In Conversation With: Friends of Ours
Countryside caught up with Anthony Dyer, 39, the founder of Hoxton-based brunch spot and coffee shop Friends of Ours, located just a short walk from its new development Dash.
What inspired you to set up a café?
In 2011, I decided to take a break from my career as a recruiter for the banking sector and move to Melbourne. The idea was to work alongside my friend in his café and learn as much as possible about what it takes to run one.
My friend was familiar with the local food and beverage scene and took me to some of the best coffee shops and brunch hotspots. Australia is known for its coffee culture and delicious food, so being able to experience that first-hand was a great opportunity.
All the best cafes in Melbourne that we went to had three things in common: excellent food – often quaint and innovative; great coffee with the best milk and outstanding hospitality – attentive service coupled with friendliness and genuine interest in customers.
Upon my return to London, I was filled with enthusiasm and started looking for a suitable location for my own café.
Why did you choose Hoxton?
When I worked in recruitment, I spent a few years working in Hoxton, so was very well familiar with the area and knew some of the people who lived locally.
It’s a very vibrant part of London, a real hub buzzing with energy, and many of those who live and work there have an appreciation for quality coffee and food. In 2015, a former kebab shop on Pitfield Street became vacant, so I seized the opportunity and made an offer on the space.
Hoxton is a creative cluster in a busy part of London, but there is also a strong sense of community, which has always appealed to me. People seem to be open and relaxed, which is really rare and precious in a megapolis, like London.
What is so special about Friends of Ours?
We’re a neighbourhood café and know most of our customers by name. With London being such a fast-paced city, it’s not something people get very often. We take time to get to know our customers and try to anticipate their wishes.
The human element plays a very important role in our business, so this is something we pay very close attention to. We also like to experiment with food and offer our customers something unique, and of course, we serve excellent coffee.
What’s your lockdown experience been like?
Like many other businesses in the hospitality industry, we had to significantly adjust our ways of working because of the temporary restrictions. We shifted our focus to take-away-only and stocked up on cleaning supplies.
We were amazed by the level of support we received from our customers – it hasn’t been an easy period for many, but our regular customers continued to buy coffee and food from us regardless, which we’re grateful for.
Are you currently making any post-lockdown plans?
Absolutely. Once we’re able to fully reopen, we’d like to introduce a new menu, offering our customers something exciting. During lockdown, we’ve noticed that take-away food was doing really well, and we don’t think this trend is likely to disappear once things get back to normal.
There’s definitely an appetite to replicate the restaurant experience at home, and we will soon start offering more options for those wanting top-notch meals that can be reheated at home.
Of course, this period has been a challenging one for us, and thousands of other businesses and individuals, but we’re very optimistic – thanks to the support of our community, we hope to emerge from these unusual circumstances stronger and be able to offer our customers an even better experience.
Friends of Ours is located on 61 Pitfield Street, Hoxton, 6BU, with home deliveries available via Deliveroo and Slerp.