Shop Local: How the Wet Fish Café turned into a fishmonger’s to survive the Covid-19 lockdown
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Returning to its roots as a fishmonger’s meant the Wet Fish Café was able to mitigate its losses at the height of lockdown.
With an end to the pandemic still out of sight, the West Hampstead café’s owner Andre Millodot told this newspaper that while the café is back open as a café, local seafood-lovers would still be able to buy produce from his premises.
The café, which was once a fishmonger’s shop, closed at the end of March along with the rest of the country – and when it reoepened in May, things had changed slightly.
Click here for more on the Ham&High’s #ShopLocal campaign.“It was better to open than to stay closed but most importantly it supported the local community, it supported our suppliers,” Andre said. “It was busy, it was fun, and it was thrilling.”
He said the venture “wasn’t particularly profitable”, but that it had helped tide his business over.
Andre explained how the idea formed when he bought a supermarket lemon and realised how much higher quality the cafe’s produce was.
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Along with fish and groceries, Andre brought in live musicians to entertain customers and create a unique atmosphere.
He said that the ability to adapt to change was crucial to businesses surviving the pandemic.
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“The reception was fantastic,” he continued. “There was a woman who came in and cupped her face in her hands and started crying. We asked - what’s wrong?
“She said: “Oh, it’s the music. It’s just so beautiful – it’s what we need right now.’”
Musician Tom Diesel, 37, performed in the cafe during lockdown. He said: “It’s really given us a sense of community.
“The lockdown forced everyone to stay local – and a lot of people have become regulars at Fish as a result of lockdown.”
The cafe, which used to run live music nights, will restart their small gigs on November 4.
The music nights will be socially-distanced “intimate” performances, with two courses of the cafe’s menu included in the £45 ticket price.
The West End Lane restaurant first opened in 2003, with Andre – a Canadian – soon commanding a loyal local clientele.
Fresh fish continues to be available.
The Ham&High’s Shop Local campaign is designed to highlight the hidden – and not so hidden – gems on our high streets. If you run a shop in our area we should be shouting about, contact the newsdesk at firstname.lastname@example.org