food

'I tried Ilford's best café according to TripAdvisor that's been run by the same family for 20 years'

food, 'i tried ilford's best café according to tripadvisor that's been run by the same family for 20 years'

Café 104 on Tanners Lane offers a great atmosphere and amazing food

In a recent search for much-needed food and coffee, I took to TripAdvisor to find the best rated café in Ilford. Stumbling across Café 104, a family-run business in the heart of the the town, I dived inside was instantly greeted with a warm environment and welcoming staff.

The café, situated on Tanners Lane, offers cosy surroundings and a surprisingly extensive menu. Taking a seat, I asked for a coffee and couldn’t resist adding homemade blueberry pancakes topped with bananas and strawberries to my order.

Once sat, I chatted with the owner, Tamer Aygul, who has been running the businesses for an impressive 20 years alongside his brother-in-law. They will be celebrating their anniversary next year after opening their doors back in 2003.

Even the staff have stayed the course of the café’s journey, and one member has been a part of the team since the business opened. Other members have stuck around for the last 10 years and this was visible upon entering as they laughed and joked with each other, behaving like a family.

Speaking about the café, Tamer said: “We opened back in 2003 and things were so different back then, the community was different, the times were different. But, we have worked hard over the years to build up our loyal customer base.

“We have lots of regulars and usuals that come in and the community all know each other as well. We like to serve good food with fresh ingredients that gives our customers a good value for money.” That explains why the little café is still going after 20 years, surviving through Brexit, the pandemic and most recently rising energy bills and so far the cost of living crisis.

The menu was incredibly wide ranging for such a modest establishment and customers can order anything from an all-day breakfast, healthy chicken salads, burgers and chips and Belgian waffles with all the trimmings – all for under £10.

I also asked Tamer, a father-of-one, how the business was surviving with rising costs. He said: “It’s been very hard. We’re trying not to put our prices up but it’s very difficult as our gas and electricity bills are going up. But we’ve tried to be flexible and versatile for our customers, there’s a little something here for everyone to enjoy.”

Tamer added that he’s had to move with the times as the years have gone by, even adding delivery services for their delicious food to cater for their younger customer base. “We’ve got platforms on Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat,” he said, noting that the café usually has around 100 orders each week from delivery sites.

“However, if we’re busy with customers in the café, we shut it off. Making sure the customers here are happy is our priority,” he said. Even though the café has adapted to the times, there are some details Tamer is reluctant to give up.

“I like that we have an old-fashioned ordering system,” he said. “The waitress will come to your table with a pen and paper and take your order. I’m worried about how we might have to update that, but I don’t want to have us walking around with iPads.

“As soon as that happens, you lose eye contact with your customer, and it’s important to keep that connection and to engage with people.”

When asked how he was feeling about the future of the business, he added: “I think we’re just at the start of this storm. But we’ve been through a lot and I’m sure we’ll be okay. Hopefully we’ll be doing something big next year to celebrate 20 years.”

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