What you can eat at The Empire - Great Yarmouth's trendiest new nightspot
- Credit: The Empire Great Yarmouth
With a mouthwatering menu offering everything from stacked burgers to curried goat and vegan doner kebabs, it’s little wonder that The Empire Great Yarmouth is fast becoming one of the east coast’s hottest food destinations.
A landmark building on the seafront, the venue was built in 1911, but had been closed to the public since 2008.
Then this summer it reopened its doors, having been transformed into an indoor street food market and live music venue.
And it’s really created a buzz in the resort, which is well and truly on the up thanks to Banksy’s recent ‘spraycation’, the refurbishment of the Venetian Waterways and funding secured to restore the Winter Gardens.
“We had talked for a long time about how it would be wonderful to get The Empire back open as a venue,” says owner Jack Jay, who is also ringmaster at the historic Hippodrome Circus.
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Like at the Hippodrome, they really wanted it to be a venue which could be enjoyed by multi-generational groups.
“We didn’t want to do just drinks and the food really knitted it all together," he says.
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"I’m a foodie myself and absolutely love this new style of street food, which is really high quality stuff. And we have amazing street food in Norfolk now.
“Much like we are at the Hippodrome, food is something which can be enjoyed as a family, people can come down as a couple, you can bring your granddad, it’s a really nice cross-generational thing.”
He says that the response has been “absolutely amazing.”
“We’re seeing locals that are coming back and bringing friends. They’re now guiding them through the menu, showing them the hidden gems, what they’ve got to try.”
There are currently three vendors in residence at The Empire: Rude Kitchen, from Cromer, (making their debut) Middle East Coast and FannyAdams Catering.
“Rude Kitchen make famously outrageously huge burgers,” says Jack. “Since they’ve been here, they’ve been creating these weird and wonderful stacked burgers, which have been a massive hit.
“Their jerk chicken burger is dangerously moreish,” he continues. “It’s stacked high and it’s got the most amazing sauce. It’s anti-date food, it’s the messiest,” he warns. “You’ve really got to be comfortable with the people you’re with.”
Middle East Coast’s menu is entirely vegetarian and vegan.
“They’re predominantly Mediterranean style, and do really amazing stuffed pittas, halloumi fries and some really cool, interesting all-vegan doner kebab creations,” says Jack.
“We get lots of the visitors who are vegan or have vegan members of the family and they think it’s so cool that there’s some really interesting stuff on the menu for them too, it’s not like an afterthought.”
And FannyAdams Catering is run by Annie Vanstone and her partner Adam Clayton.
They’ve both worked in the hospitality industry since they were 16, working their way through various busy pubs and restaurants in Norfolk. Adam has also worked in London.
“Adam's passion for food and immense talent as a chef and the fact we have always worked so well as a team, is what led us to start our own catering business around five years ago,” says Annie.
“Dabbling occasionally in weddings and dinner parties, FannyAdams really kicked off at the beginning of lockdown 2020, when we were left with no work and had to do something to support our small family,” she continues.
“The street food movement was growing big in Norfolk so it was the perfect time to showcase just what we had up our sleeves, and we haven't looked back since.”
Their ethos is sharing their love for “fresh, funky foods and encouraging people to get together.”
And their menu at The Empire has influences from around the globe: a Cajun fish taco of seafood tempura, chopped salad, smashed avocado and chimmichurri; crisp fried BBQ or buffalo wings with spring onion and chilli slaw, curried goat with rice ‘n’ peas and a sweetcorn fritter and F.A fish and chips – tempura seabass, furikake fries, katsu curry sauce, kimchi and crispy seaweed.
And there are two vegan options: a jerk tofu roti wrap with rice’n’ peas, Jamaican cabbage and mango salsa and, something that’s already become a bit of a legend locally, their bang bang cauliflower – tempura cauliflower bites with F.A hot sauce and toasted sesame.
Jack is certainly a fan.
“It’s one of those dishes where lots of people miss it, and we end up making samples for it and people absolutely love it. It's one of the best street food dishes I’ve ever had. And again, is an amazing example of fun, tasty, vegetarian food,” he says.
Annie says that they’re loving being at The Empire.
“The vibe at The Empire is cool, funky and totally unique. It has everything you'd want from a venue- great food, amazing cocktail bar, beers and awesome live music.
“Our residency has been going great and we have had such fab feedback since being there, we're buzzing to be a part of it. And we owe a lot to our man Sam who runs the kitchen there, he's really stepped up and has been smashing it.”
Norfolk also has some fantastic breweries and drinks producers and Jack and the team worked closely with Great Yarmouth brewer Lacons when it came to selecting drinks for the bar.
“They have been amazing, and we’re really proud to be one of their local flagship places for their draught” says Jack.
“Duration at West Acre is an example of a really good Norfolk craft brewery we’ve got. And we want to work with people like Wildcraft Brewery to bring even more local beers in to make sure that we really celebrate the amazing stuff we’ve got going on in the county.”
Live music also plays a big part in what The Empire does. Thursday night is its Showcase Night, curated by Gary Standley, who has championed many up and coming bands through BBC Introducing Norfolk.
“He has this incredible knowledge of local bands – we're really proud that it’s a showcase night for bands that are on the cusp of really breaking through,” says Jack.
On Fridays and Saturdays there’s a mix of local bands and singer songwriters on the bill. Then Sundays are chilled out, with live blues from 4pm.
Plus, there are plenty of extra tasty treats in store this month and beyond. Next weekend, October 14-17, it’s holding its very own 'Oktoberfeast' with an Empire twist.
“There will be imported German beers and all of our traders are making some amazing creations for it; there will be proper traditional bratwurst, vegan schnitzel and a braised beef dish as well,” says Jack.
And October 21 marks the start of their Halloween Fiesta, which takes inspiration from the Day of the Dead.
“We’ve got a Mexican street food trader that is coming and launching that week and there will be cocktails and mocktails as well,” says Jack.
The Empire is open Thursdays to Sundays – and will be open all of half-term week at the end of the month.
Plus, they will be sharing details of their plans for Christmas shortly.
To keep up to date see their Facebook page or follow them on Instagram @theempiregy