Until last week, if anyone wanted food past 4pm at Haywards Heath’s Savannah Cafe Bar the best they would get was a packet of crisps.

But after five years as a lively and vibrant bar in the centre of the town’s food and drink district, the decision was made to focus on an often neglected element of the venue.

“We felt people didn’t recognise the cafe bit in our name,” says co-owner Andy Horsley.

“We felt we needed to do this seriously, so we have lengthened the kitchen’s opening hours and extended the range of meals we serve.”

With former general manager Chris Hilton taking back his mantle as head chef, Savannah is offering a new menu on top of its general cafe selection, which will be on sale until 6pm, and a choice of light bites and platters served until 9pm.

“We have been doing the cafe menu for a long time,” says Hilton. “We wanted to put more homey food on there and bring in a slightly different clientele.

“We haven’t had things like sausage and mash on the menu for a long time and with the winter getting colder, people want something warm and hearty.”

The dishes, which are homemade from locally- sourced ingredients, also include a few old English favourites, such as liver and bacon.

The aim is not only to attract a lunchtime crowd from the offices around Broadway, but also encourage people to spend the afternoon at the cafe bar enjoying a two-course meal.

“In the evening we will have bar snacks – nachos, ciabatta and calamari – things people can share,” says Hilton.

“Groups will be able to buy a platter and help themselves.”

Savannah Cafe Bar isn’t forgetting its role as a drinking venue, too – the bar features a range of real ales, including a guest beer and local favourite Harvey’s.

And it is serving Drury teas and coffees all day.

Savannah was created five years ago by a team of five owners, who spent a year knocking through an existing sandwich bar and kebab shop. The name was the suggestion of the architect’s daughter.

In keeping with the idea, Savannah has warm terracotta walls, wooden furniture, a pair of well-loved sofas and an extensive outside terrace. It remains one of the few independent outlets in The Broadway, which is dominated by chains such as Cafe Rouge and Pizza Express.

Every Thursday Savannah hosts a live music night – which featured a live performance by EastEnders star Shane Ritchie in February – as well as a quiz night on Tuesdays and DJs on Friday and Saturday nights.

The venue is also available to hire and is proving popular for birthdays and christenings.

“We’re trying to cover all bases,” says general manager Amanda Brackley, who joined the team in September. “We’re now preparing for our Christmas parties.”

The Christmas menu costs £15.95 for two courses, £19.95 for three courses, or a homemade buffet for £6.50 per head.

The cafe bar is also hosting a Christmas party for small businesses on Wednesday, December 5, at £8 a head.

And they will be marking Thanksgiving next week with an event in association with US beer Sam Adams on Thursday, November 22, from 5pm, with special guest musician Jo Burt.

To mark the launch of the new menus the cafe bar’s free loyalty card scheme will be offering 10% off the cafe menu and 20% off the main menu. For more information visit the website.

  • Savannah Cafe Bar is open Mon to Thurs 10am to midnight, Fri 10am to 1am, Sat 9am to 1am, Sun 9am to midnight. Call 01444 458181 or visit www.savannahcafebar.co.uk