Great Yarmouth's Empire reopens after 13 years - what is it like now?

Inside the new-look Empire in Great Yarmouth

Inside the new-look Empire in Great Yarmouth - Credit: Dominic Castle

The Empire in Great Yarmouth has taken on several guises in over a century. Now open for the first time since 2008, it has been revitalised as a live music and street food venue. Tom Castle dropped by to look around and see what it has to offer.

The vaulted ceiling of the Empire has always made for a striking image, and the new décor adds another dimension to it. A celebration of the town’s history as an entertainment venue, the Victorian architecture is covered with signs and (occasionally risque!) posters taken from Yarmouth’s theatrical past to create a unique, stylish atmosphere.

It’s “a great mix of being both super nostalgic for those who remember the building in its previous forms, but more importantly seeing it used in such a fresh and innovative way,” according to Jack Jay, one of the directors of the Empire. It’s that combination of past and present that is “something totally unique for the area and has brought a real burst of life to the seafront’s offering,” he says.

Inside the new-look Empire in Great Yarmouth

Inside the new-look Empire in Great Yarmouth - Credit: Dominic Castle

A couple of Norfolk-based street food vendors currently hold down the food side of things; everything meaty is handled by Rude Kitchen, while vegan and vegetarian options are provided by Middle East Coast. We tried food from both, including a towering container of rich, barbecue-y pulled pork atop nacho chips, a mouth-watering vegan doner kebab (you’d never know it was plant-based) and a fried halloumi salad bowl. Feedback? The sounds of contented eating followed by empty containers.  

Alex Hutton, operations consultant for the Empire, says reactions have been positive. “Vendors are absolutely loving it and have really settled in. It is such a privilege to be able host Norfolk-based traders and help them to showcase their stunning creations.”  

The other thing that stood out about the Empire was the atmosphere. Even for a Sunday afternoon, we found ourselves amid a vibrant hustle and bustle, with live music, a steady stream of patrons and a steady flow of food from the kitchens.  

The bar inside the new-look Empire in Great Yarmouth

The bar inside the new-look Empire in Great Yarmouth - Credit: Dominic Castle

As such a significant part of Yarmouth’s Golden Mile for over a century, it’s a welcome return, and they’re only just getting started. Jack gave us some insights into what’s coming up soon, including weekly live music acts, new menu creations, and special one-off events.  

Most Read

For instance, OctoberFeast will mix ‘the fun and festivities of Bavarian Oktoberfest, with unique culinary creations and top-drawer drinks,’ while they plan to celebrate Halloween with ‘family friendly spooky fun throughout the day with food and drinks, including some Mexican-inspired twists.’  

So, if that sounds like something for you then head down to the Great Yarmouth seafront and check out the Empire.