What is a sustainable restaurant? At Cafe in the Park want to be serving our customers in ten years time, and so we need to ensure that we’re looking after the people and the world around us, that way we are both in with a good chance of surviving.
We really value our staff and it’s important to us that they stay for a significant period of time. Many of our customers are regulars and we want them served by the same people, not a different face each month. We pay a salary that equates to the Living Wage, we don’t believe in zero hour contracts and we do believe in giving our team a proper meal each day.
We know that great food needs great ingredients. Our meat is from free-range animals that enjoy a natural environment and are only fed natural foods. We support our local community, our local florist, dairy and cheese maker, and we run a volunteer programme for adults with learning difficulties. It’s one of those fantastic win-win situations, we all benefit and learn more about working with people of all abilities.
We create dishes that are good for you, we like to call it ‘guilt-free’ dining. Avoiding over-loading dishes with butter, cream and oil but relying upon skill and experience to create dishes our customers want to come back for. We want to know what’s in everything we sell. That’s why we make it all, from our bread and cakes, to stocks and sauces, it’s all made here in our kitchen.
We spoke to Carly Trisk-Grove, owner of Café in the Park about veg, flavours and fairness.
What do you think makes food good?
I started this business with the sole aim of proving that you can serve good food to the masses at a sensible price. Good food is food where flavour is king, above all else but also the people involved in its production and the animals that provided the ingredients have been treated with respect and dignity.
What are the three reasons people should vote for you?
1. The honest answer is that we’d love to be on the map more so that we can attract more amazing staff like our manager and chef who’ve been with us for years so we can carry on what we’ve been doing and go even further.
2. We understand what hospitality means – making people feel good – giving people a treat from the minute they walk in to the minute they leave. We’re priced so people can come regularly and we’re definitely not about style over substance – it’s about the food and service.
3. For the people that work here to get recognised- I can only say thank you so often and can only give so many pay rises! It would be incredible to get recognition from the wider world for the people who have dedicated a big part of their lives to this café – including our amazing volunteers.
What is your signature dish?
It has to be our Park Salad. We ‘borrowed’ the idea originally from Leon eight years ago and it’s always been based around quinoa as its core ingredient. It’s changed a number of times but now we feel like we’ve got it down and are sticking with it. It’s made with British grown quinoa and is green because of all the herbs and herb oil we use and comes with a topping of beetroot cooked with cardamom and cauliflower as well as a seed mix and dried tomatoes. It embodies what we do – guilt free dining – eat well and enjoy.
What’s the one ingredient you couldn’t do without?
The whole point is there isn’t one – it’s about everything coming together
Smaller portions or doggy bags?
Smaller portions – we do give people bags to take home leftovers and I have a dog that feels the benefit! But, we don’t give huge portions.
Meat or veg?
This year is all about the veg. Veg will lead the way – it’ll be more like two veg and one meat rather than the other way round. I was vegetarian for 26 years (mainly because as a child I didn’t have access to farm produced meat) but two years ago I was tempted to convert with a salad our chef made – it’s all about the quality and how it’s cooked.
Living Wage or bigger tips?
I feel very strongly about paying people a decent wage. We can only perform well in work once money is not an issue to us. That’s why we pay our staff a salary that’s based on the Living Wage hourly rate, minus the cost of lunch. We also want to make sure that our team know what they will be paid each month so that they can plan. We would absolutely never give a zero hour contract.
Describe the philosophy of the restaurant in three words
Good food, naturally.
Describe what it would mean for your restaurant to be voted People’s Favourite
It would give us a vote of confidence that we’re doing the right thing and inspire us to carry on. We have ten people with learning difficulties who volunteer here – it’s about giving people purpose and hope and winning this award would mean so much to the whole team.
Who’s the most important member of your team and why?
I refuse to pick one person. At a push I’ll pick four. In reality it’s more like ten different people.
The key four are also our longest serving – I’m the ideas person, the driver, it used to be my ‘expensive hobby’ but now, thankfully it’s supporting many, many people from staff to our local suppliers.
My husband is the money man. He used to work at Camelot and then do the books every evening and on Saturdays. Now the business supports us both and it’s wonderful to be able to finally work on this together.
Tina, the manager – she runs the place as if her own, her energy knows no bounds, – she is the hostess with the mostess.
Will, the Head Chef – he has a real intuition about flavours and understands the science behind cooking, it’s a real art. He also brings an element of calm to a chaotic environment, he nurtures talent and by encouraging learning, this is how we keep the same strong team working here for years at a time, not just months.