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Take a first look inside brand new bar and restaurant The Tavern - now open

PUBLISHED: 18:00 24 May 2019

Craig Nichols, owner of St John's Tavern   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Craig Nichols, owner of St John's Tavern Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The business on St John's Street, Bury St Edmunds, replaces The Snug, which shut in the town earlier this month.

St John's Tavern has now opened in Bury St Edmunds  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSt John's Tavern has now opened in Bury St Edmunds Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Sharing plates, social dining, great beer, fine wines and cocktails are all on the menu at brand new bar and restaurant The Tavern, which has just opened on St John's Street in Bury St Edmunds.

Craig and Julie Nichols, who have a long history in the pub industry, partnered with Andrew and Diana Grant in the new venture in the former premises of The Snug, which shut on May 4 this year.

"We got the keys on May 10," Craig says, "and it's been non-stop since then. It's quite nice to sit here and see everything the decorators have done. It's so much brighter. We're very excited about it. We think there's a lot of decent pubs in Bury and a hell of a lot of good places to eat, and we want to combine the two in one place. We've got the perfect set up here. The experienced staff are really good, and we've got the pub side but also the dining area at the back. We think we can do both and have the best of both worlds."

Talking about the concept, he adds: "The emphasis is on sharing and creating that homely, welcoming, happy atmosphere. If a group of you and you friends are going out, you can come here, grab a pizza, put it in the middle of the table, listen to music and have a really informal time. That's really what we wanted to go for."

St John's Tavern has now opened in Bury St Edmunds  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSt John's Tavern has now opened in Bury St Edmunds Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

As a freehouse The Tavern is able to stock a large range of both local and craft beer, with Craig saying there's "something for everyone", from children, to die-hard beer lovers, and wine aficionados (the list has been drawn up with experts Hallgarten Druitt).

"Our main bitter is Adnams Southwold, and we also have Otter Bitter which has been going down a storm on social media. We've got eight beers in the cellar and cans of craft like Beavertown Neck Oil, and we have Moretti in bottles and on draft."

There are 10 cocktails, named after key locations in the town, including The Abbeygate Mojito, and a Turbo G & T, combining pink peppercorn gin, tonic and locally made F+E nitro cold brew coffee.

Now onto the food, served all day from 12noon to 9pm (4pm Sundays) and from 11am on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

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The way the menu's designed lets customers mix and match to make their perfect meal. "You can come in every day and never have the same thing twice," Craig smiles.

"We've got lamb shawarma - that's slow cooked lamb shoulder on flatbread, it's amazing. Buttermilk chicken strips with blue cheese dip, barbecue ribs, chicken croquetas, lamb koftas. From the sea there's salt and pepper squid, pan-fried chilli and garlic prawns, herb baked queenie scallops and deep-fried cod cheeks. And from the garden, spicy falafels, tandoori vegetables skewers, spring onion bhaji and aubergine salad.

"At the bottom of our menu is the 'from the grill' section where you can build up your dinner. There's 8oz steak, Spanish-style chicken supreme, burger of the day. Basically you can throw loads of stuff on the table or pick a grill and add anything from the other sections."

Stone-baked pizzas make an appearance too - with eight on the menu, including a vegan topped option.

If you're on a plant-based diet but pizza's not your thing, don't worry, there's a separate vegan menu of six small plates, as well as larger bites such as confit garlic and slow-roasted tomato gnocchi and a roasted red pepper and chickpea burger.

And for dessert? Expect a soon to be unveiled Tavern Chocolate Bar, changing every month to echo a staff member's favourite bar, alongside baked yoghurt, gluten-free vegan chocolate brownie, lemon and lime cheesecake and a cheeseboard.

"Something I'm really excited about," adds Craig, "is the Sunday lunch. "The town centre needs a solid roast and we are going to be opening 12noon to 4pm on Sundays with three starters, four main courses and three desserts. It's going to be amazing. Good meat with all the trimmings. You can start with baked queenie scallops in herb butter, then have roast shoulder of pork with crackling and apple sauce, roast supreme of chicken with sausage stuffing, rump of beef with horseradish cream, or polenta loaf, with veg, butternut squash puree, Yorkshire, cauliflower cheese and loads of gravy. Lovely."

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