The new café in the recently renovated Clissold House has become the centre of a heated debate over whether it is affordable for local residents.
The café is run by the Hampstead based catering firm Company of Cooks and serves a meal for two for around £20. The menu offers high quality food including couscous, gnocchi and exotic salads.
This has prompted mixed reactions from locals. A survey run by a local website, stokenewingtonN16.com, found that out of 270 votes, 182 found it “too posh” and an action group has been set up on facebook to protest at the prices.
The Clissold Park Café Action Group said: “It is a sad day for those of us who lived in the area all our lives. Now those who moved in among us wish to turn the area into some kind of poor man’s Hampstead have won.
“Gone are the days when the cafe in the mansion would provide basic and hearty food at decent prices.”
Following the opening of the café on January 3, concerns were raised at a meeting of the Clissold Park User Group that the menu was too elaborate and overpriced.
The action group have since described the user group as: “mainly made up of wannabe Hampsteadonians”.
Green Party candidate Emma Dixon, told the Big Smoke blog that: “The council has failed in its duties to consider the equality implications of their actions. The elderly can’t afford to come here now, it’s all white, middle class people.”
Anya Pearson, 24, a local resident who attended nearby Stoke Newington Arts and Media School, says: “I remember going as a kid – you could get egg chips and beans for a couple of quid and mini milks for 20p. I used to hang out there with my friends as a teenager.
“It was used by all types of people and it was always really busy”.
Steve Campbell, 53, said: “The food prices seem OK considering its gone up market, but there’s nothing ordinary for kids. There’s no juice –just posh lemonade at £2.50”
The café has not been criticised by all its customers. On its first week it served 5000 people and if anything has been struggling to keep up with demand.
Sarah Punto-Duschinsky, 40, said: “It was very good value for money – much nicer quality than I would have expected in the park”
“But the queue is already bad – I’m not sure how they’re going to cope in the summer.”
Emily Darlington, 38, agrees: ”Service is a bit slow, but it’s nice to see the house open again”
Company of Cooks, who have a five-year contract with Hackney Council to run the café, have said they are “aware” that some people were unhappy.
They told the Hackney Gazette: “We’re listening to the many viewpoints about the type of food that people want to see available, and in no way do we see the opening menu as the final version.”