NEW PORT RICHEY — When James Renew first opened his restaurant the Little Lamb Gastropub back in 2016, it could have been seen as a risky move.
The Clearwater restaurant launched in a small strip mall spot off McMullen Booth Road, an unlikely setting for an eatery of its caliber. But soon enough, the accolades followed and the restaurant garnered glowing praise from diners and critics alike (including from this publication).
Now, Renew is at it again with his latest project — an ambitious new modern American restaurant in downtown New Port Richey.
The Estuary, described as an elevated seafood-focused restaurant, opens this week at 6220 Grand Blvd. The building, which is owned by local real estate developer Frank Starkey, was formerly home to the restaurant and nightclub Dulcet Restaurant & Lounge.
Renew, who had hoped to open in 2022, said renovations on the building have been underway for the past two years and that pandemic-related construction setbacks stymied the opening process. But the delay wasn’t all bad: It gave him the time to observe the quiet revitalization taking place right outside his doors.
Renew is optimistic about the downtown strip and surrounding area’s potential in the near future. Recent years have seen a number of new businesses and hospitality operations launch in downtown New Port Richey, including the multimillion-dollar renovation of the 1920s-era Hacienda Hotel, which reopened to guests in 2022.
“We figured the time is now,” Renew said. “And we wanted to get in on the ground floor.”
Renew, who worked at high-end properties in Las Vegas and Sydney, Australia, before opening his Clearwater spot, said the menu at his new restaurant will feel “more like a restaurant than a gastropub,” with elevated dishes in a casual setting where the average entree will fall around $30. The restaurant’s buildout will feature seating for approximately 150 people, with 120 inside and an additional 30 outside.
Roughly 70% of the menu will focus on seafood, both local and international varieties, with an emphasis on sustainable choices. There will be East, West and Gulf coast oysters available and a cocktail menu designed to pair with the dishes, including an emphasis on lighter, seafood-friendly spirits.
The restaurant is operating in a soft-opening period this week with limited reservations. The Estuary will serve dinner from 4-9 p.m. on Sundays and Tuesdays through Thursdays and from 4-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. In the coming months, the restaurant will launch a weekend brunch service on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
If you go
The Estuary, 6220 Grand Blvd., New Port Richey. estuarynpr.com.