Food & Drink

Published: October 8, 2021 | Updated: October 9, 2021

We’re back! The news 4,000+ customers longed to hear as duo invest £300,000 in new Isabel’s

Justin Castle and Sarah Elmes, Owners of the new Isabel’s Brasserie in Penn Hill, Poole. Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

It’s the news more than 4,000 customers of a genuinely much-loved Poole restaurant wanted to hear.

Isabel’s is coming back.

More than a year after its closure, and then subsequent voluntary liquidation, the restaurant which became a local institution is returning.

But under the new ownership of former Executive Head Chef Justin Castle and Front of House Manager Sarah Elmes, a new location, in Penn Hill, Poole, and with a modern twist.

The duo, who worked for a combined 48 years at the previous Isabel’s Restaurant in Ashley Cross, are investing £300,000 in their new venture.

Isabel’s Brasserie is scheduled to open in mid-November after extensive building work.

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

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

Justin, 47, and Sarah, 51, said they were originally thinking of pursuing individual projects before deciding to combine their talents.

They’ve taken out a 20-year lease on the site in Penn Hill Avenue, pictured, and plan to employ five full-time staff and several part-time, including former members of staff where possible.

The prominent location for Isabel’s Brasserie, in the heart of Penn Hill and within close proximity of Westbourne, Ashley Cross and Canford Cliffs, was “absolutely perfect”, they said.

Sarah, who worked for 23 years at Isabel’s Restaurant, said: “Isabel’s Brasserie will offer the same level of high-end Michelin recommended food and outstanding service.

“All food and beverages will be of the best quality and sourced locally.

“We will take the best and most valuable elements of the former business and re-establish it within the local area which will be vital to its continued long-term success.

“We’ll bring the original ambiance of Isabel’s with us so our loyal customers can still experience the perfect venue for family celebrations, birthdays and romantic evenings.”

Justin, who was the Head Chef at Isabel’s Restaurant for 25 years, said the new Isabel’s Brasserie would be moving with the times.

He said: “We will focus on current trends and the wants of our customers, for example vegan, plant-based and non-alcoholic beverages.

“We will introduce technology and innovative equipment to reduce costs and shorten time.

“We will be offering the same French traditional cuisine with competitively priced menus.”

Isabel’s Brasserie is planning to target the business market with lunches costing around £25.

A sample set evening bistro menu for Tuesday to Thursday on its website is quoting £25.50 for three courses and £21.50 for two courses.

Main courses on the à la carte menu range from £17.95 to £27.95.

Justin and Sarah secured the intellectual property rights to the previous Isabel’s name from the liquidator.

Although they have no connection with the previous owner they said anyone holding a meal voucher for Isabel’s Restaurant would receive a 20 per cent discount off their meal and a free bottle of house wine.

A local businessman, who was previously a customer of Isabel’s Restaurant, is also investing in the new venture.

The duo paid tribute to their landlord, TCI Group, which is funding the main building work.

“They have been very supportive,” said Sarah.

As for the initial reaction to news of the opening, the response had been “very moving and quite overwhelming,” said Justin.

He said: “We have received hundreds of emails.

“It’s brought home to us again what a huge part Isabel’s played in so many people’s lives.

“We’re determined to bring our loyal customers the best of the old Isabel’s but with a modern twist.”

Sarah said their new venture had the blessing of Isabel’s original owners, Maggie and Luciano Trisconi.

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

She added: “We’re just so excited and can’t wait to open.

“We’ve already taken bookings for Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.

“The reaction has been quite amazing and we can’t thank people enough for their support.”