Bury St Edmunds: Town is undergoing a ‘food and drink revival’

The latest additions to Bury St Edmunds' high street The latest additions to Bury St Edmunds' high street

Monday, June 16, 2014
10:50 AM

Bury St Edmunds is making its mark as a food and drink destination, with these establishments now accounting for almost 20% of town centre businesses.

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Mark Cordell, chief executive of town centre business group Ourburystedmunds, said Bury is enjoying a ‘food and drink revival,’ adding that has been the picture for about 18 months.

With the recent additions of Côte Brasserie and Bill’s restaurant in Abbeygate Street and Wagamama at the Arc shopping centre, there are now almost 90 restaurants, cafes and bars in the town centre - which is the highest number since before the recession.

Mr Cordell also said the Ourburystedmunds food and drink festival which takes place on August 24 and 25 had been fully booked since November, and there is a waiting list in case they can increase its size.

He said: “When I arrived three years ago there was something like 50 places where you could buy a cup of coffee and it’s now approaching 90.

“The real reason is Bury has a lovely feel about it: the atmosphere, it’s safe, it’s clean, it’s a nice place to meet and it’s become a social centre.

“Thriving high streets are not just about shops - shops are an important part of it - but there’s got to be another attraction.”

Mr Cordell said the reason Ourburystedmunds decided to launch the food and drink festival is because the town has become such a destination for foodies.

The Whitsun Fayre, also run by the Ourburystedmunds Business Improvement District (BID) group, also has a strong food and drink flavour, as does Greene King’s Summer Fest.

Councillor Sarah Stamp, cabinet member for tourism destinations and events at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said the food and drink offering was just part of the “vibrancy” of the town.

“I think the economic development team work very closely with organisations like the BID to encourage well-known brands and independent businesses to Bury. For me part of the great thing about the offering is we have so many independents as well as chains.”

Mike Simmonite, who owns the Gastrono-me deli and cafe in St John’s Street, said since opening his business two-and-a-half years ago “it’s just gone from strength to strength”.

“We have reached the point of capacity and are trying to find something bigger. It’s a nice town to be in,” he said.

He said his customers were after “good food and flavour,” adding people are now more concerned about what goes into their food.

He said restaurant and cafe owners in the town were having to up their game due to the increased competition, but added: “There’s a finite number of customers but if you work hard they will come to you and continue to come to you.”

He said the bigger brands moving into Bury, such as Côte, was a very good indication the town is doing well.

Aaron Sawyer, general manager at Côte Brasserie in Abbeygate Street, said the restaurant had been really busy since opening five weeks ago. “I think Cote fits Bury very well. People love the hearty food,” he said.

Mr Cordell said people in the town were willing to spend money on food and drink, whether it be just burger and chips or a more complicated dish from a high-end restaurant.

“They want to enjoy themselves,” he said. “Even during the bad times of a couple of years ago people were still prepared to go out and eat and drink.”

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