End of an era for Kenwood House cafe favoured by Hampstead’s literati

Company of Cooks staff members (from left) Jeannette, Jennifer, Nisha, Hilmy, and Amman enjoy their

Company of Cooks staff members (from left) Jeannette, Jennifer, Nisha, Hilmy, and Amman enjoy their last day running the Brew House Cafe at Kenwood House. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

A coffee shop that has become a sanctuary for some of Hampstead and Highgate’s most celebrated writers, artists and academics reached the end of an almost 20 year era this week after its long-serving caterer handed over the keys to new management.

Staff at the Brewhouse Cafe, which has become a favourite haunt of local creatives and dog walkers on the Heath since independent business Company of Cooks took over in 1996, poured their last coffees on Tuesday, ending 18 years at their home at Kenwood House.

Since founding the company at the historic Grade I listed building, staff have more than tripled the number of customers and become a much-loved spot for notable residents.

Spy novelist John le Carré, Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson, Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher and jazz guitarist John Etheridge are all said to make up what has become known as the café’s morning club.

But last Wednesday (September 24) saw over 180 customers and staff members attend the coffee shop’s final farewell party.

The management of the cafe was taken over by Searcys this week after they won the contract from English Heritage.

The luxury caterer also runs restaurants and bars at St Pancras International Station, Blenheim Palace and the Barbican Centre.

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Mike Lucy, founder of Company of Cooks, said his company couldn’t compete financially.

“I feel a mixture of sadness that we won’t be serving all the customers we’ve built and gotten to know over the years,” he said.

“People come here to step away from the hullaballoo of London, and I think we’ve done a good job in providing that kind of space.

“Catering for people’s weddings, then their anniversaries and later their christenings - we’ve built a good relationship over the years with the community.

“I hope the new caterers and English Heritage understand the Brewhouse Café isn’t a visitors’ attraction - it’s a community café.”