Former Norwich pub and cinema reopens as oriental restaurant

It has previously been a cinema, a bingo hall and casino, and most recently a pub.

But the building in Dereham Road, Norwich, last known as the Regal pub is reopening tomorrow as an oriental restaurant.

It closed as a pub earlier this year after trading as a watering hole for more than a decade.

Originally the Regal cinema, it housed a bingo hall and casino before becoming derelict and then being taken over by the Wetherspoon's pub chain, which opened it as the City Gates pub in 1999.

Wetherspoon's gave it up about nine years later and it was then known as the Regal, and Speakies, before reverting back to its old name before its closure.

The new buffet-style restaurant is called Merge and will offer different Asian cuisines from China, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, Korea and Malaysia, allowing customers to eat as much as they like from a range of freshly-prepared dishes. Owner Cindy Meng said the food concept was based on the travels of Zheng He – a Chinese explorer from the 15th century who is just as famous in China as Christopher Columbus is in Europe and the US.

The explorer set out to establish new trade routes in South East Asia and India and discovered new ingredients, spices and herbs which he brought back to China.

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The restaurant's design also incorporates elements of the concept with maps, compasses and boats adorning some of the walls.

The owner said: 'The Old Regal is such a beautiful building, it makes the perfect background for people to enjoy our food.

'We have spent a lot of time developing the dishes to give our customers a taste of the Far East. We know everyone will love our dishes.'

There will be 100 seats for customers and a fountain where children can dunk fresh fruit and marshmallows into flowing chocolate.

It is not the first time that a former pub has been turned into something else. Last December the former Duke of Norfolk in Mousehold Lane reopened as an Indian restaurant, Rishi.

In 2009 Refreshers in St Giles Street, near Guildhall Hill, was turned into an Italian restaurant, while The Galley Hill in Drayton Road, was partly converted into a beauty salon, and the former Larkman pub in Norwich is now an Aldi supermarket.

Are you transforming a Norwich building? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email