Café culture has always been a popular part of Pantiles’ life…

    The CakeShed

    The area’s unique eateries provide just some of its key attractions. We speak to two venues that have weathered the tricky winter months and are now looking forward to a busy spring

    Francesca Gilpin…
    Owner of The CakeShed

    WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE PANTILES?
    There’s a good range of cafés and restaurants here, which all have something different to offer and that’s a real selling point for the area.

    It certainly brings more and more people when the weather is better, too. There are a lot of music events over the summer months as well, so we hope this will encourage more people. The Pantiles is for life, not just for summer though!

    HAS THIS YEAR BEEN BUSY SO FAR?
    The first couple of months always tend to be quite lean, with people wanting to save money. However,
    as we move towards Easter things are looking up. An improvement in the weather always helps, but recently people have just been inside the café and keeping cosy.

    HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN OPEN AS A CAFÉ?
    The CakeShed has been around for three years now and we make everything ourselves, ranging from cakes to soups. I think this makes a huge difference to what we do. The business now has another chef, but I am very hands on myself – all the recipes are my own. It’s just something that I really wanted to do. Life is too short not to be doing what you want to.

    YOUR MENU IS FULL OF TEMPTING TREATS – WHAT HAS PROVED YOUR MOST POPULAR FOOD ORDER?
    We do a range of traditional British cakes with a twist, such as wheat-free lemon cake which is enjoyed just as much by those without allergies as by those who have them.

    We always try and source items locally wherever we can, using a local vegetable supplier, Oliver Greens in Rusthall, and that’s something that is important to us.

    WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR WORK?
    I really enjoy talking to customers and making sure they have a great experience. It’s not dissimilar from theatre in how you approach it. You are providing entertainment and we always hope to give the very best that we can.

    Ed Pusey…
    Manager of Woodsbar and restaurant

    HOW HAS BUSINESS BEEN IN RECENT TIMES?
    We are really hoping that with the weather improving things will start picking up. We’re working hard and our trade with functions has been good, particularly with parties on a Friday and Saturday night.

    HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE PANTILES?
    Woods has been here for the past 12 years, and I’ve been here for nearly three. It’s been a really good time. The past year in particular has been good for jazz in the summer, and our Christmas season was also particularly busy.

    WHAT IS THE SECRET OF RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL CAFÉ?
    Just trying to be happy is important. If you are happy towards customers then they will want to come back. Of course, we hope that our food meets with their expectations.

    HOW HARD IS IT TO KEEP IMPROVING YOUR MENU?
    We have worked really hard at our menu, and we’ve done things like put out a large marble table displaying our range of cakes, which are all made in-house and are one of the things that people always comment on.

    IS THERE A STANDOUT ITEM OF FOOD THAT THE VENUE HAS BECOME RENOWNED FOR?
    Everyone seems to know about our all-day breakfasts. If you have woken up late then you can have a full English breakfast (including a vegetarian option) right into the afternoon. I had a first the other day – a taxi driver came in to pick up a breakfast for someone at 3.30pm!

    DOES THE VENUE STAGE ANY EVENTS DURING THE YEAR?
    From May we have jazz on Thursday evenings and we are holding a fundraising evening in aid of Hospice in the Weald. There will also be another evening after that, raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital.

    ARE THERE ANY PLANS FOR THE FUTURE OF THE CAFÉ?
    We hope that if more businesses are attracted to The Pantiles, then our own business will grow. We’re just concentrating on providing a good service and quality food for our customers.