200-year-old Portsmouth pub wins best newcomer award to delight of managers

Share this article

THE Old Customs House pub may be two hundred years old, but it now has a Best Newcomer award on its mantle - thanks to the hard work of its new managers.

Paul and Sian Stephens have won the Fullers award for their management of the pub since taking it over in January. 

Sian and Paul Stephens have won Fuller's Best Newcomer award for their management of the Old Customs House pub.

Sian and Paul Stephens have won Fuller's Best Newcomer award for their management of the Old Customs House pub.

The team beat more than 70 other Fuller’s pubs in the competition, with judges commending the ‘huge increase’ in quality of service.

Sian, who previously managed The Mill in Elstead, Surrey, for four years with husband Paul, said the ‘amazing’ win has left them eyeing up Fuller’s Best Pub award for next year. 

She said: ‘To walk away with best new comer, you just know that next year we will up our game  and hopefully we will win best pub.

‘We were put forward for the award by a quality team member from Fuller’s who visited us.

‘The judges checked our knowledge of beer, beer and food pairing, and staff attitude, and they said they had seen a huge increase in standards.’

Judges commented on ‘little touches’ such as posters with recommendations from manager Paul, who became a pub manager at 21 and is now a trained sommelier. 

He said: ‘I have always said any one who takes over a pub you need to step back and observe.

‘You should observe everyone - your customers, your staff, other businesses.

‘In our first month we did a “meet the landlord” evening, we just asked people - “what would you like to see?”’

‘The worst thing you can do is come and make loads of changes.’ 

The Newcomer award follows an ambassador award from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, one of the pub’s draft beer providers. 

The award will see Paul travel North Carolina in August, in order to work with the brewery to craft a new beer for the UK market. 

He said: ‘I’m sure it will be very gruelling.’ 

Back at Old Customs House, the pub has an evening of live Shakespeare from The Open Bar Theatre Company planned for Wednesday 24th July. 

Sian said: ‘Sadly I won’t be playing Juliet - but it will be a fantastic night.’

The Old Customs House, in Gunwharf Quays, is housed within the former HMS Vernon customs building, built in 1790, opening as a pub in 2002. 

The pub previously won Fuller’s Pub Of The Year in 2017.