One of the things I was most looking forward to about trying self-employment was being able to set my own timetable. Chained to corporate life for nearly 16 years with no career break means you can feel institutionalised and forget that there’s a big old world out there. Two months in and with spring hopefully around the corner, I’m looking forward to getting out and about more. I have the luxury of being able to work in the evenings and make the most of my days if I so choose, it feels like a disservice not to take advantage of that.
Before project kitchen and rediscovering my life of tinkering round the house on DIY adventures, I went on a little local discovery in my neck of the woods down here in southeast London. I’m sure most of you know by now but I’m absolutely in love with this part of the Big Smoke, having firmly adopted it after 8 years in west London. There’s just more space, a slightly slower pace of life and whereas west London now feels very dated and old-fashioned, southeast London is rapidly shaking off its former dilapidated mantra and is full of new ventures and creative businesses at every turn.
One of these has recently opened up just down the road from me in Beckenham. In a prime high street position, Eatwell is a beautifully styled healthy eating restaurant and exactly what our little pocket of London needs. There are so many fun places to try in east London but sad to say it, my local spots of Grove Park and Bromley either have a non-existent café culture or it’s chains only.
I popped along one morning a few weeks ago to meet owners Begona and Tom to find out a little more about the café and what they’re hoping to achieve with it and I’m so excited to share it here on the blog. What struck me first of all is what a light and airy space it is, exactly what you’d expect to see from an Instagrammable eatery these days. Big windows, light walls, pendant lighting and the most fabulous preserved moss wall.
Looking around, you could be forgiven for thinking that a Tuesday morning in late January/early February would be quiet but it was so busy with a range of clientele from across the board. This leads me to think Eatwell can really establish itself on the Beckenham high street. It’s open daily from 8am to 5pm, perfect for everything from breakfast to brunch to afternoon tea, and they also have an alcohol license.
For me, what I find so refreshing about Eatwell is the fact that it’s not jumping on any particular bandwagon. Even as someone who eats a plant-based diet I don’t expect every restaurant and café to cater exclusively to my needs. I’ve had enough of seeing staunch meat-eating celeb chefs going down a vegan route to chase the money. Eatwell is exactly what it sets out to be – a healthy-eating restaurant. You can go and have a full-cooked vegan breakfast (which I haven’t yet tried but looks divine) but also find fish, chicken and eggs on the menu.
They offer a wide-range of freshly made superfood lattes and smoothie bowls too including ingredients such as spirulina and acai, as well as many gluten-free options. Ultimately they want to encourage people to think about what they eat, to show that food can be enjoyable and naughty without needing to be bad for you. I think that’s surely a good approach to take. So often there’s a misconception that putting a shift in at the gym is the secret to success but we’re all 80% food and 20% exercise so it’s incredibly important to be educated about what we consume.
Talking to Begona and Tom, it’s clear to see they have the drive and experience to make this a huge success. They have grown up children and have spent many years literally grafting and working hard to be in a position they are now, opening a restaurant and paying for staff. Begona told me about a cleaning company that she founded many years ago where she’d be cleaning offices prior to then heading to her own corporate job and all whilst pregnant too. Stories like this make me believe that anything is possible if you’re dedicated enough to work hard and believe in your passion.
I love supporting small businesses, hearing from entrepreneurs about what makes them tick and always striving for more. It’s tough to succeed, markets are competitive and with the internet it seems that there’s no shortage of people able and willing to make a name for themselves. But with Eatwell, Begona has really discovered a gap in the market and identified the right area of southeast London to try and cater for it, too. Had she opened in Bromley first of all I’m not sure the audience would appreciate it.
The next step for this fabulous café is to really spread the word and establish themselves as the place to eat in this part of London, but also encourage people to maybe journey a little further for their refreshments. Beckenham is only 10-15 minutes from London Bridge so it’s no different from me popping to a restaurant in north London which I wouldn’t think twice about doing. It can be hard to encourage us creatures of habit though to try something new so I’m hopeful that we can try to spread the word far and wide.
They also have so many opportunities for business expansion in the evenings, as the café currently closes at 5pm. That leaves the space available for any amount of activities, from themed food evenings to private party hire to event space. From a purely selfish point of view I want it to not just survive but thrive so I can fill my boots with that perfect weekend vegan breakfast without needing to travel too far to get it. If you are local to the area then please do go and pay them a visit and if not, how about a little morning out in Beckenham? You never know, you could find a new pocket of London that you love, just like I did.
All words and opinions my own, all images courtesy of Eatwell.