Sunday, 10 March 2013
Windy Corner Stores
They do things differently at Windy Corner Stores. There’s a deliberate quirkiness about the place. The tip box on the counter asks for donations towards ‘Psychiatrists Fees,’ a request which raises a smile and, if anything, seems to encourage more generous giving.
Windy Corner is a local store, a bohemian cafe with solid wooden tables serving breakfasts, lunches, teas and fresh home-made bread. They don’t rush, breakfast comes when its ready. The store smells of garden herbs, earthy coffee beans and cooking.
There’s a little bit of everything for everyone, free dog biscuits at the entrance, a scattering of children’s wooden toys, sketches and postcards made by local artists, sweets stacked up on vintage fruit and vegetable crates. There’s a notice board with advertisements for yoga retreats, organic food suppliers, local gigs and meditation classes. On the shelves stretching the length of an entire wall are random arrangements of summer holiday conveniences; ales and wines, olive oil, bread, fruit, marmalade and jams, pickles, ketchup, ice cream cones, baby wipes and washing up liquid. In summer the store offers barbeque packswith the barbeque itself to take down to the beach.
Places like Windy Corner Stores naturally attract a more eclectic mix of customers than the polarised sorts who on the one hand will stick to their local ‘greasy spoons’ with a religious fervour and the others, dedicated to overpriced designer coffee bars. I’ve spotted young and old, writers, builders, foodies and the occasional ‘lunatic’ wafting around inside. And every now again there’s people like me, with my raucous nephews, who unashamedly vandalised the table and a guest with stickers of ‘Pepper Pig’ and his friends.
You get the feel that anyone is welcome, that it’s a place for people, whoever they are and wherever they’re going. But over the few years I have lived in Whitstable, I’ve come to realise that the quirkiness of Windy Corner Stores is not just for show. There’s a serious side to how they operate, rooted in a community, which while appearing idyllic, like many others around the UK, has to deal with the uncomfortable reality of intolerance. The store, in its own way makes a stand that few others would. This January when protesters took to the streets in an effort to stop the closure of the Cromwell Road post office, Windy Corner Stores provided them with tea and coffee. Last year, after college tutor Norman Maciver was beaten up in a racially motivated attack residents gathered in Nelson Road, to show that racism and other hate crimes will not be tolerated in Whitstable. Windy Corners provided the meeting place, and the teas and coffees.
It's busiest at breakfast on the weekends, but everyone manages to squeeze in somehow – they have just expanded with bar style seating at the back. There’s also the Coastguard’s Ally bench outside on the porch for summer days.
Coffees are strong and robust, excellent with the French pastries, hot croissants, and cakes on the counter. For the more traditional, try a full English breakfast of fried eggs, fried bacon, sausages, bubble and squeak; and if you are more inclined to the alternative, there is a healthy breakfast of creamy poached eggs, chunky slices of wholemeal bread, mushrooms, beetroot, spinach leaves, fennel and tomato. If you want to pretend you’re healthy, but also fancy something fried like I did, that’s fine too.
‘You mean you want the healthy breakfast with a high calorie option’ my waitress asked.
‘Afraid so, just throw in some beetroot with the fry up and my conscience is clear.’ So she did. Spinach, fried bacon and beetroot. Like I said before, they do things differently.
Windy Corner Stores describes itself as a ‘community’ cafe and general store, which it truly is in all senses of the word. You will find it on the corner of Island Wall and Nelson Road. It looks ordinary from outside, but step in and you’ll see that it’s not.