Barking Park cafe given new lease of life

Monika Drozd says the coffee she serves is "better than Costa".

Monika Drozd says the coffee she serves is "better than Costa". - Credit: Archant

A park-lover is hoping to grow a new crowd after taking over an empty café.

Monika Drozd says the coffee she serves is "better than Costa".

Monika Drozd says the coffee she serves is "better than Costa". - Credit: Archant

Monika Drozd opened Big Friendly Coffee in Barking Park last month after spying a business opportunity from her position as boat operator at the nextdoor lake.

“It’s a beautiful spot right in the middle of the park, it’s beautiful for families and members and needs to be used by the public,” explained the 35-year-old, who is leasing the building from the council.

With the help of her brother and a host of helpers, Monika has transformed the former greasy spoon Café in the Park into a chilled family space in just four weeks.

Fried food is no longer on the menu, and Monika has gone for a smoother aesthetic which includes wooden cloud cut-outs hanging from the ceiling and a black, white and duck-egg colour scheme.

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“It feels like you are at home, it’s very friendly,” said the Woodford Green resident, who is employing up to four members of staff on busy days.

“We’ve got facilities for mums who can heat up their milk here, as well as a book-swap and community board.”

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Serving everything from croissants to cookies and “better than Costa” coffee and baguettes, Monika wants to attract customers all year round, even when her company Place Your Space aren’t operating their seasonal boat trips.

“Everyone needs to know that it’s open. It used to be a seasonal business but you need to let people know you are going to be open.

Monika, a trained psychologist, arrived in London 15 years ago from her native Torun in Poland, and has always been drawn to green spaces after gaining experience at Hyde Park.

“I love having that freedom, it’s that personal touch when you are in the park you get to know all the people, it gets very personal,” she explained.

“I love parks, that’s my focus, she admitted, adding: “I want to give something back, making money on its own isn’t enough. I love the fact that you can make a tiny difference in the community.”

Big Friendly Coffee is open 9-5, Monday to Sunday.

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