Ooh now, where do I start?
Do I commence with the trouble I had finding a place. Or do I begin with the little seed that was cast in my mind years ago at the tender age of twenty one, just before I got up the duff!
Yes, I think that’s a good a place as any.
In December 1987 I had just returned from Los Angeles where I had gone on a whim. I’d given up my job, rented out my flat in Oxford, sold my car and flown to this strange, gigantic city which at the time, scared the pants off me.
My friend Sandra picked me up in her convertible, accompanied by some bronzed, handsome and all American boys; who I instantly fell in love with. I was pale, probably a little flabby and not at all ready for what LA had in store for me.
I stayed with Sandra, I slept on the sofa at Nick and Greg’s, (two boys I’d worked in Oxford with and who were now chasing the LA movie dream.) the floor of somewhere else, the sofa of somewhere peculiar - in fact I stayed in many places!
I was earth quaked, burgled, mugged and scared 50% of the time on the streets and buses, but, and this is a huge but – LA shaped me, instilled in me an utter love of America and its people, and gave me more ideas to take back with me than my tiny English brain could cope with. In short, I grew up.
Over there I helped out in an American Diner – it was a new one, it was retro and it was glorious. The food, right up my street, the atmosphere, bonkers and I felt completely at home!
As I flew back home I decided that I was going to open up a Diner in Oxford. I wrote a business plan, filled it with everything I had learnt and seen in the States and popped it onto a shelf whilst I decided how I was going to finance it.
Now, my brain does have the habit of embracing tangents – I’m very happy to go off on one regularly – and as I celebrated my 21st birthday on the 19th December (only four days after getting back) I decided I was far too young to settle down and got the map out for Australia and New Zealand. This was to be my next port of call. All I had to do was save some money.
So I got a job – as a nanny.
Sandra came back to Oxford (where her mum lived) to be with her sister who was about to have a baby. January 14th 1988, I held the new born Gemma in my arms and wished I could have one. I was a little broody.
Be careful for what you wish for – January 14th 1989, I gave birth to my gorgeous daughter Daisy!
So, the land down under was put on hold, the Diner shelved and my life took a very different turn.
One I don’t regret for a minute, but one that changed my plans enormously. I grew up a just a little bit more!
So rolling on twenty years, a catering company, teaching in local adult education centres, a demonstration business, a house move, twelve years in television, my first cookery book, a glorious daughter grown up, educated and pretty bloody fabulous – I decided that I’d remove the Diner off the shelf, dust it down and take look at it again. The time was right.
That was two years ago.
I had a good think. I ate at and visited a few Diners, sat down with my lovely friend Jamie Heininck – interior designer extraordinaire – and drew up plans.
It worried me. The investment was going to be huge, and much, much more than I had in the bank.
I was asking myself a pretty important question too - Was this idea really what I’m all about nowadays?
I’m a country bird with a huge love of our culinary history and a pretty good knowledge of it. I’m English – very – and surely it would make more sense to be true to myself and what I stand for.
Elements of the Diner could still be in my new place – perhaps as a Sunday all day brunch, with short and tall stack pancakes, hash browns, delicious waffles, eggs over easy and a Blue Plate Special – though perhaps that would have to be a Pink Plate special in my gaff!
It was decided, Lotte’s Kitchen was going to be a very English and very me.
Just like dropping my cottage into a new building. It would encompass everything I’d learnt over the last twenty five years; my experiences and travels.
I did it!
Lotte’s Kitchen has been open now for three months – it is more than just a cafe/tearoom. Yes, we have a delicious simple menu – scrumptious sandwiches, toasty toasties, delicious Pink Plate Specials and cakes that are decadent to a degree – but we also sell cookware and giftware – original and just a little bit quirky.
As Lotte's Kitchen has grown, so has another side to the business - we now bake and sell our cakes to order for weddings, christenings, anniversaries, birthdays – you name it. My Iced Fancies seduce innocent customers into a sugary, lustful state from which they take hours to recover!
The atmosphere is relaxed, informal and friendly. My staff are the most wonderful team - you'll always find a smile when you walk through the door.
We don’t have music blaring through speakers – this is an oasis from the real world, where no one is firing advertising at you, and you can ignore emails and telephone calls. Come over, sit on our pink sofas, drink the best coffee for miles around and smother yourself in cake.
Please click on the link below for a fabulous 360 degree view of Lotte's Kitchen
2 Keens Lane,