Rachel Grasby, Hornbeam Cafe

Photo of Hornbeam cafe

The Hornbeam community cafe at 458 Hoe St is something of a hidden gem on the Walthamstow scene. Not only is it a delicious organic cafe, it is also host to a range of events including a book club, music and poetry nights, and regular BBQs. Rachel Grasby is the cafe/event organiser at Hornbeam, so we thought we’d have a chat with her about all things E17.

Hi Rachel. How long have you lived around Walthamstow?

Hi, I live in Hackney by the river Lea, next to Walthamstow marshes, and have been here 6 years.

Tell us about the Hornbeam cafe.

Hornbeam grew out of a volunteer run veggie cafe within an environmental centre. Organiclea, a workers’ growing co-op in Waltham Forest helped to bring about funding to help Hornbeam become a sustainable, non-profit making business. We are in our last year of funding now and a lot closer to breaking even though still a bit to go.

What can I expect if I turn up to the Hornbeam for a cup of coffee?

A delicious latte with a great selection of homemade cookies and cakes! Colourful conversations with local people and of course service with a smile!

You offer things other than a cuppa, though, right?

Yes! We offer gorgeous, healthy vegan food using organic and local produce as much as possible,  even the meat-eaters come back for a vegan brunch on Saturdays! We are licensed so sell organic wines and beers and have recently started doing organic  cocktails that we have conjured up, one of my favourites is ‘The Vegan Vampire’ made with gin, apple juice, splash of lemon juice shaken with freshly squeezed beetroot!

As well as being a great community café, Hornbeam also promotes environmental issues. Organiclea work on site and weekly operate their organic veg/fruit pick up box scheme from here. On Saturdays Hornbeam is a hub of activity with the community market stall outside selling organic and locally grown produce. As well as veg, the stall and the cafe sell fresh bread,  jams, chutney and honey – all homemade and locally produced.

What inspired you to open up the Hornbeam café in E17? How easy is it for an independent organic café to survive and thrive in London?

With no little money for promotions it’s hard to reach the people who would love this place. Our approach is to build relationships and networks of people who care about their community, their food and their environment. We want people to ‘go local’ for their nights out – rather than having their work and social lives in the centre. That way we can sustain ourselves and help build a strong and fun community in Walthamstow.

What events have you got lined up over the next few months?

Monthly Open mic nights, quiz nights, Mother’s/Father’s Day Sunday lunch, poetry evening and hopeful to start putting on regular music nights here.  Fairtrade fortnight happened in March as well as pancake day to celebrate the arrival of Spring. On our website you will also see there is a weekly knitting group, a guitar club, monthly book club, plus a science-fiction/fantasy book group and Shamanic drumming mediation.

What has been the highlight of your time involved in the Hornbeam?

I think I would have to say meeting so many different and wonderful people and all the chats I have with everyone!

What does a great night out in E17 look like to you?

I have enjoyed nights out at the Rose and Crown and had a great New Years Eve at the Nag’s head where upstairs the DJ played vintage sounds and I attempted to do the Charleston whilst downstairs the dance floor offered an up-to-date mix. Various flavoured Sambuca, including Raspberry plus some Bubbly, helped to bring in 2011 in the fairy-lit back garden.

What’s the one thing that can be done to improve Walthamstow?

I supported the movement for ‘Save Our Cinema’, which I do feel would be great to bring back to Walthamstow.

Who’s your favourite band/artist/composer and why?

Madonna will always get me on the dance floor as I grew up with her and have seen her live several times. She is a great performer and I love her expression through her art and her look. She has survived in a tough industry so I admire her for that.

What’s your favourite thing about Walthamstow?

For the past few years Hornbeam has been part of the E17 art trail and I really enjoy the buzz around that and seeing for ten days people walking around with art trail maps everywhere. It brings people together through the expression of local artists and shows how much creativity is happening in E17.

Thanks Rachel.

Rachel Grasby is the cafe/event organiser at Hornbeam cafe. You can find up-to-date listings about what’s on at Hornbeam on their website, and on our calendar.

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