Roll up for a big top meal in the grand circus ring

Chef Richard Hughes with Peter Jay at the Hippodrome Circus in Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass

Chef Richard Hughes with Peter Jay at the Hippodrome Circus in Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass © 2013

Roll up, roll up for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy a themed afternoon tea or a three-course dinner in the atmospheric and historic surroundings of the Hippodrome Circus in Great Yarmouth.

To celebrate the 110th birthday of the extraordinary Edwardian purpose-built circus, owner Peter Jay has teamed up with two local businesses to present Pop-Up At The Big Top, a feast of fine food and circus entertainment for one day only on June 2.

In the first event of its kind in Norfolk, the circus will be transformed into a fully-functioning restaurant for a day, providing guests with the chance to take afternoon tea or enjoy dinner in the same ring where Charlie Chaplin and Harry Houdini enchanted Yarmouth audiences.

Throughout, diners will enjoy circus acts provided by Peter and Christine Jay and will have the chance of a personal tour round the vintage venue's incredible museum of circus exhibits which includes such oddities as a chimp's bicycle, a gigantic genie and the original cages used to contain the exotic animals which used to appear in the ring in the non-PC days of the circus.

Known as East Anglia's Mini Albert Hall, the historic Hippodrome was built in 1903 by legendary showman George Gilbert and has played host to an incredible variety of entertainment.

Joining forces with esteemed restaurateur Richard Hughes, who runs The Lavender House Restaurant and Cookery School in Brundall and co-owns The Pigs pub in Edgefield and The Assembly House in Norwich, where Richard is a director, Peter and Christine Jay hope to kick-off a summer of celebration with the unique pop-up restaurant.

A charitable donation will be made to Comic Relief, which this year staged a takeover of Great British Menu to produce 'a performance on a plate' and featured food from Morston Hall's head chef Richard Bainbridge, after the event.

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The Jays are also planning a summer spectacular circus event which will showcase acts which have been popular throughout the venue's 110-year history and will, as ever, conclude with the 1903 water finale complete with synchronised swimmers and 75,000 ping pong balls.

The summer show will be hosted by the couple's youngest son, Jack Jay, and comedian Jonny Mac and opens on July 17 running until September 15.

'We're planning to do something really special this summer to mark the 110th anniversary and this pop-up restaurant will really start things off with a bang,' said Peter.

'We're looking forward to offering something completely different at the circus.'

There will be two services: afternoon tea designed by the kitchen magicians at The Assembly House in Norwich at 2pm and a three-course dinner prepared by Richard at 7pm.

Specially-themed cakes have been created by expert chocolatier and pastry chef Julia Hetherton, who has worked alongside industry legends such as Raymond Blanc, Angela Hartnett and William Curley, and will include a colourful new twist on the classic Gateau Assembly, the Assembly House's signature cake, big top cupcakes and red nose macaroons.

They will be served alongside dainty sandwiches, sweet and savoury scones, a selection of drinks and diners will also be offered the opportunity to enjoy a specially-designed alcoholic drink from a drinks cart.

Dinner guests will be greeted with gourmet popcorn cones infused with an array of unusual and delicious flavours and a circus-themed drink before being seated for the main act of the day – a three-course meal featuring local produce served in the atmospheric Hippodrome's big top.

'The Hippodrome is such an incredible building, really atmospheric and magical and the fact that it celebrates 110 years of entertaining Yarmouth audiences this summer seemed like the perfect time to do something really special to mark the occasion,' said Richard, whose cookery school won UK Cookery School of the Year in November.

'The Jays have kept the circus alive in one of Norfolk's most beautiful buildings and we hope that we'll be able to bring something new to the party. Imagine eating afternoon tea or dinner in the same ring where Houdini struggled to escape – that opportunity doesn't come up every day!'

Tickets for the one-day spectacular are limited and must be bought in advance. Afternoon tea costs £34 for adults and £24 for children aged six to 12. Dinner costs £55 per person.

For more details and to buy tickets, visit or call The Lavender House on 01603 712215.

Circus Hilarious 2013 Easter Special is currently at the Hippodrome until Thursday with shows every day at 2.30pm and 6.30pm. For more details, visit