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The last time Cormac Eddery spoke to The Argus he revealed how he booby-trapped a thief.
As manager of the former Xuma Bar in Dyke Road, he set up a sting operation to catch a couple who were stealing artwork displayed in the bar.
That was back in November when he was running the place as a gallery-cum-bar.
“They came in on three separate occasions and stole paintings,” he explains.
“I figured out who they were and set a trap. The police couldn’t do anything initially – we had to essentially catch them in the act – but we got them in the end.”
Xuma, on one corner of the Seven Dials roundabout, has since closed and is to become another arm of the expanding Small Batch Coffee empire.
Meanwhile, Eddery has moved to The Exchange pub in Hove.
He still intends to hang art on the walls in his new place but first he is getting to grips with a complete renovation.
“There is quite a change,” he says, in his strong Irish accent.
“The customers are coming in and doing double takes. A few have stepped backwards and had to look back to the entrance to make sure they are in the right pub.”
In only ten days, the pub has been transformed from a male-dominated sports bar where it was impossible to get a tea or coffee to a family-friendly, community-orientated local.
“We were up at 7am and worked till midnight to turn the place around. We wanted get it done in time and have everything settled for the Six Nations [rugby tournament].”
He admits showing sports is still important but the big screen will only go up for big games. With a larger space, no one will be forced to listen to football if they prefer to chat or sit with a book and a pint.
Combined with Eddery’s spray-painted and stencilled table tops upstairs, planned music and events, he says there is now a homely, non-identikit, quirky feel. He believes it is essential if pubs are to be community hubs and survive.
“We spent a lot of time on the interiors and décor to make sure there was a nice atmosphere and it was child-friendly.
“Since we reopened the crowd has changed; we have had mothers with children too, which better reflects the area.”
The new owners knocked down the pub’s old dividing wall and demolished the pool room. It’s created a big open-plan space which is more sociable and less segregated than before.
Back walls were razed, as were some wooden panels still in place since the 70s. Old brickwork is now exposed and the log-burning fireplace has become a focal point, acting as a centrepiece and doubling in size.
“The biggest job was to remove layers of dark bitumen over all the wooden floors. It took us two and half days. We had to heat it all up, with one person going around with a heat blower, and the other person behind scraping it off.
“Underneath is beautiful parquet flooring in half the pub and floorboards across the other half. We just had to remove the stuff on top to get it back to its natural state.”
Eddery says the menu also needed love.
“We wanted a traditional menu because there are lots of pizza places in the area, lots of places doing Thai food, Indian food and Chinese food in pubs.
“I noticed getting a nice pub meal was quite hard, so we decided to go down that route.”
Sausage-meat is a speciality.
“We have sausage and mash every day, with a choice of sausages.
“On top of that we have a sausage board with rough-cut bread and relish and everything to make your own hotdogs with. It comes with gravy and our chef puts a lot of time into making a stock and really good gravy.”
Chef Richard Torres will offer a different daily selection of homemade Scotch eggs with pickles and relish and sausage rolls.
On the day we speak it’s black pudding and chorizo sausage rolls, followed the day after by pork and red pepper.
The first Sunday roasts were served last weekend, with gammon, topside of beef and half a chicken on the board. Eddery says £8.95 is a fair price for a good quality roast.
Laine’s Best is on tap and the beer in the four pumps will rotate and reflect his wish to stock produce and drinks from local suppliers. Expect beers from Arundel, Dark Star and Franklins.
“We are a community pub off the main street. We need to reflect that, so it’s about making the place more suitable for the area.”
- The Exchange is in Goldstone Street, Hove, and is open daily from noon to midnight. Call 01273 821677