Ipswich 'floating restaurant' to get £200,000 revamp from renowned French chef
An iconic ‘floating restaurant’ on Ipswich Waterfront is to get a £200,000 revamp from a prominent French chef.
Julien Jourdain says the Mariners restaurant has “so much to offer Ipswich”, with its illustrious 120-year history as a warship and Dutch party boat, as well as its prime location in the town’s docks.
Taking over the vessel in October 2018, he has already spent £100,000 on refurbishments and improvements - saying he “fell in love” with both the boat and the county of Suffolk.
He plans to invest another £100,000, saying that “the docks is the crown jewels of Ipswich” and that “Suffolk has so much to offer in quality of produce”.
Father of two Mr Jourdain, who first came to Britain in approximately 2000 to work in the kitchen at the floating restaurant when it was run by Regis Crepy, said: “I fell in love with Ipswich and I fell in love with Suffolk.
“I think it was time for me at my age to just take on a big challenge and challenge myself.
“It’s a stunning boat, it’s got bags of potential and the location is amazing.
“I think it’s got so much to offer to Ipswich and so much to offer to the docks itself.
“For me, it’s got such bags of history that I didn’t want to see it fall into the wrong hands.
“So I decided it’s got to have a long life and this is why I purchased it.”
Mr Jourdain, previously business partner at the Waterfront Bar Bistro, plans to make the most of boat’s unique features, for example by knocking through an interior wall so the big round “captain’s table” can sit by the wheel of the ship.
He has also spent money stripping the terrace, so it can have outdoor undercover tables with stunning views of Ipswich harbour.
In the future he hopes to have bands playing on the terrace, which he hopes will create a stunning spectacle for people along the Waterfront - along with new entrances at the front and rear of the ship.
Mariners, previously run as Italian restaurant Il Punto when it was brought to Ipswich by firm Contship as a catering boat, currently seats 80 diners - including parties of 25.
However improvements to the terrace of the boat, built by Acieries de Bruges as gunboat SS Argus in 1899, mean it will be able to seat 110.
Mr Jourdain, who also worked at Mr Crepy’s restaurants at The Great House, Lavenham and Maison Bleue in Bury St Edmunds, said Mariners has doubled its revenue since he took over.
The food will be bistro style, using high-quality food and making use of the best of Suffolk produce.
“Living in Ipswich for so long now, I know what sells,” said Mr Jourdain, who has worked in the catering industry for approximately 15 years. “I know that people are looking for a good deal.
“The food that comes out of the kitchen is always very fresh and we try as much as we can to cook it to perfection. That’s why the customers keep coming back.
“It’s got so much character and bags of potential. I fell I love with it.”
The Mariners’ history
Built in 1899 by Acieries de Bruges as the gunboat SS Argus, it was used by Belgium as a fighting ship in both the First and Second World Wars.
However it was sunk by the German army in 1940, who raised and repaired it to use as a Nazi warship for the rest of the war.
It was returned to its owners in Antwerp in 1945 and put back into service as Flandria VII, before being converted into the Red Cross hospital ship Florence Nightingale in 1952.
In 1970s its purpose changed again, with the boat being run as the Dutch party ship named Amuda for 18 years.
But then Contship Containerlines, then based on Ipswich Waterfront, reportedly sent someone to travel around Europe to find a boat it could use as a canteen.
The firm settled on Amuda and sailed it to Suffolk from Holland in 1991, where it was opened as the Italian restaurant Il Punto.
In March 1994 it was taken over by French chef Regis Crepy, who ran it until approximately 2012 before passing it onto his staff - who renamed it Mariners.