Kalendar cafe owner Alex Dudnic on fleeing to Highgate after Romanian revolution

Alex Dudnic is the owner of popular Kalendar cafe and Gustus pizzeria in Swain’s Lane, Highgate. The 45-year-old, who lives in Hornsey Lane, has spoken out against plans to develop the neighbouring shopping parade.

What brought you to Highgate?

I got a job at [now-closed] Cafe Mozart in Swain’s Lane and that was my first job in this country. I studied civil engineering in Romania but left after the revolution [in 1989]. I went to Cyprus for a couple of years trying to make some money and then I came to England where I met my wife and I never looked back.

How has Highgate changed since you moved into the area?

The property prices have gone up and it has got more upmarket. All the little shops have disappeared in Highgate but it’s more or less the same, it hasn’t changed that much.


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Who is the most inspiring person you have ever met?

My father, and a lot of my customers are actors I admire.

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Where in the world would you twin with Highgate?

I’ve just come back from Barcelona and the north of Barcelona reminds me of Highgate, it’s nice and leafy. It looks just like Hampstead and Highgate.

What is the area’s best kept secret?

Kalendar! No. I don’t think there are any secrets in Highgate.

What would you change about Highgate?

The weather! I would get rid of the chain shops, as only Starbucks is missing from the area. But otherwise there’s not much to change. People keep it nice with the help of all the conservation groups.

What makes you smile on your way home?

A good day at work, good weather, health, happiness.

How would you spend your perfect Sunday in Highgate?

Usually I work on Sundays, but I would go for a walk on the Heath, go for breakfast at Kalendar and then just chill I guess, reading newspapers and going for lunch somewhere nice.

What tips would you give to somebody moving to the area?

I would tell them to go on to the Heath, tell them where to shop and tell them where not to shop.

If you had to write your own epitaph what would it say?

He started out with nothing and hopefully he got somewhere.

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