Sunday, 28 September 2008

She's only gone and done it

Open for business at last. Hurrah.

As I opened the door at 8am on Friday morning, our first customer walked in, ordered a coffee and poached eggs, sat down and read the paper in the morning sunshine. Brilliant. This is going to be easy.

Unfortunately our beginners luck didn’t continue and we had a very slow morning

Thankfully, a respectable amount of people came for lunch. A couple of them weren’t even related to me.

I had a strange feeling as I cycled home after our first day. It was similar to the feeling I used to get when I’d finish exams. Instead of feeling euphoric and relieved, I felt a bit lost and empty. Suddenly, the goal I have been working towards for so many months has been achieved. I’ve opened a café.

While part of me wants to curl into a little ball and sleep for a few months, I know that the hard part is ahead: getting people to know that we exist and understand what we are.

Here are a couple of the dine in items on the menu which have already been receiving rave reviews from the punters.

Home baked beans with feta, sautéed spinach and sausages on sourdough toast

Scrambled eggs w smoked salmon on brioche w fresh tomato salad

Corn fritters with layers of crisp bacon, rocket, oven roasted tomatoes, drizzled with roast garlic & lime aioli

Steak sandwich with rocket, fresh tomato, caramelised onion relish and horseradish crème friache

Moroccan lamb skewers with flat bread and mint yoghurt served with bulgur, walnut, celery and pomegranate salad

We also do fantastic salads, tarts, sandwiches, brownies, muffins etc for takeaway.

So come on peeps- come and try us out.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Race to the finish line

Its all hands on the wallpaper as we hurtle towards opening THIS FRIDAY!

The enormity and excitement of what I am about to embark on really hit me tonight as I locked the door after an exhausting day of cleaning, prepping, crying, screaming and finally smiling as the "building site" began to look like a cafe.

Thank you to all the kind souls who have helped me and my lovely neighbours who have dropped by to wish me luck.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Naming rights

Call me egotistical but I always assumed that if I went to all this effort in setting up a café, I’d be rewarded with naming rights as were Gustave Eiffel, Conrad Hilton and Donald Trump.

My business partners, however, had other ideas which is just as well as some other shelia with a sandwich bar beat me to it.

Instead, we are naming the café Lantana, a hardy, invasive, but beautiful weed that was introduced into Australia and has taken hold, becoming an iconic Australian plant - a “weed of national significance”.

The awning is up to announce that Lantana is now on British soil, ready to only a few days time.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Light at the end of the extractor

Nearly six weeks ago I bravely estimated that we'd be opening our doors to customers in six weeks time.

It may come as no surprise to anyone who has ever undertaken a building project that it is taking longer than planned. I can almost see Kevin McCloud stepping over piles of wood, looking at the leaking ceiling, shaking his head and saying "they are crazy if they think they will be opening on time".

We are getting closer though and I'm still optimistic that we will open next week - but maybe not Monday.

Hopefully very soon we'll have customers rather than builders enjoying the alfresco dining.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Scrambling Eggs: the interview

Wishing upon a falling star(bucks)

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of wiling away a couple of hours in one of my favourite places in the word. Rose Bakery in Paris.

A no frills café/bakery serving simple but fantastic breakfasts, cakes, tarts, salads and more.

It is owned and run by Rose Carrarini (who is English) and her French husband Jean-Charles who founded the Villandry in London’s Marylebone High St, which they sold before moving to Paris a few years ago.

I started chatting to Jean-Charles about my café venture, eager to get some advice from a veteran of the industry who knew the Fitzrovia area well. He warned me that he thought London was one of the hardest cities for an independent café to succeed because the restaurant and coffee chains have such a stronghold.

It is interesting that in so many European cities, such as Paris and Rome, the reverse is true: the strength of the independent café culture makes it difficult for chains to succeed.

Chains are also largely shunned in Australia. I read with pride the other week that Starbucks have been forced to close 61 of 85 shops in Australia: “the US coffee juggernaut, with its frothy, milky brew, was unable to meet the challenge of the local stores’ homespun hospitality and boutique qualities.”

It seems that things aren’t all that rosy for Starbucks in the UK now either with sales falling and fewer Britons frequenting their stores. Perhaps everyone is drinking less coffee thanks to the crunch of the credit. It might be wishful, but I’d like to think that its because Britons are learning to love independents - and little aussie battlers.