First look inside Cardiff’s latest cafe set up by the married couple behind one of the city’s top-rated pubs

Karen and James Rees are the married couple behind one in all Cardiff’s most extremely rated eateries on TripAdvisor, the Thackeray pub. Opening in 2018, the pub has managed to outlive the pandemic and, not solely that, but in addition increase within the type of a soon-to-open neighborhood café at Llanrumney Corridor Neighborhood Belief.

The pair opened the Thackeray pub on Rumney Hill in February 2018 in only one month and have now reworked the neighborhood café at Llanrumney Corridor in only a week, with hopes to formally open in April. They are saying that it’s been a “scary” however “humbling” expertise.

“We feel fortunate that we’ve come out of it [the pandemic] and been able to get another business as well,” Karen stated. “Our pub survived because of locals around us. We’ve got a good community around us and regulars that come into us a few times a week. So, we were grateful for all that, and then when this place [Llanrumney Hall] came up, we were like ‘OK, we’ll give it a try,’” James stated.

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The pair determined to open the café in Llanrumney Corridor after trustee of the corridor and landlord of the Thackeray pub, Steve Borley, approached them after the earlier proprietor of the café left. The café was beforehand the pirate-themed Morgan’s Desk , which reached the highest of TripAdvisor. The Thackeray pub is now in second place on TripAdvisor as essentially the most highly-rated consuming place in Cardiff, so looks like the proper enterprise to take over the positioning of the favored café.

James and Karen Rees opened the Thackeray pub in 2018 and at the moment are set to open Thackeray on the Corridor in Llanrumney

The Llanrumney Corridor Neighborhood Belief is a community-led belief that noticed the corridor reworked right into a neighborhood hub with a spread of companies, opening in 2019. The belief’s goal was to sympathetically restore and redevelop Llanrumney Corridor on Ball Highway, which was initially in-built 1450.

Identified for his or her do-it-yourself pies and Sunday lunches, the couple says they’ve labored onerous to get the pub’s TripAdvisor ranking up over the 4 years since they took over possession. Previous to the pandemic, Karen stated that that they had been wanting on the concept of opening a second Thackeray. “We thought, it’s a local café, it’s in the community. There’s a real buzz about this place now, especially with the hall and what it’s bringing to the community. We thought ‘Right, we’ll give it a try,’” Karen stated.

“We’ve come in and we’ve literally just turned it into a mini Thackeray within a week,” she stated. “I’m pretty good with a paintbrush now.” The couple has reworked the café right into a ‘mini version’ of the pub and at the moment are ready for the final of the kitchen tools to return in earlier than they formally open, which they hope to do round April 12. WalesOnline was invited to a delicate launch of the cafe on March 31.

Thackeray on the Corridor is ready to open at Llanrumney Corridor quickly

Workers members Katie Ramsay and Debbie Wales

The café is ready to have a distinct menu than what’s on provide on the Thackeray pub, with gentle bites, paninis, and breakfasts all within the operating. Because the café is licensed, Karen added that the group need to do bottomless brunches, in addition to a Sunday brunch with eggs benedict, eggs Royale, prosecco, and Bloody Mary’s. “So, it’s your proper Sunday hangover cure from the Saturday night,” James stated.

“We listen to the customer, so if there’s something not on the menu, we’re open to everything. I think that’s kept us where we are, where it’s a two-way street. We’re fortunate to be where we are, so we’ve got to listen to the customer and thrive as much as we can,” Karen stated. “We want the golden groups to come back in, to be able to have a dinner, have a chat, and get out of the house.”

“It’s a community café,” James added. “You could have workies, a solicitor sat there – it makes no odds. Whoever you are, you can come here, sit on a table on your own, if there’s nowhere to sit you can join a table with strangers and probably walk out with three new best friends. That’s the whole thing that we want.”

The café can also be arrange with Wi-Fi for individuals to return and work and has youngsters’s menus accessible to serve the creche within the corridor subsequent door. “It will become what people want it to be,” James stated. “We have to evolve with what people want – if we can get it and we can do it, that’s what we’ll do.”

The cafe has been reworked into the Thackeray on the Corridor

The neighborhood cafe was beforehand the profitable Morgan’s Desk cafe

Karen, 50, and James, 45, have been within the hospitality trade for 25 years. Karen began within the commerce by working on the Ha Ha Bar and Grill that was previously on Cardiff’s Kingsway. She then moved on to develop into normal supervisor at Tiger Tiger, earlier than working for Cosy Membership. Each James and Karen then labored for Brains in addition to doing consultancy work.

The couple met by way of work on the Cosy Membership and have been married for seven years and collectively for ten. “We’ve been together from work from day one and we’ve always worked together since then,” James stated.

He continued: “We used to drink in the Thackeray when it was the Henry Morgan. That was always our stop-off on the way home from work in town. We always used to sit by the bar and say what we could do if we had this pub.”

The pub then went on to open as an a-la-carte restaurant, the Thackeray. Then, in January 2018, James received a text from a former employee to say that the Thackeray had tweeted to say it was closing . James got in touch with one of the owners about the closure, offering any help if needed.

“Within minutes, [they messaged to say] ‘Can you meet at the pub?’ So, we met him at the pub and within ten minutes, ‘There’s the keys – go for it,’” James stated. “That was on January 16 [2018], and on February 16, we opened the pub up.”

He continued: “It’s still scary, but it’s an absolutely amazing feeling. We’ve got to know some amazing friends, and they look after us as much as we look after them.”

The cafe hopes to open in April

The cafe will re-open because the Thackeray on the Corridor

Like many hospitality companies, the Thackeray needed to shut its doorways for a time period throughout the pandemic, shutting for 4 months throughout the first lockdown, after which for an additional two months round Christmastime in 2020.

“The first one we were kind of like ‘It’s going to be a couple of weeks, we’ll have a couple of weeks off’ – which we’ve never, ever, ever had, that amount of time off. Then it went on, and went on, and carried on and we started to worry a little bit,” James stated of the pub’s survival over the course of the pandemic. “We had assist with sure authorities grants, however they didn’t even cowl gasoline and electrical payments, as a result of we nonetheless needed to pay these though the enterprise was closed.”

“Steve [Borley] had stopped our rent and everything and didn’t defer it, so we didn’t have that worry,” Karen added. “But we put all the staff on furlough. That was my biggest worry – thinking ‘We’ve got 16 staff, what’s going to happen to them?’ We were fortunate in that we were able to look after them.”

“Hospitality got absolutely decimated [during the pandemic]. We’re still seeing the knock on effects now when you’re trying to get kitchen staff and they don’t want to do it. People think this trade is easy, and it really, really isn’t,” James added.

Karen says that the pub still carries out risk assessments to ensure that customers feel safe when they come in and to re-assure people. She says that they feel “humbled” to have come through the pandemic.

“When you’ve got friends in the trade that have lost businesses and haven’t re-opened again… You can walk around town and it’s not the same,” Karen said. “So, we feel really humbled that we’ve been given an opportunity to do this and, hopefully, more to come.”

James says that they hope to set up a training school at the hall further down the line, bringing in new chef and new front of house staff. “We want to show people it is a rewarding job,” he said. “If you put the time and the effort in, you can climb the ladder and get to the top.”

The Thackeray pub has also started using the Kickstart scheme, which provides funding to create new jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long term unemployment.

“I think this is the nice thing about having the pub in here [the hall], just getting people back together, sitting around the table and talking, because mental health is a big thing for us,” Karen added. “For us to be able to do either things like workshops, or just have people come in and know they can talk about anything with us.”

James and Karen with workers members Katie and Debbie

The cafe after its transformation

The local people has additionally been concerned within the opening of the café on the corridor, with a gaggle of 17-22-year-olds from Cardiff and Vale School having re-painted all of the chairs, regardless of not having any DIY expertise beforehand. “That just shows to us that, if you give someone a project […] that’s the result,” James added.

The couple gave due to the pub’s landlord, Steve Borley, and his spouse Christine for “being a constant” by way of the course of the pandemic, in addition to Paula Oaten, who has been operating the Thackeray pub whereas Karen and Steve arrange the café, and their chef Mark Rowe.

“We want to say thank you to our staff and the pub and our regulars and family, because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are. We’ve been able to take our time out of the pub to come here and do this,” Karen stated.

“It’s nice to know that we’re doing a second one [Thackeray] now after all the effort we put into the Thackeray at the beginning,” she stated of the cafe’s opening. She added: “I think there are exciting times going around Llanrumney Hall.”

“Llanrumney in general,” James added. “With the multi-sports pitch that’s going there [next to the hall] and potentially a few more further on down the other end of Ball Road, there’s a lot.” The corridor is a busy place with tons taking place in numerous areas, from The Pantry, which goals to cut back meals poverty within the Cardiff East space, to a music and recording studio that opened on the grounds in February.

“I think it’s just trying to break down the barriers of what people think of Llanrumney,”James stated. “It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there’s good parts and there’s rough parts and most of the time they mix together. In a community place like this, you could have a workman sat next to a solicitor. It makes no difference. That’s what we want.”

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