I had been writing a book about London’s quirky coffee shops when I walked past the empty shop near my house that I’d been waiting for someone to turn into a café. A “To Let” sign had appeared in the window. The penny dropped: that someone was me... So started Project Café.
OK, so I was more qualified than the average rookie. I’d worked in cafés and restaurant kitchens. And through writing the book, I’d researched the gamut of the capital’s coffee emporia — from The Deptford Project’s Off the Rails Café, a converted 1960s railway carriage on the south side of the city, to Look Mum No Hands!, a café-cum-bike workshop north of the river — while picking up key advice from London’s top café-owners.
I’d spent months holed up writing the book at the communal table in Browns of Brockley, inhaling air as rich in coffee as the chatter around me. But, I soon discovered, there were many more lessons I needed to learn before I could launch With Jam and Bread, my own café in southeast London.
It's great to learn that the Brockley's invisible hand was once again at the centre of something good and it's more anecdotal evidence that good local businesses inspire more local entrepreneurs, creating a virtuous circle of South East London ambition.