In case you haven’t yet been to this new café at 315 Carrall Street, inside you will find an open concept space with a heritage feel and good people, a perfect cup of coffee, fresh breads, baked goods, and a comfy spot to sit down, unwind, and enjoy the moment.
Hi Jodi. So, what's behind the name?
Our name...? It pays homage to our roots; salutes Mr. Nelson Mandela for all his wisdom and courage; and we thought it sounded kind of nice. "Nelson the Seagull" is a nod to the hit song "The Seagull's name was Nelson" composed by Tony Bennett and made famous by folk duo, Des and Dawn Lindberg in South Africa in the 1970's. The song became a quiet anti-apartheid anthem.
How did the idea come about to open the cafe? How did the three of you meet?
We had a conversation in November last year! Lee, Jono and I were walking around Gastown after dinner one night, in search of a delicious cup of coffee (I assume this is more of a South African habit - the post-dinner coffee somewhere new). We struggled to find somewhere that wasn't a restaurant and satisfied our cozy-lazy-comfy craving. And so... We began talking about the kind of place that would. That conversation planted the seed and everything else just seemed to follow really naturally. We've all known each other for a long time, or at least it feels that way. It's been a 'family' venture from the start.
Why did you choose Gastown?
I fell in love with Gastown on my very first trip from South Africa to visit my parents in BC. I've always felt happiest around old things. I starting living in the neighborhood just before talk of the shop started and Lee and Jon loved the area just as much... We just felt the most at home here. We also feel really lucky to have a spot here because of the sense of community that exists. Our neighbors and regulars are so warm, supportive and already feel like extended family.
Tell us a bit about the space (and furniture!) you have created.
The space is double the size we were looking for. We were daunted by it at first, but couldn't ignore that it just felt right. It was pretty much an empty shell when we got it. Lee and Jono built all the tables and the bar by hand, using reclaimed cedar from a wonderland of unwanted goodness, called Jack's New & Used, in Burnaby. We scoured the city's second hand furniture and antique stores for the chairs and kitchen furniture. I think I recall doing a happy jig with Lee after we had paid for the little sewing stools we have round the big table. I had so much fun decorating the bathroom. While the other two did the real work (wood and saws and hammers and plainers...). I pottered around painting walls green, looking for pictures of pretty flowers, making bunting... It was a privilege to watch Lee and Jon transform the space into this rustic, warm, welcoming, wooden refuge.
How has the welcome been from the neighborhood so far? Do you have any favorite spots for yourself in the area after a day at work?
Everyone in the neighborhood has been incredibly welcoming and encouraging. So many people offered their help along the way and continually popped in to say hi and check in on the development of the space. Since opening not much has changed. We see lots of the same faces throughout the week.
Gastown is full of great post-work spots, so it's hard to pin down just a few. For fancy drinks I love Pourhouse and L'Abattoir. For more casual blowing-off-steam I usually head to Six Acres, The Alibi Room or The Diamond.
What are some of your favorites from the menu?
Oh gosh, I don't know. We came up with the menu together so we obviously are all fond of everything... But my go-to thing to eat is probably the grainy salad... Or just a big old slice of Jonathan's bread, as it comes out of the oven, with tremendous amounts of butter. That, paired with a strong Americano... Sigh.
Where are your ingredients sourced?
At the moment we are supplied with our fresh produce by two local companies. We do our very best to use local fruit and veggies. First prize is local AND organic, but when that doesn't work out, we default to one or the other. Our milk and eggs are always local and organic, and our meat is from Big Lou's Butcher Shop just down the road. There are plans in the pipeline to start working directly with local farmers/gardeners and maybe even grow our own someday soon.
Our hummus, lemon curd, chutney, pesto, jam, bread, muesli, pastries, lemonade and cold brew coffee is made in our kitchen.
…Favorite way to take your coffee?
Short and black, made by Jonathan Snelgar.
Do you have any recommendations for eats or drinks a hot & sunny Vancouver day?
Hot and sunny = bike and picnic.
With a "sundowner" (a staple summer-evening activity in South Africa which involves the drinking of a beverage while the sun goes down) thrown in for good measure on a public or private balcony (best case scenario: befriend someone with a rooftop garden!)
Are there upcoming events in the works?
There has been a lot of talk about doing Sunday night movie nights, music nights and other such frivolity but nothing has been set in stone yet. We just hosted a Social Feed night - which was great - and I believe another one may be happening soon. We've had a bachelorette too! The space seems to lend itself to lots of different things. And we're open to ideas!
Contact Nelson the Seagull:
315 Carrall Street
Interview & Photos by Kate Brown