Words Kirk Truman
Photography Astrid Schulz
“My father and I already knew the area very well, but I’ve never done anything like this before. It has been a challenge both in starting a business and opening a coffee shop in Fitzrovia.”
Whilst wandering about Foley Street last spring I found myself entering a building site. ‘Another?’ I thought to myself, another coffee shop to line the streets of Fitzrovia. Another addition to the emergence of cafés and coffee shops in our region! I thought. Behind the grey façade, sat amidst the quiet of a leafy autumn morning on Foley Street, lies a café that offers something really quite rare among the invasion that has come to Fitzrovia in recent years. Consultant Sarah Tyers and the real next-of-kin, owner Charlie Meadows, explain to me the meaning behind one of Fitzrovia’s newest cafés, their vegetarian offerings and the story of Kin café.
‘Kin?’ you say. This building here at 22 Foley Street has been in the Meadows family for a few years now. The area is no stranger to the family, with Charlie’s father Peter being based in the now dying rag trade in the Fitzrovia area for some years. When the space on the ground floor of the building became empty in 2012, and with Charlie’s background in marketing, music and events, he began to contemplate the idea of embarking on an entirely new venture, away from his media orientated career. As he tells me, “My father and I already knew the area very well, but I’ve never done anything like this before. It has been a challenge both in starting a business and opening a coffee shop in Fitzrovia.”
The space has been various cafés over the years that seem to have only come and gone. Noting that the area has been slowly becoming more and more vibrant in recent years, Charlie and his father saw the opportunity to open a new café that could adapt to the vibrancy of the area, with Charlie leading the way. He explains, “I decided around March 2013 that I started to think about the possibility of turning this space into a café. We began looking at competitors across London, the world and right here in Fitzrovia.”
With the implication of his idea looming, he knew that there was nothing with which to allow it to flourish without the experience and guidance of somebody who had followed a route within the industry. Charlie and Sarah Tyers were introduced through a mutual friend, Ed. With Sarah’s background in working as a chef in many restaurants and training as a barista at two of London’s favourite coffee shops; Bloomsbury’s The Espresso Room and, leading chain, Taylor Street Barista’s, she was the ideal candidate to act as a consultant in establishing Kin. “I realised that university was going to cost me a lot of money and not really get me where I wanted to be. I was quite shy. I loved cooking and looking after people, so I dropped out of school to become a chef. I travelled for a lot of years and then eventually ended up in London. I’d always wanted to open my own café so I began to learn how to make coffee,” Sarah elucidates.
With Sarah having always wanted to open a café herself, this was the perfect opportunity to follow one of her own dreams and equally allow Charlie’s business idea to come to life. With his idea of opening a local accessible café for all residents to enjoy in the ever-growing vibrancy of the Fitzrovia neighbourhood, Charlie discussed with Sarah concepts ranging from the title of the café to the cuisine and layout of the interior.
On deciding that the food element of the café would be a focal point of the business (in addition to its speciality coffee and tea), it was decided that Kin was to become an entirely vegetarian establishment. With a menu that offers anything from a signature beans on toast (my personal breakfast favourite) to a lunch menu of salads, sandwiches and more – all available for takeaway or to eat-in – their bill-of-fare is like no other in the area. The food is truly a spectacle worth venturing to Foley Street for, a healthy option for breakfast, brunch and lunch in the area. Sarah tells me, “When you’re making food, if it’s fresh and healthy, then the only way to make it taste good is to make it fresh, that’s how good tasting healthy food is made.” She makes a point to emphasise the importance of the health element of their menu.
After deciding upon a vegetarian café, the two wanted to create a title and atmosphere that was less contrived as it was pro-green, and, more-so, unannounced as being vegetarian from its façade, its primal colouration and interior setting. “The name choosing process went through a lot of permutations. We wanted the title of the café, as we’re vegetarian, to be uncomplicated. We didn’t want to call it Supernatural Greens, or Veggies Are Us,” Sarah laughs. “We didn’t want it to be unwelcoming. We wanted it to be discovered-to-be-vegetarian. We wanted it to be a simple, easy to spell, easy to the hear word that people could remember and keep fresh in peoples’ heads,” she concludes.
And so, taking into account Charlie’s relationship with his father, without whom the business never would’ve happened, they decided that it would be essential to include this relationship in the naming process of the café. “From a visual perspective Kin works well as a logo, of course there is a personal element behind the title too.” Charlie tells me, “People remember the name, we’ve found that people really like it!” He explains to me. What followed was an all grey interior and exterior with minimal low-key furnishings that have a somewhat Japanese feel. The café has been intentionally designed as a ‘blank canvas’, a neutral environment, semi-influenced by Charlie’s Swedish mother.
With a few minor delays, as per any business venture, Kin opened its doors late May, 2014. Progressively the café has become a staple of the neighbourhood for meetings, brunch and as a lunch hour retreat – or what I refer to as my ‘time out space’. At Kin you’re able to leave behind the wicked-west-end and find calm. Kin currently uses Notes Coffee; though they rotate their speciality coffee blends every quarter.
In addition to their tea and coffee offerings, the café makes their own juices: from my personal favourite green juice, through to a carrot and apple blend juice, a perfect alternative to caffeine when looking to punch start your day. In aiding the New Year detox I find these to be an excellent healthy alternative to coffee. The ingredients of Kin’s juices are entirely organic and have slowly become the norm in beginning my day.
This father and son venture has firmly taken off to achieve the start that Charlie and Peter had hoped for – perhaps even more so in fact! With the café now open on Saturdays, it has been allowed to spread its wings as the staff have become acquainted with many locals, both residents and transients. The café has come to house the defining elements of the Fitzrovia neighbourhood; socialisation, independent business and niche. With an eye firmly set on the future, I say to you bravely that here is a café for you and your kin to watch.