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Victoria Miles pours a tall glass of Stella from behind the bar at Benson Blakes.
Victoria Miles pours a tall glass of Stella from behind the bar at Benson Blakes. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)

BURY ST. EDMUNDS — In a town dominated by pubs but still sophisticated enough for a dozen jewelers, a handful of high-end fashion boutiques and a city-center theater, there are a few watering holes that call to the chic set.

Benson Blakes is at the top of that list.

It’s a low-key, hep-cat kind of place that achieves a detached sense of cool without breaking a sweat. It can’t decide if it’s a swank place to have dinner or a fashionable place to be seen. So it simply pulls off both.

“We’re kind of funky, but we’re not snobby” is how bartender-cum-promoter Victoria Miles describes her workplace.

Set in the historic center of this Suffolk town, which bills itself as the spiritual heart of East Anglia, Benson Blakes is a roughly 25-minute drive from RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall.

For those living in greater Bury, Benson Blakes may be every wing commander’s dream come true: a bar that is friendly to Americans but even friendlier to those who want to leave the car at home. In short, you can walk or take a cheap cab home.

Owner Tim Blake opened the establishment about two years ago with a vision: to create a hip but happy eatery/bar to share a meal with friends, followed by a pint or two. To that end, Blake uses nothing but first-rate foods to ensure a lively menu.

“We use the best ingredients we can find,” he said. “Like our gourmet burgers, we make them by hand with choice meats. We put a lot of thought into them.”

Blake’s interior design concept complements the meat and brew selection.

Upon entering off St. John’s Street, you find a series of leather couches set around low coffee tables that invite casual conversation. Lingering often follows. Closer to the bar, there are a series of tables for those who want to be close to the tap but not be labeled a barfly.

In the rear of the restaurant, there are about a dozen traditional restaurant tables where meals are served. The lighting is set comfortably between dark-and-smoky and high-yield-office fluorescents, which translates into a pleasant atmosphere to pass a few hours.

All told, Benson Blakes is a welcome relief from the seemingly endless lineup of pubs that congest the English countryside. But don’t take Stripes’ word for it; the queue to get in the door on Friday and Saturday nights speaks for itself.

As always, if you drink, do so responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.

Benson Blakes

Location: 88 St. John’s Street, a short walk from the town center in Bury St. Edmunds.

Drinks: Three beers on tap plus a full bar.

Food: Gourmet burgers, a variety of sandwiches and plates designed for two to share.

Ambience: DJs on Monday and Wednesday. Live jazz on Thursday and a line out the door on the weekends.

Service: Prompt and professional.

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