Freshly opened on the corner of Mountgrove Road and Wilberforce Road, Fink's Salt and Sweet Cafe is an absolute delight to behold. Having recently moved away from the area, I was crushed and thrilled at the same time to learn that in this little residential nook of North London, a special type of establishment was opening. Formerly a butcher's, a greengrocer's and a military memorabilia store, it's filled with quirks from former days.
Not just a cafe, Fink's offers a deli counter, little-known wines by the box, special olive oil, 'sexy pesto', and much, much more to come. I set straight to interviewing the charming proprietors, Mat and Jess, to find out more about their venture, which sees a cosy future of late morning brunches, early evening glasses of wine and raucous and intimate dining with your friends and neighbours.
If you live in the area, I'm definitely jealous of you.
If you don't, who cares? You ought to check it out anyway.
Where are you from?
M: I’m the country mouse from Somerset but I’ve lived in London for 10-years, specifically in this part for 4 and the rest around the North.
J: I’m from upstairs but I’ve always lived in London. I’ve crept through Camden and Holloway and finally, here.
Why did you choose this area?
M: I just love the leafy, residential aspect and the pockets of places here- I just LOVE North London. I’ve lived in Arsenal and Holloway and there’s this nice, laid back and easy attitude around.
J: Yeah it’s just a really great spot between the throng of Finsbury Park and Stoke Newington. It was almost crying out for something.
M: Obviously you’ve got the beautiful Clissold Park on one side but on the other, the traffic on Blackstock Road, the parks the schools and the young pros so there’s this ‘everything’ vibe but there was a limit to the places in this particular nook that you could just ‘pop out’ to. I used to struggle to find somewhere to ‘pop out’ to. Now, that’s us.
J: Mmm, you just couldn’t ‘fall’ into a place around here. So we’ve brought together the best of Hackney (where I’ve worked) and Soho (where Matt’s worked) and made a middle-ground so there’s a little touch of each married with this area- we’ve tuned into multiple London cultures.
What makes you different or special?
M: I think what makes us different and special is the neighbourhood. We really built this place around servicing THIS bespoke area. So we have everything you might need from a fancy bottle of wine, to a £3 glass from a carafe. If you want a special cheese or literally the jar of biscuit butter from the shelf, it’s yours.
We’re a little off the beaten track from the shops and restaurants so we know to succeed we ought to have different guises; to wear lots of hats, so that we reach the breadth of quite a wide niche. We want to keep a captive audience and so the experience changes with the time of day and the mood, from a coffee in the morning, to a glass of wine with friends in the evening and then, into the winter, some hot dishes to enjoy straight from our oven.
Describe the café in three words
Your fridge (but) better?
That's cheating a little but we like to think we're a bit like a larder or a pantry filled with all the delicious things you'd love to have in stock all the time, not just for parties.
M: Well, nothing for the last 8 weeks but certainly I like going out and eating with friends…These days I really prefer impromptu meetings. There is nothing more enjoyable than a local pub with a few friends or places without agenda. You know, ‘no rules’ places where you can order what you want to the table or grab some stuff on the way to the park or wherever you’re heading off to next, even if it’s home.
J: I love markets. And I love food markets. Broadway Market, Farmers Markets, antiques markets, cheap and crap markets... AND the great thing is I have a good excuse to go to markets now that we have this place. Now when I find a bargain lot of 25 antique trays, they’re mine (and with good reason).
How did you two meet by the way?
E: We’re kind of like an arranged marriage that worked out! Matt is the partner of a friend and we got to talking and transformed my studio into the cafe. Now we’re Finks and business partners.