Bienvenue, which opened its doors on Stoke Newington High Street one month ago today, is everything you’d want in a quaint French patisserie, while serving up a hearty slice of Mauritius family life too. The Luchmuns, owners of the café, tell us about their business, the struggles they overcame to get here, and why Bienvenue’s French-Mauritian cuisine will wow the Stokey scene.
“I left Mauritius when I was 20 years old” explained Krite Luchman, the now 63-year-old owner of Bienvenue, “And when you reach my age you want to do something for the future generations and for the community”.
With its organic quiches and creamy cheesecakes, its calm airy space and its bluesy playlist of Miles Davis and Billie Holliday, Bienvenue is set to supply Stoke Newington locals with some hard-to-come-by Zen.
“The patisserie is the perfect place to mull over a coffee or to have a cake and a catch up with a friend” explains Krite’s daughter Natasha, 27.
“We’re organic, we’re vegetarian – the only meat we do is Halal chicken and fish – and we make sure that our glazes are Halal too,” she explains, “We are Hindus, but we don’t want to segregate anyone, we want everyone to feel welcome.”
Despite the café’s chilled-out air, the Luchmuns’ journey from Mauritius to Edmonton, where Krite and Reeta, 48, raised their now adult children, has not been an easy one.
The couple came from farming backgrounds in Vallée-des-Prêtres and Vacoas and were the first of their relatives to come to the UK.
Krite emigrated in 1970 to seek work and study business in Leicester. After temporarily going back to Mauritius, he met and married his wife Reeta who then joined him in the UK in 1984.
“We had nothing when we came to England,” she explained, “It was a terrible, terrible struggle. But we both found work in the [Hackney] hospital and eventually opened our first care home in 1992.”
The couple, who now also run a care home in Edmonton, work closely with Natasha in the patisserie. Bienvenue’s head chef and close family friend Vikash Ragoonauth, 38, also came to London from Mauritius, but in 2003.
“I love being a pastry chef because you get to use your own ideas and be creative”, said Ragoonauth who learned his trade at artisan bakery Maison Blanc, and gourmet chains Benugo and Da Baere.
“People like French flavours, but Mauritian food is also becoming more popular here especially after Shelina Permalloo won master chef last year”
“It’s the best food,” he added, “Creole, Chinese, Indian – a vibrant mix.”
In the run up to Christmas, Ragoonauth plans a festive spread of Buche de Noel, yule log with macaroons and more, and Croquembouche, a decadent profiterole tower.
In just one month on the high street, Bienvenue has already settled in.
Its tables are adorned with wild flowers from Evergreen & Outrageous on Stoke Newington Church Street, and the café itself is to be a community hub for local yoga and art events in the coming months.
The Luchmun family favourites
Krite: “I like the light healthy dishes we make like the salads, the Mediterranean ciabatta is my favourite.”
Mediterranean Sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, crème d’olive, pesto & rocket on ciabatta bread £5.50
Reeta: “I love the crepes, especially the savoury ones with all the vegetables are what we’d use in Mauritius – they are delicious.”
La Ratatouille Aubergine, courgette, red onion peppers, gruyere cheese and fried eggs £6.20
Natasha: “The French toast is great, for one it fills you up, but then you just get a nice happy feeling at the end of the meal!”
French Toast Made with our home made brioche, cinnamon, crème fraîche served with organic maple syrup and blueberry £5.50
Vikash: “My signature dish would have to be the cheese cake, it’s a complicated recipe, you won’t find it online or in any books – nowhere!”
Cheesecake Double chocolate, blueberry, or white chocolate and raspberry £2.70