Coffee, cake and bits of scorched skin

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A Sunday morning espresso at The Dish

It’s been six weeks since The Dish and The Spoon opened in Nunhead. Six weeks of panicked scone baking, exhausted espresso mainlining, sweary finger slicing and mopping. Lots and lots of mopping. The learning curve hasn’t been so much steep as mountainous, and it’s a mountain I’ve had to climb in a pair of black plastic Crocs. God, I hate Crocs. I really do.

I’ve made some outstanding cock-ups during our first month. My favourite being the time I accidentally ordered 5 boxes of salad leaves rather than 5 bags. Imagine more salad than you’d ever want to eat in your entire life. And then put it in a refrigerated truck and send it to me for 7am on a Wednesday morning.

Luckily, our supplier is very understanding, so we didn’t have to hold a lettuce festival. But there was a short, nerve-shaking moment when I thought we’d be forced to push greenery on every customer who came through the door. May 2012 was nearly the month that Lettuce Cake devastated the digestive systems of SE15.

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Hard working hand with blue plaster accessory

Alongside all the mistakes and challenges (I’m considering getting our oven exorcised. Its capriciousness can only be down to it being one of Satan’s appliances), there have been triumphs. The menu is slowly coming together and beginning to expand. We have customers that come in every day (always a delight, that). And I now know the millionaire’s shortbread recipe off by heart (if you come to The Dish, you should really have a piece. There’s vanilla sea salt in the caramel. It’s ace).

Then there’s the pleasure of being part of the team. It’s not in my nature to express anything as trivial as emotion, but working, learning, laughing and freaking out alongside Shona, Cat, Sylvia, Aivi, Sam and Imahni keeps me going when the day is long and I’ve burnt something yet again (onions or my hand, usually).

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Millionaire's shortbread trimmings. I'm forced to eat these to check that the shortbread is OK. Forced

As part of my relentless, somewhat narcissistic online marketing campaign for The Dish, I’ve been tweeting pictures of the coffee I drink  and the cakes I or Sylvia bake every day. For your viewing pleasure, I’ve gathered these photos in one place.

Coffee nuts can click here for a series of shots that record my slide into caffeine dependency.

Prior to meeting Shona, my coffee preference could be summed up in one word: tea. Coffee was an irregular part of my life. I used to drink large paper cups of warm, slightly bitter milk on train journeys to meetings because that made me feel Officey and Important (the start of my working life in London coincided with the roll out of coffee chains, like Pret and Eat. They introduced me to sophisticated things like lattes with shots of vanilla syrup in them. I’d buy a coffee and a croissant on my way to work, eat it at my desk and think: “How grown up am I! My life is like a film!” I’m quite tragically easy to impress).

Shona, by dint of taking me to every nice cafe in South East London, converted me to the wonders of coffee. I say converted. I mean hooked. A shift at The Dish that doesn’t begin with an espresso is a very, very bad shift indeed. I’m even learning how to make my own coffee because I can’t wait for Shona to get in for my fix. That’s how much of a jittery junkie I have become.

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A flat white and some chunks of espresso brownie. Double caffeine joy

The coffee at The Dish is supplied by South London’s Dark Fluid. It’s roasted by the Tiggerish Lawrence, who bounced us through our first white-eyed week of service, for which I am profoundly grateful.

We use his Schrodinger’s Cat blend; a green, berry-sour and bark mix that’s the espresso equivalent of standing in a hot house full of tomato plants and breathing in. Our tea, incidentally, is made by Tregothnan in Cornwall and is excellent – especially in our Earl Grey teabread. It just doesn’t deliver the synapses shock that I’ve come to rely on.

The second photo album is of cakes, salads and, for the ghoulish, burns and cuts. I’ll be regularly adding to both, so if you follow me on twitter or facebook you’ll be kept abreast of every hot beverage I drink and every scar I form. And if you don’t follow me online, you could always come to The Dish and demand to poke my wounds. Just be sure to buy coffee and cake while you’re there.

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