New Cross arts café, Out Of The Brew provides a space for creative people to eat good food, drink good drink and host great events.
We love the ethos of this local eatery nearby our Deptford Foundry development so wanted to find out more from Owner, Mel Shakespeare following the café’s recent one year birthday celebrations.
Congratulations on your first year anniversary! What’s been your stand out highlight with Out of the Brew so far?
The highlight of the year has to be our First Year Anniversary Party. We used this event as an opportunity to promote and showcase all the suppliers that have been carefully chosen, and all the acts that have performed at Out Of The Brew. For example, Little Bird Gin developed a cocktail especially for us bearing in mind that we like to use natural ingredients where possible. My chef, Lizzie Arber, very artfully used our tea from the Tea House to make some cakes, and our hot chocolate from Jaz and Juls to make some chocolate tarts. Olly’s Turkish provided the food in the garden, who will be working with us again.
We invited a number of performers, poets, singers, comedians, and speakers such as Party Island, Currant Bun, Average Pig, and a number of Goldsmiths Societies that had used the space before to each have an hours slot to entertain guests, and Felix from Marbles DJ-ed late into the night.
Everyone had a really great time and it was a defining moment for us in that everything came together and the staff really worked hard to put that all into place.
How did Out of the Brew come about?
Out Of The Brew is an idea that I had two or three years ago when I realised that it would be a way to combine a lot of the things that I care about and feel are important. I like the idea of creating a space where people can nurse a cup of coffee, or tea or a beer - to think about anything from life to politics to arts. Hence the name Out Of The Brew. There’s nothing I like more than when my customers are engaged in a lively discussion at one of the tables, or rehearsing a few lines from a play very loudly.
I love it when people come to us with ideas that we can implement which is why we have comedy nights, scratch poetry events, cinema showings, art exhibitions and a Stitch & Bitch workshop. We are also hosting an African supper club with Bobolo Kitchen – it is really exciting that these ingredients are all locally available but we know nothing about the wonderful dishes that can be made.
It’s important to have a space to think but also to have a place where you can experiment and potentially make mistakes. I know that Out Of The Brew isn’t going to change the world itself but against a backdrop of Brexit, US politics and a backlash of racism it is vital that we have safe places for creative thinking.
What is your background? Was it an ambition of yours to one day open an eatery?
My background is in the arts. I have an MA in fine art and was a practising artist for a number of years. But it is also the many years I spent as a mother bringing up a large and complex family which provides me with skills that I can bring to the table.
As an installation artist, my response to the café space was to open it up, the garden and basement included, which is why we have two unusual spaces that we can do unusual events in. I wanted to bring light in to the space which had been cosy but dark and I refurbished the whole space myself with help from some great people including my family.
I know from experience that food is a powerful tool to create conviviality, to nurture and nourish, and also to learn about other cultures, and I wanted to include that in Out Of The Brew. To that end, we try to deliver good, healthy, hearty food which at the very least is fresh and made in house.
What drew you to New Cross?
I am South East London, born and bred. I’ve known New Cross for a long time and seen it go through some changes. It seemed an appropriate place to open a cafe/bar because it has always been a place of creativity but always been slightly politicised in some way, whether that be through the local communities or the students of Goldsmiths.
How would you describe Out of the Brew in 3 words?
That’s a tough one but I’d go for…nourishment, creativity and fun.
Can you tell us a little more about the local suppliers you use?
In terms of suppliers we use Fourpure Brewery based in Bermondsey, for their use of sustainability in the process used to make their fantastic craft beer. Nearby to them is Flour Power City whose bread and cakes are organic who is one of our main suppliers. We also use the Black Sheep Coffee Company based in East London for their creative use of the Robusta bean; their aim is to educate persistent reoffenders to make them employable. They are also working with a women’s cooperative in Nicaragua to provide fair-trade beans, which we have used for our filter coffee.
Little Bird Gin is our house pour, but we also use a number of other distillers for our Lazy Tour of London. Our soft drinks include the delicious Karma Cola, Gingerella and Lemony Lemonade from the Karma Cola Company, who use fair-trade principles and source their cola nuts from farmers in Sierra Leone.
Tea is something we take very seriously and only use loose leaf tea which we will put into ecologically sensitive teabags. As well as the Tea House we use the Brew Tea Company, a small, young outfit that gave us our gorgeous teapots.
We also use Quantum Waste, a private company based in Deptford, who hand sort the rubbish themselves, recycle where they can and are planning some allotments that will utilise some of the waste.
We hear you make your own cordials – how does this work?
I am working hard in our garden which has figs, apples, pears, cherries, plums, peaches, grapes, rhubarb and golden raspberries. This is a real labour of love as the trees are not new stock and need a lot of work. The aim is eventually to be able to use the produce in our dishes and also the cocktails. We make all the syrups to go into the cocktails, and shrubs too. We also use interesting and natural garnishes and I’m growing lots of herbs and lavender to use as garnishes. These will also be going into our cordials so that they feel just as celebratory as a cocktail.
What’s your favourite event you host?
I couldn’t name one specific event as my favourite but we once had a company called Cinetopia who showed a series of films which was good fun. The theme was monochrome and all the films were made in black and white in the age of colour which I thought was an interesting concept. I’m trying to work out the technical aspects to showing films in the garden in the summer and would love for them to do something.
What other events do you have coming up?
There is always plenty going on at Out of the Brew and this year we are putting even more regular events in place. These events will include an Open Mic hosted on the last Friday of every month, Stitch and Bitch will be the last Sunday of every month, and Olly’s Turkish will be on Saturday evenings. Also, young company, Anthropocine have been showing films with an environmental theme once a month with us.
We have an exhibition in June of work made by some young people, facilitated by CEN who are doing some very interesting community work. I’m also very keen to develop a project whereby we collect apples from local people, send them off to Urban Orchards, who for a percentage will make them into cider and we can have a party in the garden with our very own New Cross cider!
We also have some ideas about how to use our waste to host some suppers for homeless people on a regular basis.
If you could describe New Cross as a drink, what would it be?
It would have to be a Bloody Mary, which is something I’m contemplating developing at Out Of The Brew. It’s spicy, perks you up and can be bloody minded but hey it’s got alcohol in it. What’s not to love?