Following a lunchtime visit to a vegetarian cafe, and making covert business notes in our minds because the tables were too small on which to spread out and make notes in a proper fashion, here is what we learned today:
1) have slightly bigger tables
2) have matching furniture and not furniture which appears to have been sourced from various skips. Now, whilst we appreciated this cafe's idea of recycling and whilst the idea of having variety in size, shapes and styles of tables and chairs seems quaint and quirky, if you are going to do this you need to at least paint the assorted mish mash of chairs and tables the same colour AND make sure your tables don't wobble under the pressure of a cappuccino (and I mean a coffee here, and not a monkey...no, hang on, that's a capuchin...scrap the monkey comment.)
3) make sure quiches DON'T have soggy bottoms and DO have cooked middles. And that a green salad constitutes more than two slices of tomato, one slice of onion and two pieces of raw courgette.
4) utilise your space wisely - don't have a massive display cabinet that takes up an area of at least four seating spaces and appears to hold nothing more than many, many identical boxes of speciality teas. And if you are going to have a display cabinet, make sure people can reach it to see what is inside without having to scramble over two diners in order to do so.
5) DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, decorate walls that are within slopping distance of diners with wallpaper. Paint. That's what one needs. Easy to apply, easy to maintain, easy to scrape veggie lasagne from. Especially if space is tight and a diner (moi, for example) might find herself squished against a wallpapered wall with barely room to swing a fork.
6) have fresh, bakery-type cooking smells ALWAYS as background ambience. It took me a while to realise what was missing about this place, and what it was, despite their claim of cooking everything fresh on site every day, was that I couldn't smell those home cooked smells. See it, taste it, SMELL IT for the whole gastronomic experience, that's what I say.
7) ...and whilst we are on ambience, a little bit of background music is good, in order that diners can indulge in small talk and not have their conversations listened in on, or indeed have overhear other diners' conversations which can, on occasion, be a little unsavoury/ personal/ boring.
Other than that, there was a nice selection of cakes and pastries on offer, the menu was varied and simple if a little on the uninspiring side, and the staff were polite.
We also realised we need to sell the vegetarian food idea in a way that goes beyond the usual (and sadly unflattering) stereotype of weedy crustiness, dangly beads, sandals and raffia skirts. We want to create a place that is vegetarian but doesn't feel vegetarian and where people have good food and don't realise it is all vegetarian until half an hour after they leave and someone says, 'Hey! There were no sausages!'
Vegetarian recipe experiments this week include : caramelised onion tarte tatin and ratatouille gougere (yum!), and this afternoon Andy begins his quest for our signature veggie burger. This will go with the brioche burger buns that are currently proving in the fridge. And tomorrow I am on the soup trail to go find a vegetable soup to go with the oaty wholemeal loaf Andy made on Wednesday.
And on the way home, we stopped at a local art gallery and on impulse (see how bohemian we are becoming!) we purchased a painting by a local artist which was of the church I grew up with and Andy and I got married in!