If you’re looking for healthy, ethical and all round tasty food, outstanding coffee and a warm, hospitable welcome right in the heart of London, then look no further than Kin. Nurturing a vast sea of fresh and seasonal dishes, these guys have added a culinary vibrancy to the city and have subsequently taken the vegetarian and vegan scene by storm. We caught owner Charlie for a quick chat to talk more about their food choices, stylish design and the future of Kin.
Hey Charlie. How’s it going? Hey guys. I’m good thanks.
What’s the story behind the place and the name? The name not only stems from the fact that it’s essentially a family venture, but it’s also linked to the familial, friendly atmosphere we so wanted to create and pride ourselves on.
Tell us a bit about Kin Cafe. Kin opened just over a year ago now. I started it with my business partner at the time and also my father. We’re a vegetarian cafe in Fitzrovia, specialising in seasonal salads, sandwiches, quiches and frittata, vegan and raw mains, hot and cold soups and stews, and of course a nice selection of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free cakes and treats. We also serve breakfast and brunch-style options alongside our specialty coffee and range of teas and freshly made organic juices.
My dad’s been working in the area since the early 70’s, having started his own rag trade business back when the area was famous for spearheading that industry, so I know the area pretty well. A few years ago, he stumbled across the site where we are now, having bought it predominantly as an investment for the flats above us. The ground floor was a cafe at the time, which closed shortly after. We were toying with the idea of creating our own cafe in the existing space, with the desire to offer something that we thought was not only unique to the area but served the local community well. With the whole vegetarian/vegan thing still being relatively new at the time, we figured it would be a great time to launch our own niche, vegetarian spot – and of course, this scene has exploded in London now! Once we agreed to go for it, it was full steam ahead!
What’s the usual working day entail? It totally depends whether I’m on shift or not, but if not, then a typical day would consist of catching up on emails, a few hours of admin, paying and filing invoices, updating our accounts, a few regular meetings with the chef, manager and barista, and quite a bit of marketing and PR too. I usually help out on the floor during busy lunch periods. I could go on but wouldn’t want to bore you! If I’m on shift then that takes up almost all of the day; working on the floor can be full on, but fun of course!
The look and feel of Kin Cafe is fantastically unique. Who designed your space and how did you decide what you wanted it to look like? Thanks! Our business partner at the time has a sister who’s a very talented interior designer. She started an agency called Etre Creative. She designed and structured all of the layout and took care of sourcing a lot of the materials and furnishings. To go with our vision of producing somewhere that had a relaxed, airy and comfortable vibe, as well as the cafe being located in a very design-focused area of London, it was important that we opted for an overall minimal and neutral design concept, both in terms of colour (or lack thereof!), lighting and furnishings. Creating a space where we were also able to let the colourful food stand out as much as possible was important too. Also, my mum’s Swedish, which may explain the slightly Scandi inspired look, particularly with the lighting!
Had you always wanted to start up your own place? To tell the truth, it came about more out of subsequence than an innate, long-standing desire to open my own place. At the time, I didn’t have that much happening in my life; the old job hunt was becoming increasingly frustrating, so I thought, why not pursue such an exciting prospect? I’ve always loved food and considered myself vaguely entrepreneurial, and the idea of having a customer-facing business with a niche product offering was very appealing. It was a no brainer!
What were you up to before Kin Cafe opened its doors? Quite a few things really, I was running my own music events with a couple of friends since 2009 for one. Although we got quite busy and had a lot of fun doing it, they were never really going to be make us money unless we all went full-time, something that was always going to be a bit risky in such a flaky and competitive industry. I was also involved in a music and events PR agency for a bit right before Kin, on a freelance basis and did a number of other jobs including software sales, social media marketing and worked at a DJ booking agency for a bit too. So, as you can see, quite a mixed, disjointed background!
You serve coffee from Clifton Coffee Roasters right? When & where did you first try their coffee? We do indeed! We actually got introduced to them via our previous barista back in early March, and it’s been a joy to work with them ever since. Such a great, reliable bunch of guys with a really broad range of interesting, tasty coffees on offer.
When it comes down to the menu, how do you decide what to prepare? We pride ourselves on seasonal, fresh ingredients throughout our menu; aside from this, we have an ethos whereby if it’s popular and our customers like it, then we’ll keep preparing and selling it. When we opened, it was very much about keeping our options fresh and interesting and changing them daily, however now that we’ve become a little more established in the area, there’s less need to do this and our regular customers come to have dishes they know and like. That said, we do change certain dishes regularly and keep things as innovative and creative as we can – it’s important to strike the right balance between familiarity and novelty.
Is there any particular types of cuisine and cultures that inspire what you serve? We’re quite open to different cuisines. Our head chef is part Norwegian, so she enjoys using dill in quite a few dishes. Aside from that I wouldn’t say there’s a particular cuisine or culture that governs what we make, it’s more that we incorporate certain styles when we see fit. For example, our soup today was a Thai-style vegetable green curry!
What’s been your favourite feature on the menu so far? It would be impossible to say as there are so many! But we’ve been making potato patties with a vegan, soy-based dill mayo for a while now, and they’re too delicious for words! So, these are probably my current favourite. We also have our veggie and vegan burgers every Friday, which have become a big hit. We did a Korean style one recently which was really tasty.
What sort of dishes & flavours can we expect as the winter approaches? As it gets colder, we’ll be bringing back our hot soups on a daily basis, as well as our stew. We’ll also be starting to use our hotplate upstairs so we can serve veggie and vegan bakes. Aside from this, we’ll be tweaking our more regular dish types to make them blend in with the changing seasons, both in terms of flavours and colours.
When you’re not at Kin Cafe, where do you head to in London to unwind? If I’m being honest, I’m quite useless at keeping up with new food spots in London, which is not cool considering the business I’m in! It’s just hard to find the time! I’d say food-wise, the Borough/Bermondsey area is great, and of course Maltby Street market.
Finally, what’s in store for Kin Cafe in the future? We’re actually about to properly launch our brand new catering menu, which is going to be fixed and on a pre-order basis. So that’s pretty exciting for us and worth keeping an eye out for! We’ve also been using the space a bit more for out of hours events such as cooking classes and meetups, and hope to continue doing so in the future. There’s some other stuff in the pipeline too so give us a follow on Twitter or like us on Facebook to stay in the loop.
Anything you’d like to add? Thanks for putting up with me 😉