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Gloom lifts as historic pub reopens

PUBLISHED: 10:49 26 January 2009 | UPDATED: 10:36 07 July 2010

Pete and Denise Nesbitt inside the converted cellar restaurant in the Oak Inn, Fakenham.

Pete and Denise Nesbitt inside the converted cellar restaurant in the Oak Inn, Fakenham.

A restaurateur couple hope to defy Fakenham's financial gloom by reopening a historic pub in a town hit by store closures and job cuts.

Pete and Denise Nesbitt have spent the last month refurbishing The Oak Inn, which opened today with the creation of up to 20 jobs.

A restaurateur couple hope to defy Fakenham's financial gloom by reopening a historic pub in a town hit by store closures and job cuts.

Pete and Denise Nesbitt have spent the last month refurbishing The Oak Inn, which opened today with the creation of up to 20 jobs.

It is a rare piece of positive news for the town which has recently lost its central Woolworths store, and with major employers announcing earlier this month that job losses were expected at Linda McCartney Foods and building contractors Fisher and Sons.

But after financial analysts confirmed the country had entered recession, Mr Nesbitt said he was confident his investment in the town would succeed.

Mr Nesbitt, 39, said: “I think it is a good time to come here. Of course I am aware of the economic climate and having come out of another pub before this which was very successful I am really up to date with what is going on.

“It is a gamble but I know what I am doing and I have faith in my abilities and my wife's. I have done my research and there is a gap where people want proper food day or night at reasonable prices.

“So far we have taken on about ten people on a trial basis. If the business goes where I expect it to go, that will become up to 20 on a full or part-time basis.

“Our menu is aimed at people who appreciate food. It is not so much a drinking pub, although people can come and have a drink in the bar.”

The pub's new owners, originally from Bristol, have run restaurants in Spain and Gloucester before moving to Norfolk.

“The reason we moved here is because we have got family nearby, we know it well and we've holidayed here - we just love it,” said Mr Nesbitt. “Fakenham sold itself to us very well.”

Mr Nesbitt, who trained as a chef at a London restaurant, said the pub would offer fresh, locally-sourced British food alongside an a la carte menu and a Sunday lunch.

His wife Denise, 43, will work front-of-house and was also responsible for the décor, which mixes modern and traditional features in the bar with a European feeling in the paved cellar restaurant.

“When customers come in they are coming into your home, so I didn't want it to look too formal,” she said. “The building has such a lot of character and I just wanted to bring it out.”

Mr and Mrs Nesbitt said they hoped to mark a fresh start for the Oak Street building, which was formerly a wine merchants and more recently known as The Oak and The Rebel.


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