In London, Food is About Tasting Good — and the Greater Good

Coffee

Food can make a difference, hence the concept of “comfort food.” But what if beyond feeding guests’ emotional and physical needs, the food serves a higher purpose and contributes to the greater good (of humanity, the animal kingdom, or any of a host of other causes)? That’s exactly what some of London’s restaurants are aiming for.

The Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” could not be more true or demonstrated better than at London’s Old Spike Roastery, where homelessness is being tackled with coffee and a kick. Here, the homeless actually learn coffee roasting and barista skills.

Cafés With Heart

"The inspiration behind it came after one of the co-founders visited a café run by deaf and blind women in Vietnam. He realized it was possible to start a business that had a clear social mission to help vulnerable members of the community," Richard Robinson, one of Old Spike Roastery’s co-founders, explained to Foodism. "As homelessness has been steadily rising, it felt like an obvious sector to focus our attention on. Coffee felt like a great area to use as the foundation of our business, not least because of the amazing growth it has seen in recent years."

The Dragon Café is the UK’s first restaurant dedicated to the mentally ill — touted as an establishment where everyone can feel “safe” to be themselves. Mental health advocate Sarah Wheeler founded Dragon Café after having a psychotic break of her own years earlier.

"During those three years [of her psychotic episode] I spent a lot of time in cafés and pubs. They were, in effect, my drop-in centres, where I could exist incognito," Wheeler told Foodism. "They were places I could go to be on my own but with people, to have some nourishing food and somehow feel incrementally better."

The Dragon Café is being hailed by local services as a “care model,” and the consensus by visitors is that the Dragon Café is a first-rate operation — from the freshness and nutritional value of the food (vegetarian, not only for the health benefits, but to keep costs down) to the plates and cutlery laid out on the tables (no plastic utensils here), all of which can affect mental well-being. Read more