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Three-year deal for Heath café saved from chain takeover

Hoxton Beach falafel operators to run Parliament Hill Lido cafe

22 May, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Albert D’Auria after the New Journal broke the news to him last year that his cafe had been saved

A FAMILY-RUN café on Hampstead Heath saved from closure after a public backlash against plans to replace it with a coffee chain is to get a new three-year lease.

The D’Auria family was told by the Heath managers, the City of London, that the new deal for the Parliament Hill Fields café will begin in January. They have run the café for more than three decades but the keys were almost handed over to nationwide food company Benugo last year – until the City agreed to look at the contracts again. Benugo had pulled out after angry protests on the Heath to the change.

Alberto D’Auria, owner of the café, told the New Journal: “The new lease is great news. We are very happy – we always try our best to satisfy our customers and always try to improve. We are so pleased with all the support we have had.”

Around £120,000 has been spent on upgrading the kitchen and bringing in new coffee machines. Mr D’Auria’s son Alfonso said new menu options were planned but affordable pasta favourites would still be on offer. The new deal was confirmed at a meeting of the City on Monday, where a contract was also awarded to husband and wife team Patrick Matthews and Emma Fernandez to manage the café at the Parliament Hill Lido.

Patrick Matthews and Emma Fernandez will run the cafe Parliament Hill Lido

The couple run the falafel firm Hoxton Beach and plan to serve food in the café and on the terrace overlooking the pool at the Lido. Mr Matthews, a wine writer and chef, said: “We love the Lido. It has a really strong community feel and we can make it work. It is a café on the Heath in a beautiful building. Why wouldn’t you want to come and have a coffee or some food here? There is something very romantic about it, and there is a beautiful energy to the place. It is very special.”

Mr Matthews also manages a café at the London Fields Lido. From Kentish Town, he put in a bid for the site when the previous operator, Tara Kingsley, closed the café last year in the 1930s grade-II listed swimming pool. The couple will be offering “proper, cooked breakfasts, a lovely dish of the day and, of course, falafels”.

Mr Matthews added: “We will have a really attractive menu.”

Leases have also been offered to the cafés in Golders Hill Park and Highgate Woods. Heath superintendent Bob Warnock said: “We have listened carefully to what our visitors want from the Heath’s cafés. Our public engagement and consultation exercise found that the cafés are valued as community hubs, highlighting that customers want quality food at a reasonable price and a friendly atmosphere above anything else

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