Ingham Swan owners describe “devastating” night their former home and pub was burned to dust
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A dream, a family home, a thriving pub.
The Ingham Swan has been each of these for owners Greg Adjemian and chef patron Daniel Smith.
But since a fire devastated the 600-year-old building in early September, the pair have had to bid farewell to the site as they know it, and reimagine the building for the future.
'I lived at the Swan with my wife and three kids when we opened in 2010,' Mr Smith said. 'We were there for over a year and I was spending 60 or 70 hours working in the pub every week.
'I was devastated when I got the call to say it had burned down, there's no words for how it felt when I saw it.'
'I arrived about 10 minutes after Dan that morning,' Mr Adjemian said. 'I found out from my niece who sent me a blurred picture of a building on fire and asked if it was the Swan. I searched the Internet straight away, and the only thing that made it real was the date. Up until then I'd hoped it might be an old report of a fire we had years ago.'
Mr Adjemian, 38, went on: 'My first thought was for our staff and for our guests. And luckily from the report I knew no one had been hurt and everyone was safe.'
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'It's the people I'll miss the most,' said Mr Smith, 42. 'I loved the building of course, but it's the regulars and the staff you get used to seeing and waving to.'
'The first 24 hours were a blur,' said Mr Adjemian, who lives in Wymondham. 'Pardon the pun but it was a fire fight. Within 48 hours we'd had insurers, the council, highways, everyone out on site and the scene was declared safe.'
It is thought the fire broke out due to an electrical fault.
The pair are now hoping that the Ingham Swan will be rebuilt within the next 18 months, as clearing of the wreckage has already begun.
'When we bought the Ingham Swan in 2010 we loved the feel of the building. It was a grade two building in a fairly remote location, but we knew we had the drive and the vision to make it work,' said Mr Adjemian. 'We've split our business ventures into two streams: one the urban eateries like the Warwick Street Social, and also the room and restaurant idea like we had at the Ingham Swan.
'The Ingham Swan was the first part of that and the starting point for us working as business partners.'
Since then the restaurant has gone from strength to strength, and currently holds one of the only two Michelin Bib Gourmands in Norfolk for their three course meal for under £28.
'Luckily we've managed to redeploy all our talent as we've got two other sites, the Warwick Street Social and the Wildebeest,' Mr Adjemian continued.
EDP Chef of the Year Alex Clare will now be taking over the kitchen at Norwich's Warwick Street Social, elevating the restaurant's menu with tasters of the Ingham Swan menu which he cooked to win the title.
'We're so proud of Alex,' said Mr Smith, who lives in Fleggburgh. 'He came in as an apprentice and has worked his way up, and it's people like that which are our legacies.'
The pair also offered their condolences to the homeowners who lived in the destroyed house beside their building.
Mr Adjemian said: 'We lost a building we love but they lost their home. We were so relieved they're all safe and hope the local community will support them as much as they've supported us.'
The pair have also said they'll embrace the fire as part of the Ingham Swan's journey.
'You might see some smokey chips in reference to the fire but we won't be making a meal out of it!' Mr Smith joked.
Mr Adjemian added: 'The Ingham Swan is a building steeped in history. It's had many chapters and this is just one of them, we'll embrace it as part of its story.'