Restaurateur says farewell to town's landmark bistro after 40 years

Jenny Haylett

Jenny said that she got used to retirement in lockdown - and didn't want to go back to running a stressful independent business - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

A woman serving Great Yarmouth for more than 50 years as a hairdresser and restaurateur has reflected on a lifetime in business, cut short only by the pandemic.

Jenny Haylett, 72, first opened Friends Bistro on Dene Side in February, 1981 - but decided to permanently close the landmark eatery after the first national lockdown gave her a taste of well-earned retirement.

Its last day of trading was March 21, 2020, with the building sold to an apartment developer at the end of last year.

Starting out as a hairdressers in 1968, the shop was redesigned as a bistro, solarium and salon in 1981 when the then 30-year-old Ms Haylett set herself a new challenge.

With that, Originalle Hair Salon and Friends Bistro was born.

Jenny Haylett is celebrating 50 years of trading in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Jenny Haylett

Jenny Haylett is closing after 52 years in Great Yarmouth - Credit: Archant

Hair salon yarmouth

Before the salon expanded to become a bistro it was known as Originalle Hair Salon, and was known for its experimental practices that Jenny learned while working at different salons across London - Credit: Jenny Haylett

She said: "Everyone told me not to make any changes - and that things were fine as they were - but of course I ignored them!

"Alongside my partner Margaret and one of my old customers Betty Ashby we built up a lovely little business which really took off in Yarmouth."

Twenty years later, Ms Haylett  decided to close the hairdressers - but not before Friends Bistro was converted into a two-floor bistro and food shop/deli.

Jenny Haylett is celebrating 50 years of trading in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Jenny Haylett

Jenny Haylett is closing after 52 years in Great Yarmouth - Credit: Archant

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She said: "Margaret and I drove just outside of Venice in Italy to order the beautiful 12 foot long deli counter, and we opened Friends Food Shop and Bistro in May 1988."

deli counter

The deli counter, which Margaret and Jenny bought from Italy - Credit: Jenny Haylett

In 2005, the deli counter was sold and a new bar put in its place, with the renamed Friends Bistro and Bar proving a real hit with music-loving locals.

Friends Bistro

The Bistro's final design - Credit: Jenny Haylett

friends bistro

The upstairs of the Bistro in its final design - Credit: Jenny Haylett

It wasn't until a global pandemic came along that Ms Haylett and her partner could be persuaded to retire, however.

"I was always worried what I would do if I retired, but the funny thing was I actually began to love being at home, free from all the stress of running a business", she said.

"After 52 years I've done my time - and I've had an absolute ball. I want to thank my customers dearly."

Friends Bistro and Bar

The final reincarnation of Friends Bistro - Friends Bistro and Bar - Credit: Jenny Haylett

She said she wanted to thank her partner of 43 years, Margaret, for putting up with her "mad ideas", and her now 97-year-old mum Vida who has supported her all the way.

Her staff also received a special mention, with one particularly loyal head chef, Natalie Royal, joining the bistro at 18 in 1983 and leaving 37 years later.

friends bistro staff

The final members of staff at Friends' Bistro - Credit: Jenny Haylett

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