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‘All guns blazing’: Helena Bonham Carter opens Sam Frears’ new café in Primrose Hill

PUBLISHED: 15:21 24 August 2020 | UPDATED: 15:21 24 August 2020

The opening of Sam's Cafe, Chalcot Road, in Primrose Hill. Pictured front is special guest Helena Bonham Carter, with co-owners Sam Frears and Andrew O' Hagan and, in the doorway, waiters Elyas Abaris and Vlad Andrejevic along with co-owner Lindsey O'Hagan. Picture: Polly Hancock

The opening of Sam's Cafe, Chalcot Road, in Primrose Hill. Pictured front is special guest Helena Bonham Carter, with co-owners Sam Frears and Andrew O' Hagan and, in the doorway, waiters Elyas Abaris and Vlad Andrejevic along with co-owner Lindsey O'Hagan. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

Primrose Hill actor Sam Frears is going “all guns blazing” on his new literary café after The Crown star Helena Bonham Carter snipped the ribbon on Saturday.

Sam's Cafe co-owners Sam Frears and Andrew O'Hagan. Picture: Polly HancockSam's Cafe co-owners Sam Frears and Andrew O'Hagan. Picture: Polly Hancock

Sam’s Cafe, on the corner of Chalcot Road and Fitzroy Road, is being run by Primrose Hill pair Andrew O’Hagan, a novelist, and Sam Frears, the son of film director Stephen Frears and Mary-Kay Wilmers, London Review of Books’ editor.

Sam and Andrew previously ran a cafe in Regent’s Park Road, which closed 18 months ago. Their new venture is aiming to cross between a “French corner bistro” and a “traditional British cafe”.

It will be open from 8am-10pm every day, bar a half-day on Wednesday, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, including alcohol.

The café will also be a performance space, hosting events such as talks from poets and writers, supper clubs and public debates.

Helena Bonham Carter cuts the ribbon, with co-owners Sam Frears and Andrew O'Hagan. Picture: Polly HancockHelena Bonham Carter cuts the ribbon, with co-owners Sam Frears and Andrew O'Hagan. Picture: Polly Hancock

Artworks on the walls will be changed every four months and shelves will be filled with newspapers, magazines and novels.

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Sam, 48, who is disabled and almost totally blind, told the Ham&High he wanted his new café at the heart of the community as an “old school” establishment akin to something out EastEnders.

“Everyone’s been in lockdown so I want this place to get people back together and start trying to enjoy life again,” Sam said.

“I basically want everyone to have a good old time.”

Business partner and longstanding friend Andrew, 52, said he and Sam have been “aficionados” of the café scene in Hampstead, Belsize Park and Primose Hill for decades - and that opening one of their own has always been a dream.

Andrew said he recognises the “powerful” difficulties of starting a business during a pandemic, but said that if “anything unites Sam and I, it’s a sense of undefeated optimism”.

“Undimmed optimism is driving this business forward,” he said.

“Sam’s Cafe is going to be a happy place. Hopefully we’re opening at a time of change where normality and community values will be restored, and that Sam’s Cafe will be a venue that respects community and the idea of looking after each other.”


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