NODS to the past fill the space once known as the Commercial Hotel in Branxton.
From the original 1920s bar back in the cocktail lounge to the vintage trinkets on display that were uncovered in the rubble during the venue's five-year restoration, the history of the building is the centrepiece of the venue which re-opened in November as The Quinn.
"The pub was constructed in 1929, so there is a lot of history and heritage in the building itself," The Quinn owner Robert Williams tells Weekender.
"The namesake of the restaurant and bar is in honour of the first licensees, Timothy and Esther Quinn, who operated the building when it was originally constructed. They lived upstairs on the top floor of the building."
The Quinn is no longer a pub these days. Instead it is designed as a community hub with a bar, restaurant and cafe, as well as an escape room. There is an on-site barber shop and a gallery space used to showcase local artists that also acts as a drop-in centre every fortnight for new parents to visit the baby nurse. Future plans include weekly market events.
"The greater vision of the building for us was around it being a community hub for Branxton," Williams explains.
"Because it was once a pub, it is a big space to do something with, so it took a specific vision to make the venue work without running it as a pub again."
The Commercial Hotel closed its doors in 2007 and sat dormant for almost a decade. Branxton locals Kim and David Barnes purchased the hotel six years ago with the goal of bringing the venue back to its former glory.
It was a "labour of love" for the couple, according to Williams, who set about restoring the period features of the hotel and extending the back of the venue with the addition of a dining room and al fresco area which both make the most of the spectacular view out across the ranges.
The restaurant is open seven days for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with Branxton-born Joshua Cummings, who trained under Hunter chef Robert Molines, leading the kitchen as head chef.
The menu's focus is to offer "good quality comfort food".
"The Hunter Valley has a lot of pubs and venues that do great pub grub and we have a lot of nice fine dining restaurants, but we don't have a lot that sits in the middle," Williams says.
"We created a menu that allows you to either have a snack or enjoy a good meal."
Popular dishes on the dinner menu include crispy pork belly with apple puree, baked broccolini, chat potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and wilted spinach ($36), spicy Korean chicken wings with kimchi salad ($18/$26), or traditional Lebanese lamb kofta with garlic dip, hummus, tabbouleh and flat bread ($16/$24).
Much of the menu is gluten-free and there are kids options for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
With a big focus on local produce, The Quinn use Newcastle roasters Josie Coffee, while the bar's drink list highlights Hunter wine producers and spirits from Hunter Distillery.
After a meal or drink, it's worth a walk round the building to inspect the details.
"The bar back that houses the bottles is an authentic 1920s piece from one of the original pubs in Oberon from the same era and the bench the coffee machine sits on is a tailor's bench from the original David Jones building in Sydney, so a lot of the holes and crevices in that are from years and years of pins and needles being pushed into the wood," Williams says.
"There is a lot of history throughout the venue."
The escape room in the old basement is the new "quirky" addition to the venue.
Groups of between two and eight are given one hour to solve a series of physical and mental puzzles in the 1920s Prohibition-themed challenge in order to successfully find their way out. More than 80 groups have attempted it since the venue opened, but only eight have completed the challenge.
"At the core, it's about creating a real-world experience," says Williams, who designed the room.
"It is deliberately built around being very hands-on and the room is designed to challenge the way people perceive things and the way they think about things."
The Quinn, 45 Maitland Street, Branxton. Visit thequinn.com.au for bookings.
IN THE NEWS:
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: