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Enjoy cocktails in the garden this weekend

PUBLISHED: 09:38 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:38 31 July 2018

The Urban Jungle garden centre and cafe near Beccles  Picture: Georgia Watson

The Urban Jungle garden centre and cafe near Beccles Picture: Georgia Watson

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Eat Suffolk's 'Best Newcomer' Urban Jungle celebrates first anniversary.

This Sunday (August 5) Urban Jungle, Beccles, hosts its first anniversary party, and there’s plenty to celebrate. Between 12pm and 7pm they’ll be serving up summer cocktails amongst the plants, and cooking delicious food on fire, all to the sound of DJ Chilli’s lush, Latin beats. From 10am, there’ll be VIP party bags for the first 50 customers, craft stalls, festival glitter, new areas of the Nursery open and of course plants, plants and yet more beautiful plants.

“We’ve fallen in love with Suffolk - the charm of Beccles town, the cute villages, the beautiful coastline, the bountiful produce...we could go on. And we’ve still so much more to explore,” said co-owner Liz Browne.

After taking over the site last June, the team had just six weeks until opening, and since the launch, the changes and growth in the nursery and cafe have been non-stop. In late summer 2017, the plant propagation and Edible Jungle were set up in the adjoining field, supplying the cafes at both Norfolk and Suffolk with fresh salad and vegetables throughout the winter. During this time, the cafe saw a demand for something a little different from lunch menus in Suffolk, and continued to develop its ethos using the home-grown produce.

The cafe at Urban Jungle’s mission is to deliver a casual dining experience in a unique setting, serving beautiful, globally inspired dishes, connecting people, plants and food.

Following the success of the new-look menu, utilising home-grown produce, and the opening of the cafe on Saturday nights, Urban Jungle was proud to be awarded ‘Best Newcomer’ at the Eat Suffolk Food and Drink Awards in April.

“We’ve come so far in the last year,” added Liz. “The two acre field adjoining the nursery is producing 80% of the plants for both nurseries. And not only ornamentals - the kitchen garden produces organically grown salads and vegetables in abundance for both cafes. We’re already pickling and preserving in earnest to see us through the winter.”

It hasn’t all been plain sailing though. The ‘Beast from the East’ and the never-ending winter caused devastation in both the Costessey and Beccles Nurseries, resulting in their closure for the best part of a week in March. The weather meant that the gardening season was never really able to begin as it should. March and April are usually the busiest months for nurseries, but the terrible weather saw all but the most hardened gardeners staying warm indoors. The first half of the year has certainly been a worrying time for small independent nurseries such as Urban Jungle.

Although the major roadworks are continuing on London Road, the weather has improved for June and July, and co-owners Liz and Mal Browne are determined to push forward.There are big plans for the nursery, including the building of what will become a secluded ‘Jungle Garden’, perfect for private parties.

“Where has the year gone. Can it really be just over a year ago that we picked up a jingly bunch of unfathomable keys, looked around the site, scratched our heads and thought ‘right, where do we start?’. It was a daunting prospect and we had just a couple of months to put our unique stamp on the premises. We were still frantically building, cleaning, placing stock, and gathering our brilliant new team right up to the minutes before opening the gates for the first time.

“There have been quite literally blood, sweat and tears. We’ve suffered setbacks - mainly caused by the crazy weather, and major roadworks right outside our gate, but lots of love and laughter along the way too. It’s been a triumph over adversity,” Liz said.

<Box> The Cactus Festival

August 26 will mark the opening of a week-long Cactus and Chilli Festival. At the opening party on Bank Holiday Sunday there’ll be live music, craft stalls, cocktails and Tex-Mex street food cooked on fire. During the week there’ll be an amazing selection of cacti with special offers and all week the cafe will serve Mexican, Asian and Middle Eastern, chilli inspired dishes and cocktails.

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