Food & Drink

Published: December 23, 2021 | Updated: December 24, 2021

Open for business: Much-loved Isabel’s returns but under new ownership and in new location

Sarah Elmes, centre, with Natalie Rodker and Lauren Ghent in the new Isabel’s Brasserie. Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

It’s one of the most eagerly awaited restaurant launches this year – and after a rollercoaster ride the doors have finally opened to paying customers.

Our October story about Isabel’s Brasserie.

Thousands viewed, liked and shared our October story about the return of the genuinely much-loved Isabel’s in Poole.

And now, after months of building work and five weeks later than planned, Isabel’s is back.

But under new ownership, with a new name – Isabel’s Brasserie – in a new location and with a modern twist.

The previous Isabel’s Restaurant, in Ashley Cross, closed last year and subsequently went into voluntary liquidation.

But former Executive Head Chef Justin Castle and Front of House Manager Sarah Elmes were determined that the restaurant, which had more than 4,000 customers on its database, should not disappear forever.

The duo, who worked for a combined 48 years at Isabel’s, invested an initial £300,000 in creating the new Isabel’s Brasserie.

Located in a prime location in Penn Hill, and within easy reach of Westbourne, Ashley Cross and Canford Cliffs, it promises to retain the best of the old Isabel’s but with a modern twist.

Taking inspiration from art nouveau, the 64-cover restaurant is styled in the form of a traditional French brasserie but with a trendy bar area to bring together traditional and new.

The colour palette is a combination of blue, gold, green and red.

After months of building work, and delays caused by Covid and building regulations, the first guests were welcomed this week.

Sarah said: “We’ve had very long days and some difficult times but you’ve got to crack on it with and keep pedalling.

“I love a challenge and solving a problem.

“There have been plenty of those but we’re really pleased with how things have turned out. The early feedback is very good.

“People have been amazing and so understanding about the delays.

“Now we just can’t wait to get fully up to speed from the beginning of January.

“At the moment we’re building up the custom gradually. We want to make sure we can walk before we run.

“But we’re fully booked for lunch on Christmas Day and the bookings for January and February are looking very healthy.

“Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are filling up rapidly.”

Justin, 48, pictured, was Head Chef at Isabel’s Restaurant for 25 years while Sarah, 51, spent 23 years front of house.

Both secured the intellectual property rights to the previous Isabel’s name from the liquidator but have no connection with the previous owner.

However, their new venture has the blessing and full support of Isabel’s original owners, Maggie and Luciano Trisconi.

They retired from the previous business, pictured left, in 2017.

Sarah said: “Luciano loves what we’ve done and often pops in.

“He’s especially chuffed that we’ve kept the booths concept which was such a feature of the old Isabel’s.

“We’ve tried to keep all the good bits of the old Isabel’s but add some modern twists.”

The duo have taken on a 20-year lease and are employing 12 people including five full-time.

The kitchen team: Samuel Light, Bridget Brasington and Rob Williams.

The menu is fine French and Mediterranean dining with the same level of high-end Michelin recommended food as the previous Isabel’s.

Set and à la carte menus are available.

Among the first guests this week were Max and Nikki Wright, loyal customers of the former restaurant.

Max, pictured left with Nikki, said: “Our lunch was very good indeed and we will be returning a lot in the future.”

Sarah paid tribute to Marc Stephenson and landlord TCI Group, which funded the main building work and also their contractors.

They included plumber Paul Stanyard; Stuart Hebditch, AEC Electrical; Rachel Atkinson, Red Feather Consulting; Craftwood Interiors and Extracair Installations Ltd.

“They have been brilliant and we’re really grateful,” said Sarah.

“We’ve also had lots of support from our fellow traders in the Penn Hill parade.

“There has been so much interest in what we’re doing. The response from our former customers has been moving and quite overwhelming.

“Now, finally, we’re open and we can’t wait to welcome them back.”