Crouch End cafe filling up on community spirit
Charlotte Newton THE economy seems to be biting at most sectors, but one Crouch End cafe has reported a healthy trade in unusual sandwich fillings. Peanut butter, homemade hot chilli green sauce and crispy bacon are hardly the usual partners you find betw
THE economy seems to be biting at most sectors, but one Crouch End cafe has reported a healthy trade in unusual sandwich fillings.
Peanut butter, homemade hot chilli green sauce and crispy bacon are hardly the usual partners you find betwen two pieces of bread. But their popularity as a gourmet sandwich filler seems to have captured the hearts - and stomachs - of diners in Crouch End.
Despite the straitened financial times, customers are queuing up for their lunchtime fix of usual and unusual sandwich fillings at Hot Pepper Jelly in Broadway Parade.
And, curiously, the eclectic menu seems to have universal appeal.
So while young mums may frequent the cosy premises for a coffee and a catch-up in the mornings, shop assistants and business people often pop in for a bite to eat over lunch, and teachers have been known to spend afternoons there catching up on their marking.
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The most surreal moment, however, came when the Glasgow-born actor James McAvoy stepped inside for a light lunch.
Ellen Fraser, 29, who owns the cafe with her sister Kirstie, 31, said: "I couldn't believe it when James McAvoy came in. I'm usually really good at talking to customers especially if they're from Glasgow because I went to university there.
"But I was just star-struck by him. All I managed was to make him a parma ham panini. I didn't say a word."
The sisters' warmth and familiarity has won them the loyalty of the Crouch End community, which could explain why the passing trade is still high.
Both women have degrees from Glasgow University, Kirstie in philosophy and Ellen in politics. They had successful careers in the charity and teaching sectors before deciding to take over Hot Pepper Jelly 18 months ago.
Kirstie explained: "I think I had the seven-year itch. I enjoyed my job as a teacher, but I wanted a new challenge. Our mum ran a greasy spoon in Highbury Corner so we thought we'd set up a cafe.
"We looked all over London but this just seemed perfect and we loved the idea of running a gourmet sandwich company."
All the sauces the sisters use are home-made and they bake fresh cakes and desserts each day.
The strong community vibe in Crouch End was one of the main reasons they chose to set their business here.
Ellen said: "We wanted to be somewhere where we'd be happy to go outside on our lunch breaks or could do a bit of a shopping. Crouch End is brilliant because of its community spirit.
"We're part of the Crouch End Project, which promotes and supports independent businesses and it's a very innovative scheme."
The project encourages local residents to shop and eat locally and even has a loyalty card which they can use to get monthly discounts.
o For the next month, anyone with a Crouch End shopping card who spends �4.50 or more on a cooked breakfast in Hot Pepper Jelly from Monday to Friday can have a tea or coffee for 50p.