Four months after fire The One Bull reopens in Bury St Edmunds
Popular Bury St Edmunds pub welcomes back drinkers and diners from today after fire damage forced closure last year.
Fire is one of the greatest discoveries of man, but also one of the most unpredictable – as Roxane and David Marjoram of The One Bull in Bury St Edmunds found last year.
The couple’s pub, lovingly restored by them 10 years ago, has reopened today, four months after it was the victim of a fire which spread from next door Cycle King into the bar area.
A wall neighbouring the cycle shop suffered smoke damage, there was a huge issue with water seepage but, more sadly, the couples’ home above the pub was badly affected.
It was a time of great upheaval for Roxane and David, who not only had to deal with insurers and the aftermath of the fire, but were forced to rehome their family temporarily, all while running their other businesses, including The Beerhouse and The Cadogan Arms.
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“We’d just gone away for the weekend to celebrate Dave’s parents’ golden wedding anniversary on the Suffolk coast. David had been there about half an hour,” recalls Roxane.
“And I had a call from my head chef saying ‘are you having a barbecue upstairs?’. He said there was a lot of smok.,” says David. “ I talked him through how to get access but it was too late, he said ‘we’re being evacuated, you might want to get back in the car’. It was the longest hour of my life getting back here. We were told there were 60 fire crews and 14 devices.”
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“It almost feels like it didn’t happen to us,” adds Roxane. “You forget how awful it felt. It was sickening.”
Customers have, say the couple, been very supportive during the pub’s closure, but it’s now back to business as usual at the town’s oldest public house.
David (who previously owned Decanter wine bar in Bury St Edmunds) took on The One Bull with Roxane 10 years ago, right at the beginning of the recession, but at a time when they saw restaurants were still thriving.
“I grew up around pubs and swore I’d never have a pub, and The One Bull was sitting there closed down. It had been a karaoke, sports-type bar that was under invested in, seemed one of the biggest in the area, and was on Angel Hill overlooking the lovely old houses. It seemed strange to have the town’s roughest pub in the nicest part. I think it had more police call outs in the last six months of being open than the rest of Bury combined,” says David.
Roxane laughs that most people thought they were crazy to take the building on – and more so to live in it.
A decade on, and loads of changes later, the pub remains, having weathered the UK’s economic crisis, fire, and the rise of chain restaurants in the town.
The One Bull is a showcase for beers from The Beerhouse, with at least five on tap at any time (including currently a vanilla porter). And David and Roxane, whose brewery produces beers for Hotel Chocolat, have been delighted to find out this week that they’ve been chosen to make a West Indies Pale Ale for the chocolate brand, which will be sold around the world.
Wine is a passion of David’s too, so it’s no surprise there’s a stonking wine list, with all bottles available by the glass, opening up the experience of fine wines to a wider market in an approachable way. A big hit has been the flights of wine, priced at around £10 for six 50ml measures.
A favourite of David’s is the South African Riesling. “I’ve got some wine geek friends and we meet up and do blind tastings and sometimes talk about our desert island grape. Ultimately we accept the only real one we’d choose is a Riesling because of its diversity. It’s got so many different style options within one grape.”
Food-wise, everything from bread, to ice cream, stocks and sauces is made in-house and tested rigorously by the team before making it onto the pub’s menus, with the kitchen priding itself on creativity – but not at the expense of putting out really good, tasty plates of food made with local ingredients.
“We’re trying to take classic British ingredients or dishes,” says David, “and, as long as it’s not for the sake of a quirk, making them relevant for a modern environment.”
The current, seasonal menu, includes a starter of monkfish kiev with caper ketchup and rosti, and a ham hock Scotch egg with mustard seed soldiers for delving into the runny middle.
David and Roxane can’t get enough of the main course of slow-cooked blade of beef with crispy skate fingers, rosti, spinach and béarnaise.
And they say the simplicity of descriptions on the puds menu (vanilla panna cotta with blood orange and honeycomb) allows for a surprise at the table when customers find special finishing touches on the plate.
There’s been a conscious effort to make proper kids’ food too, they say: “As parents you can go almost anywhere and find an identical menu. Of course, if there are chicken nuggets on a menu children will want them!”
There are no nuggets on The One Bull menu. Expect instead ham hock scrumpets, mussels, slow-cooked beef with dauphinoise and gravy.
All well-cooked, tasty morsels made with the same love and care as the main menu – inspiring the next generation of diners.