by Louise Carey, Nov. 20, 2017
With Naomi, Acting Manager @ Cafe Rust
‘It’s quite family-orientated here, quite a close unit […] you don’t really want to leave.’
Is it a café? Is it a restaurant? Café Rust’s humble name is deceptive: this shabby chic eatery is fast becoming a staple of the London Road foodie scene. We spoke to Naomi, the Acting Manager, to find out more about one of the newest and trendiest of London Road’s cafés.
Café Rust is an establishment with hidden depths—literally, in fact. Beneath the main café is a secret cellar party room, with whitewashed walls, exposed brickwork, and tastefully simple wooden furnishings, that can be rented out for events. It easily doubles the size of the initially modest-looking venue, which also boasts a secret garden, screened from the London Road traffic at the back of the café. Clearly, there’s far more to this place than meets the eye.
The surprises don’t end there. You’d expect from the name that Café Rust would be a strictly sandwiches and tea sort of place. It does offer a tempting array of cakes, pastries and lunchtime staples, but it’s actually a restaurant as well. On Tuesday-Friday evenings it transforms into Chard @ Café Rust, with a sparkling menu of seasonal, locally-sourced dishes that changes every month. The café also regularly plays host to pop up kitchens, featuring bespoke menus designed by celebrity chefs. Their most recent event saw MasterChef The Professionals runner-up Sven Hanson Britt serve up a stunning six course meal for just £30.
With so much to offer, what’s not surprising is that this versatile eatery has become a firm favourite for everything from fancy meals out to casual meetings over coffee. One thing that the lunchtime and evening crowds all agree on is how friendly the café’s staff and owners are. We chatted to Naomi, a BIMM-trained artist who is pursuing a career as a professional singer alongside her role as Acting Manager at the café, to find out more about Café Rust’s rise to success.
Naomi has been working at the café almost since it first opened its doors, in January 2015. She was immediately struck by its welcoming atmosphere; three years on, the close-knit staff have become something of a second family to her. ‘I started [working here] through uni and then just stayed,’ she told Daily Brighton. ‘The owners are always here […] so it becomes a bit of a unit.’
It’s clear that Café Rust is more than just a business investment to its owners. They are a familiar sight in the café, chatting to customers and helping out. There’s even a (very entertaining) video on the Café Rust Facebook page of one of them karate-chopping an apple in half. According to Naomi, they’re as happy working behind the scenes as they are entertaining guests behind the counter. They renovated the café before it opened, hand-laying the wooden flooring and even making the counter themselves. ‘They just took it on as their baby,’ Naomi said. Even now, they are still pitching in to help with the day-to-day running of the business. The team are currently sourcing a milk supplier; in the meantime, Naomi explained with a laugh, ‘we’ve been sending the boss to go and get milk, and I don’t think he really enjoys it.’
At the moment, the café is ‘busier than it ever has been,’ with a huge increase in footfall over the past year. Naomi credits word of mouth for this—the owners own several other cafés around Brighton, and word has been getting around about this relative newcomer. The exposure the business gets from being on the Pride parade route can’t hurt either. Pride is one of their busiest days of the year, and when the parade goes by, staff and customers alike down tools and go outside to watch and show their support. Ultimately, though, exposure and publicity mean nothing without a great business at the heart of it all. For Café Rust, the winning combination of good food, welcoming staff, and a seriously stylish venue seems to be paying off—and deservedly so.