A modern take on enjoying wine

Oliver Brown

Oliver Brown (Ollie) is the Managing Director of The Big Easy Group, the business behind some of Adelaide’s coolest places to eat and drink, including NOLA Adelaide, Anchovy Bandit, Yiasou George, The Stag Public House, and online drinks subscription service Love and Other Drinks.

The Big Easy Group was formed following the success of Ollie’s first hospitality venue NOLA Adelaide, a New Orleans themed craft beer and whiskey bar.  

With a Bachelor of Oenology and Viticulture from the University of Adelaide, Ollie’s original plan was to be making wine rather than serving it. Prior to starting NOLA, he even worked for six months at the cellar door of Penfolds, one of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious wine brands. 

But after opening a pop-up wine bar with a friend, he decided to go in a different direction.

“When we got the licence for ‘Red Trousers’ we were actually the third or fourth small venue licence granted in SA. It was at the beginning of this whole new movement of hospitality venues, moving from large pubs into more micro venues and small bars. It was definitely an exciting time to do hospitality differently in SA,” said Ollie.

“So I loved being part of that movement and it definitely sucked me in.”

With the small bar movement, Ollie saw an opportunity to showcase wine differently, making it less about the bouquet and the palate and talking in depth about wine and more about enjoying great wine and food among friends. 

“I liked wine for the socialisation, and drinking it with food and enjoying it rather than knuckling down into the fine technical details. I wanted to deliver a wine bar that was less about just the wine and where it came from, and more about the company that you were drinking it with.”

This led to setting up NOLA Adelaide, and a string of other venues, each drawing inspiration from strong and vibrant cultures. The Stag Public House showcases Aussie culture, Anchovy Bandit Italian culture, and Yiasou George, Greek. 

“What we love in venues is something with a vision and a soul and a purpose. I think cultures are built around a soul and a vision and a purpose in themselves. That’s around the food, or the way people interact. So every venue has a specific inspiration,” said Ollie.

 “It’s not just about the visuals, it’s about who we buy from, who we support and how does that tie into our mission. It ends up becoming a strong identity.”

By partnering with South Australians already working in hospitality, Ollie says that each venue also has its own face to the name, a local hero.

“We call Alex, [partner in Anchovy Bandit], the ‘Mayor of Prospect’ because he knows everyone out there and has such great relationships with them all. He has built such a strong community around the venue,” Ollie said.

To-date, each venue’s operating partner was on the opening team at NOLA Adelaide. 

“So they have all gone from bartenders to owners in their own venue. Which we love,” said Ollie.

In the pre-small bar era, Ollie said hospitality wasn’t necessarily viewed as a great career, but that is changing, and The Big Easy Group is proud to be part of that.

“We love creating these strong career paths for people to be able to own their own venues and have successful careers in something that makes them happy. That’s our mission.”

Story by Kelly Brown.

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