If Babushka was any closer to the sea, they’d need to supply customers with life jackets. Perched on the pier beside Portrush’s West Strand this tiny but increasingly influential kitchen café is at the forefront of a north coast food and drink revolution. At the tiller is George (Nelson) dad to Babushka’s ‘surrogate family’, as George calls his staff, and the driving force behind a business that is fast approaching cult status.
George had already dabbled with the catering business, testing out his personal twist on often simple foods, cooked to perfection, using locally produced organic ingredients. From that portable kitchen on Rathlin island and a focus on food, he has been transformed into, and I don’t think he will mind us calling him this, a ‘coffee nerd’.
“I was always focused on producing quality food. It didn’t have to be fancy, but it had to taste good. It would have been a contradiction to then serve any old coffee. I set about learning more. That’s really how it got going.”
That thirst for knowledge also extended beyond beans and barista. “I first went to the Causeway Enterprise Agency when I was working on the stall and involved in event catering. The advice and training I received helped confirm for me that there was definitely a viable business here.
“A lot of the ‘Go For It!’ processes were extremely valuable. They made you think about exactly what it was you wanted to do. Who you are. Of course, it’s important to have passion for your business, your time is the most valuable thing and you’re going to devote an awful lot of time and energy.
“But passion alone isn’t enough, and it’s equally important to keep learning, expanding your knowledge. ‘Go For It’ offers a network of support, advice on business structure, opportunities to network, vital ingredients for a successful start-up.”
Babushka Kitchen Café has managed to cultivate a relaxed, warm, family atmosphere within its cloistered confines. It’s fitting really, give the name’s origins.
“Granny’s home cooking you might say. My grandmother was born on the Russian/Chinese border. I always called her Babushka (Russian for grandmother). So, to name the café Babushka was something personal, a reflection of our ethos I suppose, homemade, and made with love.”
‘A super cool café’, is how Trish Deseine, renowned Irish food writer and cookbook author, described Babushka. That’s only the start.