Vanilla makes Churchfield Road smell sweeter

Behind the counter at new cafe-deli

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Janice Heskett was living in Station House behind the Churchfield Pub when she first had the idea of running a delicatessen on Churchfield Road. She now lives in what estate agents call 'the heart of Poet's Corner'. As a fussy eater herself who eats mainly organic food, she recognised that there was nowhere in the area where people could go to buy interesting pesto, unusual biscuits or mozzarella cheese.

The idea soon began to gain momentum as Janice, accompanied by her daughter Danielle, started to trawl the internet for delicious produce. Inevitably, this led them on a time-consuming 12-month foodie search as there is no substitute for tasting. They rejected many companies when they found produce that was less than delicious. The search was made even more difficult by their insistence that all food has to be ethical and organic. 

Two more staff were by now on the scene: Sarah Ireland, an actress who works in Vanilla while 'resting', and Marc McGowan, who Janice calls 'the coffee man'. Marc worked behind the bar in the Rocket and has also worked in Costa Coffee. 

The team selected a range of organic food. Meat comes from an organic farm in Eastertown, Somerset; chicken - cooked in the Rocket's kitchen - from Devon Rose (mainly Somerset) cheese from the family-run firm Longman's cheeses and some imported from elsewhere. The bread comes from a bakery in South London called Simply Bread. Everything also had to be reasonably priced and it was important to the whole team that the food should be organic and Fairtrade, but not to the point where taste is sacrificed and prices are too high. Janice even found some 'to go' cups where were made from PLA (cornstarch) making them compostable. Other cups and paper goods are supplied from sustainable forests. 

If this all sounds much too worthy, it shouldn't. A trip to Vanilla is always a treat. It's perfect for fussy customers - always smells delicious and is spotlessly clean. The team are quietly welcoming and the arrangement of tables makes it pleasantly easy to smile and chat to your fellow Actonites. Finally there's somewhere for mums and single women to go on Churchfield Road where they can enjoy a delicious latte, breakfast, lunch, cakes and feel welcome. Their children will be offered a free lolly and Janice will be getting in some colouring books to keep them occupied. 

Janice says she has lived "all over the place". She loves Acton and feels like it's home: "It has a real community feel to it." She is sad about the demise of the Dog and Duck and the old Craft shop and dreams of an independent/secondhand bookshop on Churchfield Road where people could enjoy a delicious (Vanilla) cappuccino while they browse. She is keen to have feedback from her customers and for people to let her know what they would like to be able to buy in Vanilla. See you for coffee next week. 

Clare Gittins

June 16, 2006