England

Cats, crisps and cereal: The country's quirky cafes

Cakes Image copyright Getty Images

We are a nation known for enjoying a cup of tea and a nice slice of cake - but it seems the modern-day cafe-goer increasingly has a taste for more unusual fare. From feline fun to cereal thrillers, quirky cafes are popping up around the country to serve the needs of the 21st Century gastronome.


Cereal capers

Cereal cafes have gone serial.

It started with the Cereal Killer Cafe on London's Brick Lane but now they are popping up around the nation.

Image copyright Black Milk Cereal Dive
Image caption Cereal cafes have started popping up around the country

Black Milk Cereal Dive opened five months ago in Manchester's Affleck's Palace.

It sells 150 types of cereal from across the world served with a variety of milks in bowls made from chocolate.

Customers are looking for that kind of novelty so they can tell their friends about it on social media, claims founder Oliver Lloyd-Taylor.

Image copyright Black Milk Cereal Dive
Image caption Black Milk Cereal Dive sells cereal in chocolate bowls with a choice of milks

"People want to try something new and I think a lot of that is driven by social media" he said.

"They are looking for eccentric things to share."

Building breakfasts with an unusual twist is also the order of the day at 26 Grains, a porridge bar that opened in Covent Garden two months ago.

Image copyright Issy Croker
Image caption Each porridge dish at 26 Grains is made in front of the customer

Alex Hely-Hutchinson was inspired to specialise in savoury and sweet porridge after living in Denmark.

"Eating breakfast out is done a lot more there."

And the rise in specialist eateries is unsurprising, she said.

"The attitude of customers is changing but so is that of the producers; our understanding of the different options is growing so we are offering people more.

"We have also seen some health scares around food in recent years so people are suddenly much more aware of what they are eating. By going to specialists they know what they are getting and their questions can be answered."

Image copyright 26Grains
Image caption 26 Grains opened in Neal's Yard in Covent Garden two months ago

Mugs and moggies

As well as being tea-drinkers the English are animal lovers - the RSPCA was formed 60 years before children's protection charity the NSPCC.

So it stands to reason that we would enjoy cuddling cats while supping cuppas.

Image copyright Kitty Cafe
Image caption Nottingham's Kitty Cafe allows people to play with cats while drinking coffee and eating cake

Cat cafes have cropped up around the country, from Lady Dinah's in London to Newcastle's Mog on the Tyne and Maison de Moggy in Edinburgh.

The Kitty Cafe in Nottingham opened in March.

"You will still get the traditional coffee shop where people go with their laptops, that won't change, but you do see more people now wanting something a bit different," says director Elliot Reed.

"They want to spend their money on different things so there is a huge place for niche cafes."

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Media captionThe cats at Mog On The Tyne in Newcastle are from a rescue home

Kitty Cafe also acts as a rehoming centre and Mr Reed says it is proving highly successful at finding its feline stars new families.

"People can see the cats chilling out, they can see how they are with children and other animals, they get a much better idea of how the cats would be at home than they do at a normal rescue centre."

Image copyright Kitty Cafe
Image caption Cat cafes started in Asia in the 1990s

Snack shacks

Once the preserve of hard-up, hungry students, crisp sandwiches are now apparently a permissible meal.

Andrew McMenamin created a storm in a crisp packet when he opened a temporary stall selling maize snacks betwixt bread in Belfast in January, but now West Yorkshire has a permanent eating establishment dedicated to the treat.

Mr Crisp in Keighley offers 50 varieties of crisp ranging from the traditional potato chip to the more modern Monster Munch.

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Media captionMark Pearson's favourite sandwich filling is roast beef Monster Munch

Mark Pearson said: "I saw the sandwich shop in Belfast and being the biggest crisp monster myself decided to take on the idea myself.

"I would love to expand, it is England's first and I am quite sure it won't be the last."

Crisps, cereal and cheese toasties are for some the taste of childhood, snacks we enjoyed in our early years.

Image copyright Meltroom
Image caption Meltroom in Soho specialises in grilled cheese sandwiches

And nostalgia is a huge part of the success of cafes based on such foodstuffs according to Gugu Ndhlovu, general manager of the Meltroom in Soho in Central London, which specialises in grilled cheese sandwiches.

"We play 90s music as well so people come in and get excited because it reminds them of being younger," she said.

"These are the sorts of things people ate and enjoyed when they were children, it's fun for them to try those foods again."


Rubbish food

There are dozens of restaurants selling rubbish meals - food saved from going to waste.

The Real Junk Food Project was launched in 2013 and now consists of 65 cafes and restaurants selling only recycled food.

Image copyright Real Junk Food Project
Image caption The Real Junk Food Project takes food destined for waste and serves it to people

Perfectly fine food that would have otherwise been sent to landfill, animal feed or anaerobic digestion is now served to diners.

Project founder Adam Smith of Armley Junk-tion in Leeds says they are rejecting legislation in favour of common sense.

Image copyright Real Junk Food Project
Image caption The movement has spread to Africa and Australia after starting in Leeds in 2013

"We are taking food that is past its expiry date, has suffered accidental damage or is just surplus, and feeding it to people," Mr Smith said.

"We have fed 75,000 bellies with 102 tonnes of food in the last two months, it has grown so much quicker than we thought it would - and not one person has reported feeling sick because of what they have been served.

"People are now questioning the ethics and responsibility of food outlets and are being a lot more responsible themselves in the way they eat."

The cafes all sell their food on a pay-what-you-want basis.


Hobby holes

As well as indulging our penchant for delicious delicacies, an increasing number of cafes are geared up towards supporting our hobbies.

Dan Pye and Lindsey Brown based a whole business on their passion - comic books.

Image copyright Dark Matter Cafe
Image caption Dark Matter Cafe opened in Durham in December 2013

The Dark Matter Cafe in Durham is a place for comic fans, gamers and lovers of all thing nerd.

"It's been a longstanding ambition for both of us to open a cafe and we both share a love for comics and games," said Mr Pye.

"We know how cluttered the world is with cafes, especially Durham, so we thought, 'why don't we put these two together?' and they can support each other.

"Business is great, it's growing all the time."

Image copyright Thirsty Meeples
Image caption Cafes catering to people's hobbies - such as Thirsty Meeples board game cafe in Oxford - have also become more prevalent

Customers at Thirsty Meeples in Oxford can choose from more than 2,000 board games to play while they enjoy their refreshments.

While some restaurants have a sommelier to help people find the perfect wine, Thirsty Meeples, which opened two years ago, has a team of gurus to help guide visitors through their gaming choices.

"Cafe culture has grown in the last 15 to 20 years; just walking around Oxford you will find all sorts from high street names to small artisan coffee sellers," said manager Simon Read.

"A lot of people have an idea of what they are looking for because they know what they like.

"They are asking for very specific things, and the growing number of cafes are answering that."

Image copyright Thirsty Meeples
Image caption Thirsty Meeples opened in Oxford two years ago

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