Restaurateur Anna's Brave New Tale
Sometimes we hear #OurCanterburyTales directly from friends and family, like the time two first-time visitors to Kent decided to spend a few hours in Canterbury, en route to their holiday-let in Whitstable.
Weary after a long journey from Yorkshire, they discovered a brand-new café-restaurant, where they found a warm welcome, lovely staff and a delicious lunch. Our travellers, much refreshed, then enjoyed a tour of Canterbury Cathedral before heading to the coast.
Although delighted with the restaurant, they couldn’t remember its name. But we turned detective and tracked it down: No. 35 in St Margaret’s Street, and its owner/manager, Anna Carpenter.
For a small café-restaurant, Anna, you certainly made a big impression on our visitors! Tell us about starting a new venture in lockdown.
A group of us came together in those difficult days in spring 2020 and decided to launch our own restaurant. Looking back, it does seem a bit crazy, but we already knew each other through previous hospitality businesses and were sure that between us we had both the skills and the passion to make it work. And we’ve certainly had to work hard to make it happen!
Having found our building, we had to totally refurbish it – it was a huge job. We had some professional help, but we did much of it ourselves, including the designing of the inside and the garden, upcycling furniture and all the painting. One of our chefs had never held a paintbrush in his life, but he got stuck in with the rest of us! It really helped to bring us together; although we’re not actually related, we feel like a family now…
Because of Covid, we could only start by offering takeaways, but opened fully in early summer 2021.
We’ve already got lots of regulars, who come because they love the food, the coffee, the chat, the pleasure of people-watching from a table in the window… And we love to welcome visitors and give them the best the city can offer – superb food, and customer service that comes straight from the heart.
There are lots of restaurants and cafés in Canterbury, so what makes No. 35 different?
We’re independent, so we have total control over what we serve and how we do things. Our young chefs love to bring different tastes from around the world into their dishes, so our menu is ‘fusion with a twist’, with ingredients sourced from here in Canterbury or at least Kent, from other family-run, independent businesses like ourselves.
In fact, since you told us about Laura at the Wonky Parsnip and her exotic vegetables, herbs and edible flowers, we’re planning to visit her market garden to see if we can cook something up together!
All our dishes are prepared fresh to order and our chefs make all our dressings, sauces, chutneys and preserves themselves, which also makes us different.
As well as tables out front, we also have a small, sunny courtyard garden – a little haven in the heart of the city. Upstairs there are also two function rooms that can be booked; they are perfect for private events and celebrations such as birthdays, christenings or business meetings.
It sounds as if you’re already part of the community…
It’s really important to us – if you’re happy where you live and work, you want everyone else to enjoy it too. It hasn’t been easy to get to where we are, but it’s made us appreciate what we’ve achieved, so I hope people will continue to come and share it with us!