By Emma Rumney
When one door closes another one opens – in this case that of an old-fashioned red telephone box door. New Cross residents who might have mourned the loss of one of the area’s many take away chicken shops might find solace in this much more unusual entrance to the Chinwag café and bistro.
Stepping through that telephone box door into the cafe, it’s clear there is more charm than any takeaway could hope to match. With tables, chairs and benches lined against an exposed brick wall and their warm interior adorned with interesting light fixtures, Chinwag offers a cosy environment to enjoy good food and conversation.
Ellie Davis, 23 and her boyfriend Eren Sukur, 27, who live above the shop on New Cross Road, opened Chinwag just a month ago. Sukur runs the café in the daytime, whilst Davis juggles her time between working there and completing her final year of law studies at Kings College.
After coming from Southampton to study in the capital, Davis met Sukur when he was working as a chef in a café three years ago.
Davis said: “I came into the café where he was working. You could see into the kitchen through a hatch in the wall. He caught my eye and asked one of the waiters to come and get my number.”
Before setting up Chinwag, Sukur and Davis worked together doing on set catering for music videos and commercials. Sukur has always worked in the catering industry and owning a place of his own was always his ambition.
Davis explains: “Eren came here from Istanbul eight years ago. His father used to own a restaurant there so Eren has lived and worked in restaurants all of his life. He’d wanted to do this for a really long time so when the opportunity arose with Southern Fried Chicken wanting to sell, we jumped on it.”
“We never really had a grand plan. We just said we’ll do it, we’ll finance it somehow and then things just came together.”
Whilst Sukur knew the area well, originally Davis had her doubts about New Cross. “I think I just saw the bad side of the area,” she admits. “Actually, I think it’s really nice here. Everybody’s really friendly and it has got a good vibe.
“It’s good to talk to everyone and find out who they are. I probably enjoy that part the most, meeting lots of new faces. I went down to New Cross Inn not too long ago and half of our customers were in there and came and said hello. It was really cool, it’s good to get to know the community.”
It would seem the couple’s sociable attitude is epitomised by the café that is aptly named due to being full with the constant buzz of conversation.
Davis said: “Because it’s a bit cosy in here, people have to let their social inhibitions go when it comes to personal space and sometimes share tables. For example, the other day my mum and dad came to visit and ended up talking to the people next to them and then the people next to them joined in and so on. It turned into one big discussion. We wanted everybody to be able to come here to talk and have fun.”
For Goldsmiths students especially, Chinwag offers the ideal change of atmosphere after a long day in the library or stuffy seminar. Being positioned just across the road from the university means it draws in students looking for a place to relax at all times of the day, with options like fried breakfasts and burgers (which Davis describes as their “speciality”).
As if conversation wasn’t enough flowing already, Davis and Sukur are trying to secure an alcohol license for Chinwag.
Davis said: “The place has the right kind of feel for people to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer. We’d like to be able to stay open a bit later and have a drink with people, that would be nice.”