One of the regular features is entitled Heaven Preserve Us, and is concerned with the making of pickles, preserves and marinades. A product line was developed, and it was that point that the van comes in. Anita and Caro wanted a vehicle to act as a shop for their range, but a last minute change of heart, saw them decide to open a 'pop-up' restaurant instead. Many such ventures go down the festival route, travelling to events and markets as a mobile food stall, but they decided they'd rather stay put and operate from one location. Apart from anything else, alcohol licenses normally pertain to the location not the vehicle, so it would have meant repeated applications. They settled on Sydenham Wells Park, being close to where they live, and much to their surprise, Lewisham Council received the idea enthusiastically, as did the park's user group. From that moment, the plans came together remarkably quickly. The name came to Anita one night in bed, and by the next morning there was a twitter account and a Facebook page. The vehicle would seat 4 for dinner in simple Bistro style surroundings. The carpet which had covered not only the floor but also the walls, was ripped out, and everything was repainted using Annie Sloan paints, which apparently needs no priming, and goes on everything including the plastic seats.
The idea was an instant hit. The food is classic and simple. It has to be, as it all happens on a couple of gas rings under a neighbouring gazebo. Moules and frites, and fruit de mer are the mainstay, and is all supplied by Veasey & Sons, who you will find at the market in Crystal Palace every saturday. As well as friday night, moules night, and the seafood on saturdays, Anita also serves up sunday brunches, Vacherin fondues and special Beaujolais Nouveau nights. And looking ahead, she's doing a sausage theme for Bonfire Night (already booked up sadly), and plans are afoot for La Gargote (soup kitchen night) and Le Pique Nique. For special parties, the plan is to put up trestle tables seating up to 20, and there's a possibility of doing small cooking classes next year too.
I popped along one late summer evening, intrigued by what I'd heard, and watched Anita and her assistant setting up for that evening's diners. I'm shocked to admit I'd never visited Wells Park before, but then we have an embarrassment of riches locally when it comes to green spaces. What a delightful park it is, and such a romantic venue, adjacent to the lake for this inspiring culinary venture. No surprise then that it's already fully booked for Valentines Day.
|Anita's assistant setting up|
|The cat with a sharp nose|
|Anita in full flow!|