How Dalston may yet be a foodie destination

Dalston Sq London E8 2013 ©

* UPDATE: Nancys Pantry, mentioned on this page, fell victim to a serious fire and did not reopen. In autumn 2015 the site was leased to a national chain


OF ALL the spaces in the former dining desert of E8 likely to cook up culinary excitement, Dalston Square would have been at the bottom of the list.

Yet the developer-created plaza, above, this week became home to a fourth café, Nancys Pantry, that quickly attracted enough diners to give its spacious interior the ambience that customers and owners crave.

Nancys Pantry (the apostrophe seems to live only in the Twitter profile) is a family enterprise: Gemma Timms runs front of house while father Michael Dawson runs the kitchen and the name is also her daughter’s.

Isn’t she nervous about opening in the wake of a recession, in mid-winter and next to two – soon to be three – other outlets, plus Farr’s School of Dancing near by in  Dalston Lane?

“No,” Timms, once a highly placed civil servant, told Loving Dalston. “You need a buzz so that people see Dalston Square as a foodie destination.”

FFamily affair: Gemma Timms of Nancys Pantry Dalston London E8 Feb 2014 ©
Family affair: Gemma Timms of Nancys Pantry

A mother of two, she has established a niche for the café: it is child-based and organic.

As the website emphasises, “children will be encouraged to explore and experiment with nature and science” as their parents “eat food that caters better than anywhere else for food intolerances”.

Another restaurant, Le Ziz, has told Loving Dalston it hopes to open this month February 2014.

At Café Route, co-owner Mehmet Akis is, like Timms, putting a brave face on the growing number of rivals. He said: “We feel that it [Nancys Pantry] will bring more people to the square.” He has reason to be confident: Café Route will celebrate reaching its first anniversary this April 2014.

Residents of the Barratt towers, BMX bike-riding youths, short-cut commuters rushing to Dalston Junction transport and users of the Dalston library may soon be joined by more food-lovers. A pub company wants to open a tapas bar, a pizzeria and a sushi outlet which, including the library café, will bring to seven the number of eateries in the square.

Gary Patrick, Barratt London’s regional sales director, commented: “We are committed to building communities and we are delighted that the vision of a lively, engaged and sustainable neighbourhood that we shared with our partners here in Dalston has become a reality.”

David Altheer 150214

* Backstory: new Haggerston and Dalston eateries 

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

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