‘I Can’t Help Myself’
(from taking another bite): discovering the soul of London Road’s new café
Watching my partner gleefully devour his slice of chocolate Guinness cake at the recently opened Sugarpie Honeybuns café, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the Four Tops, when they sang “I love you and nobody else” in I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch), had ever envisioned this line relating to a single slice of cake. Yet, for Lu Biggs and Ray Manning, the Four Tops are a key inspiration for their new café; a beautifully decorated space that they hope will bring food, music and members of the community together.
Sugarpie Honeybuns currently offer a variety of mainly vegetarian quiches, galettes, soups and a ‘dish of the day’, as well as locally-made sourdough and a range of baked goods, including gluten-free options. On our visit, my partner opted for the ‘dish of the day’; a subtly smoky spicy bean stew that was served with deliciously chewy and tangy sourdough. I chose a slice of the sweet potato, goat’s cheese and rocket quiche that was served with two colourful salads – a zingy cherry tomato and mint number and a carrot, apple and cabbage slaw scattered with crunchy pumpkin seeds. My meal also arrived with an unexpected little bowl of ‘fridge pickles’–capers, celery and carrots spiked with cumin that perfectly contrasted with the richness of the quiche. Each lunch plate was £5.50, which was excellent value for the quantity and quality of food, but my partner and I were too tempted by the counter loaded with sweet goodies to finish our lunch just yet. While my partner went for a piece of that Guinness cake, I opted for a slice of chocolate/coconut loaf recommended by a passing customer. Although I found my cake a little heavy for my liking, it was well-made with high-quality dark chocolate. This attention to quality and detail is apparent not just in the food, but also in the aesthetic look of the café as a whole. Floor to ceiling windows that look out to London Road flood the space with a bright natural light, and the assortment of vintage wooden furniture was carefully selected by Ray and Lu from local dealers and auctions. The counter, handmade from wooden pallets, makes a further unusual feature point.
New beginnings for Lu and Ray
While Sugarpie Honeybuns is a new venture for Lu and Ray, who moved down to the area nearly three years ago, neither are strangers to two of its most important elements: food and music. In adding unique touches to the food, Lu draws from her previous background in the science of flavour and the senses, having previously worked with organisations such as the Wellcome Trust and with Kings College to deliver food projects in schools. And for Ray, who has had a varied career, Sugarpie Honeybuns allows him to explore his love of music through the creation of groovy playlists for the café. For the couple, the goal behind Sugarpie Honeybuns is to create an alternative eatery on the quieter end of London Road; one that serves high-quality yet unpretentious food and keeps the community at its heart. In the planning stages, Lu and Ray knocked on doors around the neighbourhood to discuss with residents and other businesses what they wanted from a café. This focus on the local continues to play an important part at Honeybuns; from the sourdough bread baked by local resident Ross (who can be found on Instagram @makerandbakeruk) to the delectable cakes and quiches made by a sought-after baker (whose name was kept secret from me) in Romney Marsh. Even the coffee is obtained from the Kent/East Sussex based ‘Bean Smitten’, Great Taste award winning independent coffeemakers whose beans are ethically sourced and hand roasted.
Although the café is only a month old, Lu and Ray already have grand plans for the future of Sugarpie Honeybuns, hoping the space will be used by artists and creators to develop collaborations, and as a venue for workshops and events. There is talk of an upcoming origami workshop for creating amusing Christmas decorations, and a dry January comedy night (where hopefully the comedy will be anything but). Lu mentioned to me that she is hoping to put her previous scientific background to good use by running workshops on flavour, and Ray is searching for a knitting group to take up residence in the café so he can show off his expert knitting skills (if you’re a keen knitter, get in contact…).
• If you would like to host an event or group at Sugarpie Honeybuns or, for any enquiries, contact Lu Biggs at [email protected], or through social media links. Their Instagram is: Sugarpiehoneybunscoffeeshop,
and on Facebook: Sugarpiehoneybunscoffeeshop
Sugarpie Honeybuns is located at 235 London Road, St Leonards. They are closed on Mondays, and open from 10-5pm every day except for Sunday when they open from 11-4pm.
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