This week’s Norwich Pub of the Week is the Bridge Tavern in Riverside, which is slowly building up its own clientele, and soon could rival its near neighbour, The Queen of Iceni in popularity

Pub of the week, the Bridge Tavern at Riverside. Picture: Denise Bradley

Pub of the week, the Bridge Tavern at Riverside. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2013

It must be hard looking out the window and seeing a rival packed with customers, while you have been struggling.

But Stephen Bonnot, manager at the Bridge Tavern at Riverside, whose windows overlook the permanently busy Wetherpoon's pub, the Queen of Iceni, is starting to see trade pick up.

They celebrate their first anniversary soon and a stream of regulars are already making a beeline to the pub, especially on Norwich City match days.

The pub is run by the Spirit Pub Company, which also runs the Prince of Wales in Prince of Wales Road, last week's Pub of the Week.

And while the Wetherspoon's opposite is bound to attract the majority of visitors to the Riverside centre, there's no reason why the Bridge Tavern should not a be a success as well.

Mr Bonnot, who's from Brighton originally and owes his surname to French great-grandparents, certainly hopes so. After studying history at the UEA, he stayed on in the city and has been a fixture at the venue, starting off as chef when it opened 13 years ago as the Old Orleans. He became manager of the newly reopened Bridge Tavern in February last year.

'I have managed to survive all the regime changes,' he said.

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'It was hard in Riverside when the bowling alley and nightclub were shut, and it was touch and go for a while, but it's picked up since Wonderland nightclub opened.

'Wetherpoon's was shut for a while last week, so we got a chance to see what it's like to be very busy,' he said.

'But we have been picking up ever since we got Sky Sports in September, which Wetherspoon's does not have. We are now much more of a football pub. On Saturday for the FA Cup game against Luton we were very busy.

'But as well as having the football, we like to think we are friendlier and more personable than Wetherspoon's. We have a small staff but we are starting to get our own regulars, and we had a very good Christmas.

'And when we are not full of football fans, we tend to get a bit older clientele than Wetherpoon's.'

The pub serves four real ales, two of which are local, and the aim is to be a traditional pub, he said.

He's also enjoying it, he said, adding: 'I really like learning a lot more about real ales and about people. I have spoken to a lot more people since I left the kitchen. The vibe is friendlier than working in the restaurant. It's quite good fun.'

The Evening News has been urging people to return to pubs in our Love your Local campaign.

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