Forest Hill coffee house expands evening menu

St. David Coffee House owner Sian Polhill-Thomas Pic: Aleksandra Michalik

St. David Coffee House owner Sian Polhill-Thomas Pic: Aleksandra Michalik

St. David Coffee House, based in Forest Hill, is not a typical coffee, breakfast and lunch spot.

In addition, at weekends it serves cheese and wine, while there is Singaporean food on Thursdays. It is also an art gallery and a home to community events.

And now it has expanded to offering a regular pizza evening on Wednesdays, featuring local providers Van Dough.

Co-owner of St. David, Sian Polhill- Thomas, 31, contacted Van Dough after trying their pizza at a local market.

Polhill- Thomas said: “I though [the pizza] was amazing, I love street food and wanted to incorporate it into our shop.”

The success of a once a month pizza evening led Polhill- Thomas to make it a weekly event.

On the evenings they pop up at St. David, Van Dough park their Citroen van, equipped with a wood fire oven outside and serve the pizzas inside the coffee house.

Pizza evenings are just one of the many activities held at St. David. Polhill-Thomas said: “As hard work as it is, it’s so rewarding, and you just instantly become a part of the community.”

To celebrate the Chelsea Flower Show, St. David and a local florist held a planting workshop for local children, accompanied by pizza served with edible flowers.

Polhill- Thomas said: “We’re up for anything like that, anything that gets the community out.”

On Thursday nights they serve Laksa, a traditional Singaporean dish prepared by a friend who has a London pop-up called Nyonya. “It’s just been a great launch for him to start his own business,” said Polhill- Thomas.

Then on Fridays and Saturdays the shop offers a more relaxed atmosphere with wine and cheese boards.

“I just felt like the area was really shouting out for something like that,” said Polhill-Thomas about why the café has expanded into evening entertainment.

She added: “Forrest Hill is very friendly and is full of artists… it is quite community led.”

It’s the customers who keep coming back though that makes Polhill-Thomas want to continue to expand her coffee shop: “We all love the returning customers and get on really well. We pride ourselves on aiming to know what drink they have, what they’ve been up to during their day, where they work and that sort of stuff.”

Polhill- Thomas, an actress herself, stressed the importance of flexible shifts for her staff, who are all young people involved in the creative industries. “I want people to feel like they can fulfil what they are meant to be fulfilling,” she said.

St. David supports art in Forest Hill by exhibiting work by local artists on the walls of the shop and holding private viewings. The art is rotated every six weeks. “It’s so nice cause not only do they get to showcase their work, our cafe changes all the time we get a new piece of work up,” said Polhill- Thomas.

Despite all the extra activities, St. David’s has not forgotten that its primary function is serving coffee. As Polhill- Thomas emphasised: “We really take the quality of the coffee seriously.”

To emphasize this, Polhill-Thomas uses Square Mile Coffee Roasters in the cafe, which requires up to six months of training before a barista is allowed to prepare their coffee.

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