sourced locally, and that is quite different.”He added: “We don’t have pub backgrounds as such but, we are very determined and creative and full of ideas about what we want. We are very precise in our thinking and we are enjoying implementing the first stage in a new era for The Blackbird.
“A clear indication of how determined we are to make this a success is that Glen has joined us. It’s a real coup to have him on-board and he’s the first of many high profile appointments we hope to make.
“We are looking to buy other sites, but the ethos of great product and service that we create here will go with us.”
The Blackbird, boasts a bar, two main dining areas and an unusual function space with minstrels’ gallery.
Chris and Lee have also employed a historian to research the history of the pub site, which first appeared in records in the 13th Century, and from there create an eye-catching installation.
Ponteland Castle, destroyed in 1388, previously occupied the land, and in 1935 experts discovered an ancient tower, a beautiful Tudor fireplace and many other ancient objects - features which can still be found in the pub - during restorations.