'They've become family' - Landlord marks 10 years at loved city pub and Thai restaurant
A city centre pub - said to be Norwich's smallest - with a reputation for good beer and authentic Thai cooking is celebrating its 10th birthday.
The Vine Thai, on 7 Dove Street, dates back to 1842 but was bought by its current landlord Aey Allen in 2008, after stints working at Thai restaurants in the city.
With no experience of running a pub, Mrs Allen said it was a leap of faith.
“This job takes your heart and soul,” she said. “For the first three years I didn’t have any holidays.
“Seven days a week it was just work, work, work.”
But a decade on, it was worth it - the Vine Thai has built a firm reputation among beer buffs and foodies, attracting both loyal regulars and new customers visiting off the back of reviews, or intrigue at its size.
And inclusion in the Good Beer Guide and a key role in the City of Ale festivals certainly helps.
“People just think we sell food, but we have very regular beer drinking customers,” she said. “We are the only place in the city selling British beer with a Thai kitchen.”
On November 15, Mrs Allen will celebrate their 10th birthday with many of those who have helped - including her 13 and 16-year-old sons, who chip in with the business when they can - and there are plans afoot for a new loyalty card. But plenty has changed in the last decade.
“People now can’t afford it,” she said. “It’s hard to get people out. Some people used to be able to eat here once a week, but we don’t have that anymore.
“We have less pubs but there are more competing restaurants, and people have to do what they can to keep their own customers.
“Sometimes you relax a little bit and then realise that things have changed, and you have to start thinking about what you can do to match that and keep up.”
She said there was growing demand for vegan and vegetarian dishes, and increasing knowledge about the cuisine.
“Twenty, 30 years ago people didn’t really know what Thai food was,” she said, “but now people come in asking for a certain dish, or wanting what they had on their travels.”
Traditional dishes remain popular - Mrs Allen said Panang, green and duck curries were among her best sellers, along with Thai dumplings and fish cakes.
Looking back on her 10 years, with its challenges and long days, Mrs Allen said she wouldn’t change a thing - and was keen to thank customers, supporters, suppliers and friends and family for their help along the way.
“In 10 years I’ve met some great friends, who have become family,” she said.