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East Anglia Future 50

Highly-rated Norwich restaurant reopens as build-your-own drinks bar

PUBLISHED: 08:11 28 February 2019 | UPDATED: 11:40 28 February 2019

Anna and Ben Eyre of B'nou Norwich, which has been transformed into a quirky bar, with design your own cocktails and a welcoming family vibe. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Anna and Ben Eyre of B'nou Norwich, which has been transformed into a quirky bar, with design your own cocktails and a welcoming family vibe. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Archant

It was once said to be one of the most difficult restaurants in Norwich to bag a reservation at, now B'nou has been repurposed and reopened as a bar.

Anna and Ben Eyre of B'nou Norwich, which has been transformed into a quirky bar, with design your own cocktails and a welcoming family vibe. Picture: Ella WilkinsonAnna and Ben Eyre of B'nou Norwich, which has been transformed into a quirky bar, with design your own cocktails and a welcoming family vibe. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

The St Benedicts Street restaurant was established in 2014 and up until its temporary closure towards the end of 2018 it enjoyed rave reviews from diners.

Its TripAdvisor score of 4.5, with over 450 reviews, ranked B’nou in the top 13 of 601 Norwich restaurants listed on the site, and a glance at comments reveals praise including “top dining experience” and “can’t get enough of this place.”

The restaurant’s quirky concept where diners were not provided with a menu, but instead simply said “yes” or “no” to tapas style dishes as they came from the kitchen was clearly popular with visitors.

So why has B’nou stopped serving food?

Anna and Ben Eyre of B'nou Norwich, which has been transformed into a quirky bar, with design your own cocktails and a welcoming family vibe. Picture: Ella WilkinsonAnna and Ben Eyre of B'nou Norwich, which has been transformed into a quirky bar, with design your own cocktails and a welcoming family vibe. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Owner Ben Eyre, who runs B’nou with his wife Anna, says the reinvention was prompted by an ambition to welcome more customers and keep things fresh.

He said: “We want to see more people. Before, when it was a restaurant, we would have one sitting. People would come in at seven and leave around 10 so we were limiting ourselves in how many people we could see in an evening.

“We were full for the near enough four years we were open as a restaurant and it got to be the case that people would find themselves on a waiting list of about three months to get a table.”

Now B’nou is a bar people can come and go. Mr Eyre said that while many regulars have returned, the husband and wife team are also meeting lots of new people now that customers don’t have to plan ahead to visit the venue.

A selection of create your own cocktails at B'nou on St benedicts, that has recently reopened as a bar. Picture: Ella WilkinsonA selection of create your own cocktails at B'nou on St benedicts, that has recently reopened as a bar. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

The couple also feel that reinvention was an important part of their business ethos.

“Me and Anna are quite driven and ambitious and we want to enjoy what we do all the time,” continued Mr Eyre.

“Our ethos is ‘love what you do’ and we care about people having the same experience as what we would want if we were out for dinner.

“We want people to come in and see us at our best - we don’t want to find that we’re losing love for it and for the quality to go down, so we decided we’d change it up while we were on top and reinvent ourselves. We didn’t want to go stale, we wanted to keep things fresh.”

A selection of create your own cocktails at B'nou on St benedicts, that has recently reopened as a bar. Picture: Ella WilkinsonA selection of create your own cocktails at B'nou on St benedicts, that has recently reopened as a bar. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Those who enjoyed the unique qualities B’nou had as a restaurant will find that the reopened bar also has its fair share of quirks.

Mr Eyre said: “We used to be a restaurant without a menu, now we’re a bar without a bar.

“There are a few things that make us a little different from the other bars in Norwich. We’re doing a create your own drink where people can choose a spirit, a mixer and a flavour.

“So people are interacting with each other and having a bit of fun, looking through the menu and discussing - so far it’s been really fun, people are really enjoying it, it’s a bit of theatre.”

A selection of create your own cocktails at B'nou on St benedicts, that has recently reopened as a bar. Picture: Ella WilkinsonA selection of create your own cocktails at B'nou on St benedicts, that has recently reopened as a bar. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

B’nou also differs from the run-of-the-mill bar in as much as it offers patrons table service.

Rather than queuing from drinks at a bar, customers will be waited on and have their orders brought to them.

Mr Eyre said: “We’re offering table service so you’re not queueing at a bar, you’re not waiting for drinks. You come in, you take a seat, you’re comfortable and relaxed and we’re serving you - it’s a little more continental I guess.”

Both Mr Eyre and his wife Anna emphasised their passion for the business and the new direction they have taken B’nou in.

Anna and Ben Eyre of B'nou Norwich, which has been transformed into a quirky bar, with design your own cocktails and a welcoming family vibe. Picture: Ella WilkinsonAnna and Ben Eyre of B'nou Norwich, which has been transformed into a quirky bar, with design your own cocktails and a welcoming family vibe. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

“We’re a husband and wife team, it’s not just a job it’s our life,” said Mr Eyre. “We’re here every night with our team and we enjoy what we do. We love it.”

You can find B’nou at 46 St Benedicts Street. Opening times are 5pm “‘til late” Wednesdays to Saturday.

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