Cafe @ All Saints is 15!

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Last week we had a party to celebrate 15 years of Cafe @ All Saints and the re-birth of All Saints Church in Hereford. It seemed only a short time ago that Sarah and I were sitting in a not-quite-finished building eating pizza baked in the brand new cafe oven. We shared this first meal with Andrew Mottram, the priest who was the driving force behind the creation of the re-ordered church and cafe, Andrew’s wife Annabelle and their (then) young family: Catherine, Ruth and Matthew. 15 years on we had 4 of the 5 Mottrams at our anniversary party: Ruth is married to Dean our cafe manager and they are expecting their first child this Christmas;  Catherine was at the party with her husband with Damion (who supplies All Saints with his superb sourdough bread for our bruschetta) and their baby son Danny. All three of Andrew’s children have worked at All Saints in their younger lives and Ruth has also been a key member of our teams at Michaelhouse in Cambridge and our erstwhile venture at St Davids cathedral in Wales, where she first met Dean. I think this is what’s meant by a community cafe – everyone’s related to everyone else!

As well as the Mottram family guests at the party included members of the current All Saints cafe team, many of the All Saints congregation, Rob North the current incumbent as well as two former curates, David Phillips the fundraiser for the project, and two of our key suppliers: The Tudge family (who also supplied the sausages that we ate with top notch bitter from the Wye Valley Brewery) and Ken from Bartonsham Dairy who not only delivers our milk but also makes us toast every morning. Talk about being looked after!

Time moves on. Sarah and I were still living in London when Cafe @ All Saints opened and I was continuing in my role as consultant to the cafe whilst the church were in executive control of the operation. It took us a couple more years before Herefordshire had done its work of seduction and we were fully ensconced in country life. Jonathan was born just after we finally moved properly to Herefordshire and today he’s setting up the new computer for Jackie who (in the way of this community enterprise) not only does the cafe book-keeping but is also the church adminstrator. Holly came along four years later and, judging by her excellent waitressing when we had 45 people at home for mustard and garlic roast chicken the other day, it may not be long before she lends a hand at the cafe.

After five years of running the cafe themselves, the church decided that dealing with issues of HACCP, risk assesment, maternity leave rules, recipe development, cashflows and staff appraisals was not really what they were there to do. So, in 2002 I took over the running of the business directly. We continue to work extremely closely with the church but they’re able to concentrate on church matters and Dean and I and the team can focus on trying to make the cafe ever more delicious.

We opened in 1997 as a fully vegetarian  cafe. I remember how doubtful people were of the likelihood of success of a vegetarian cafe in the county with the highest meat consumption per capita in country. We were, however, instantly busy. I had also been a vegetarian for many years but by 2002 I was becoming personally ever more omnivorous and I began to dream of a cafe that would not only offer delicious vegetarian food but would also serve a cracking bacon butty. A couple of years later we took the plunge and tentatively started putting some meat dishes on the menu including, of course, the aforementioned bacon butties. Whilst there was a small muttering of discontent from hardcore vegetarian customers, the vast majoriity of our wonderful punters welcomed the arrival of well-sourced local meat on the menu. So today (a rare occasion when I’m actually at the stove at All Saints) I’ve been cooking lamb tagine with lamb from Whyle House Farm near Leominster, as well as a delicious gratin of potatoes, tomatoes, rosemary and cheddar. You can have it all at All Saints.

Coinciding with our fifteenth anniversary we’ve had some great new pictures taken of the cafe and its food by Jay Watson of All Seeing Eye in Hereford and I’ll attach a few of them to this post. Thanks to any of you who have been accidental models!

Much has changed over the years at All Saints but our aim remains the same: to serve delicious, simple, fresh food in a friendly and speedy way in one of the most beautiful eating spaces in the country. How lucky am I to be still involved in such a great venture – roll on the next 15 years!