The Empire Strikes Back - our review of the new indoor food market

Millie and Jack, two twenty-somethings.

Millie and Jack were enjoying drinks inside the newly opened venue. - Credit: James Weeds

People were queuing on the street to witness the grand re-opening of an historical building in Great Yarmouth on Saturday.

The Empire reopened its doors to the public for the first time since 2008.

The venue, which was originally built in 1911, has been transformed as an indoor food market and live music venue.

Jo and Mark at The Empire

Jo and Mark were excited to be back inside the relaxed food venue. - Credit: James Weeds

Mark Palmer used to frequent the building when it was known as Bourbon Street.

"Personally I’ve been waiting a long time for this," Mr Palmer, 41, said.

"It's been hidden away for too long."

Jo, who was visiting with Mr Palmer, said: "It's wonderful to go somewhere a bit more relaxed.

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"It's aesthetically pleasing too.

"This is what we need more of in Yarmouth."

Angela, Ian, Wayne and Yvonne.

Angela, Ian, Wayne and Yvonne used to enjoy nights out at Bourbon Street. - Credit: James Weeds

Angela Frisby, who reminisced over the building as a cinema, said: "I just think it’s fantastic to be open after all these years.

"I was so excited when I heard about it.

"It's great to be back inside.

"It seems a bit more for the younger type, but I will still come down occasionally though."

Millie and Jack, two twenty-somethings.

Millie and Jack were enjoying drinks inside the newly opened venue. - Credit: James Weeds

Millie and Jack were enjoying drinks in the venue, but couldn't remember any of The Empire's previous incarnations.

 "It's pretty cool isn’t it," Millie, 24, said.

"The decor is amazing. Very atmospheric," Jack said.

"The staff are helpful and nice too."

Staff were hard at work, delivering food and drink to customers.

Despite it being the first day, service was generally swift.

Beer pumps at the Empire.

Craft beer is available on tap in The Empire. - Credit: Jays UK

Darren Clayton, 40, general manager of The Empire, said: "I was a bit nervous at first, admittedly.

"But the staff are great and it's a magical place to work.

"I'd like to thank the Jays for giving me the opportunity to do this.

"I'm really grateful for that.

"The building speaks for itself.

"We had a queue of people outside the door, it's full in here now.

"Nowadays, people want to sit down and order drinks.

The Empire sign.

The Empire re-opened its doors on Saturday for the first time in 13 years. - Credit: Luke Martin

"Everyone is welcome to sit down in here, eat some nice food, enjoy some craft beer or a cocktail and listen to music.

"There's nothing like this in the area."

The street food vendors currently inside The Empire are Rude Kitchen which offers burgers, Middle East Coast which serves vegetarian meals, and Fanny Adams, which brings a Caribbean fair to the venue.

jack jay

Jack Jay was incredibly excited about the re-opening of The Empire. - Credit:

Jack Jay, owner of The Empire, said: "It's been a long time in the making and we've been really lucky to find the people to help us make it happen, but it's happening and I can't be more pleased with it.

"I'm so thrilled to see people out enjoying themselves.

"We were just amazed that there was a small queue of people at 5 o'clock, every table is full, and it seems that everybody is happy.

"We want this to be an aspirational place for bands to play.

"The town has so many talented people, and it is great to be able to create a space for those people while providing food and entertainment to the town."

The Empire is open from 12pm until 12am, Wednesday to Sunday.

Drone shot of The Empire.

The Empire has re-opened as an indoor food market and live music venue. - Credit: Luke Martin

What we thought of it

I hadn't been inside the building since a Battle of the Bands at Zen in 2007 and I forgot how impressive the ceiling is. It provides a huge open space and really has a friendly food court feeling.

The decor and lighting sets a nice atmosphere and the music played by the DJ was loud enough to be enjoyed, but it was still easy to maintain conversation.

There is a good range of food on offer - I had the Rude Kitchen 'Bacon My Way Down Town' and halloumi fries -  and the ordering system on the app worked well.

It was fantastic seeing people enjoying themselves inside a truly iconic spot in Great Yarmouth. I can imagine it being used for a variety of purposes and that thought is really encouraging.

Well done to all involved.

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