NANA a new comfort food cafe and community project in Clapton

Nana is a new cafe with a community twist set to open this month, I caught up with founder Katie Harris to find out more:

What is Nana?

NANA is a comfort food and craft café run by older ladies from the local area. We’re serving up the very best in traditional home cooked food. Customers get delicious, heart-warming grub at a reasonable price, and NANA’s get a chance to put a lifetime worth of nurturing and cooking skills to good use!

We’re launching in The Elderfield, open Monday to Friday between 10am-3.30pm (gcal event)

Why did you start the project and who does it benefit?

After starting The Amazings last year, I came across LOADS of older ladies that were passionate about cooking, although not all of them were too keen on running a class. At the same time I was going into cafes around Hackney, wondering why it’s so hard just to get basic, tasty food? Nowhere seemed to cater for my cravings for dippy egg and soldiers, crumpets, or a simple sandwiches on proper bread. That’s when it struck me – why don’t we use the talents of these older ladies to run a café that caters for people looking to get simple, tasty things to eat. No ciabattas, no five pound soup of the day, no moody baristas. Just proper comfort food, good service and a welcoming vibe.

NANA benefits everyone really. The NANA’s get a chance to meet new people and flex their cooking and customer service skills. They also become part of the NANA partnership. We plan to release a percentage of the profits to the NANA’s every three months.

For everyone else in the community, it’s simply a nice place to go where you can have some of your favourite foods, a bit of a chat and maybe even take part in some of the craft classes we’ll be hosting.

How did you go about setting the project up?

I met Bernadette last year – she’s an awesome cook, and can stitch, knit and crochet almost anything. She’s basically Chief NANA. We tested the idea amongst friends, family, professionals, anyone who’d listen. They all loved the idea. More recently Tansy has joined us. As well as helping us get started, she’ll be helping to find sites for new NANA cafes.

I whipped up a brand, website and Facebook page, and we hustled ourselves a residency in The Elderfield to run it from and that was that!

What can Nana customers expect?

Expect deliciousness, good customer service and a great vibe.

Why Hackney and The Elderfield?

First and foremost, I live in Clapton and I want to do things that make my community even better than it already is. I know there’s been mixed feelings about the gentrification of the area, and I was keen to start something that I hope will bring all types of people in the community together.

We had to think creatively about how we got this off the ground with only a couple of hundred pounds of our own money. However, we knew we needed a largeish space, ideally in the heart of the community, with a lot of the facilities already in place.

Thankfully, the lovely Joyce and Steve from The Elderfield were into the idea and offered us a residency there. It’s my local and one of my favourite pubs in Hackney (I’ve always wanted to be able to walk to work in five minutes)! Given the pub doesn’t open until 4, it gave us the perfect opportunity to host NANA there in the daytime.

What are your hopes for the project?

I’d love to see NANA cafes popping up all over the place. It would be great if we could open a few more in East London next year – so if anyone knows of any A3 spaces going cheap/other spaces that would like a NANA café in it then let me know!

Next year we’re hoping to expand out of the local area. We’re aiming to start a franchising model which will mean we can support people all over the UK open a NANA cafes, using the same principles, branding and plan of attack, but reflecting their community in their menu.

Anything else you want to add?

We’re having a launch party on Thursday 22nd November between 10am-3pm where we’re inviting everyone to pop down, say hello and have a bit of cake and a cup of tea on us.

Also, we’re on the hunt for more NANA’s to join us. You don’t need to be a cooking pro, what’s important is that you’re friendly and keen to do something fun with your free time. If that’s you, or someone you know, then give me a ring on 07946 52 989 or email me at [email protected].

Download the PDF poster here

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4 comments

  1. Hackney Tours - 11 December 2012, 11:49 am

    Uncannily, I was just thinking about how Polish ‘milk bars’ provide basic but filling food at affordable prices – a great community resource where you see everyone from students to OAPs mixing – and wishing we had them here; then I saw you on Twitter.

    Also, I have friends who are passionate about the welfare of the elderly and work on projects that bring them and the young together.

    Really looking forward to coming down and sampling your food. Best of luck!

  2. Rachella - 23 April 2013, 12:56 pm

    This is a great idea! We’re your neighbours in Haringey and are starting a community market. We’d love to get your nanas doing something similar here, perhaps incorporating some of our local nanas too?

    • ewebber - 23 April 2013, 4:19 pm

      Hi @Racella Katie’s email address is in the blog post above and it’s a good idea to contact her directly on there, as she may not see your comment.

      • Rachella - 23 April 2013, 4:23 pm

        Thanks! Will do so.

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