Move over craft beer fans! The word from London is that there’s a new kind of niche boutique café where the young and hip can be seen. This week saw the birth of the world’s first ever cereal café, where morning, noon or night customers can enjoy a wide selection of breakfast cereals from around the globe.
After months of anticipation Cereal Killer opened on Wednesday on Brick Lane in London’s East End, giving customers the opportunity to choose from 120 international cereal varieties including Golden Grahams, Cap’n Crunch, Poppin’ Pebbles and Australia’s own Milo, served with optional toppings and a choice of 13 milks. To accompany there is coffee, toast and cereal-inspired cakes. And for those who thought they were the only ones to mix their breakfast cereals there is a choice of “cereal cocktails”, an example of which they call the “Chocopotomus”: a combination of Coco Pops and Krave served with chocolate milk and a Kinder Happy Hippo. That’s basically your day’s calorie allowance in two mouthfuls.
As you chow down there is plenty to admire in the décor. The café walls are adorned with an array of cereal-themed artwork, memorabilia and limited edition packaging spanning decades. You’ll find old-school cereal boxes with images of Tony the Tiger as well as characters from Star Wars, Jurassic Park and The Simpsons. Trophy cabinets feature the free gifts and plastic toys that we used to find submerged in the cereal packets. There are even portraits of serial killers (see what they’ve done there?) such as Dexter and Hannibal Lecter made out of Cheerios. It’s a shrine for garish colours, e-numbers and pop culture references. And there’s not a single kale smoothie in sight.
Northern Irish twin brother founders Gary and Alan Keery hit upon the idea when deciding what to have for lunch. Gary commented: “We were out one day and I said, ‘What do you want, Chinese or Mexican?’ What I really wanted was a bowl of cereal, and I thought ‘A-ha!’”
“Our café is a celebration of cereals and we want people to leave on a high, a sugar rush! Whether they leave thinking they loved it or hated it, that’s the reaction we’re looking for.”
It’s certainly polarised opinion in the UK. Much of the criticism is directed at the pricing – a cat bowl sized 30g portion for £2.50 or a larger 50g serving for £3.50 is around about the price range for an entire box of cereal at the supermarkets. But what many say makes this worse is that the café is situated in the borough of Tower Hamlets, one of the most poverty stricken parts of the country.
One journalist from Channel 4 was filmed challenging co-owner Gary Keery on the prices: “Do you think this is affordable for the area? Because this is one of the poorest parts of London. Three pounds for a bowl of cereal?”
Keery says the price is due to the fact the cereal is imported, to which the journalist replies: “But what does that mean for the people who live locally?” It’s as if he’s suggesting that the poverty stricken people of Tower Hamlets are relying on these guys to provide them with cheap cereal. Keery then stops the interview saying he doesn’t like the questions at which point the interviewer smirks at the camera conspiratorially.
The Daily Mail also criticised the “extraordinary” cost and was of the view that the twins were “out of touch”.
It’s not the job of people like the Keerys to tackle social welfare. What they’re concerned with is providing a unique service and making a bit of money. They pay their taxes and import their own produce just like many of the eateries on Brick Lane. Obviously, eating out will always be more expensive than buying from the shops. In fact, when you consider the typical price of eating out in London £3.50 even just for a snack is pretty reasonable. I’m sure many of the Tower Hamlet inhabitants earning below the breadline will be more than happy to eat out at Cereal Killer of all places at only £3.50 a pop.
Perhaps it’s the café’s kooky hipster vibe that’s attracting the criticism. I’ll admit, when I saw photos of the Keery twins I felt like dunking their self-satisfied, bearded faces into their bowls of cereal until they gargled for mercy, finally emerging with Cornflakes lodged under their eyelids and Nutri-Grain stuck up their nostrils. I also glanced at their Facebook page and saw an advert seeking staff, asking “tell us why you love cereal”. I was irritated by the thought that we’d have to justify our love for cereal like they own it. It’s not exclusive and never should be. Besides, what’s not to like about it? It’s sugary, colourful and even comes with a free toy! (I must admit how distraught I was as a boy when I found duplicate toys; I would sulk in the bathroom for hours).
But after watching them being interviewed, I think they seem like sweet guys underneath that trendier-than-thou exterior and, like the rest of us, just trying to make a bit of cash. And what a refreshingly original way of doing it.
Hopefully it’s a matter of time before a similar establishment opens up on the streets of Newtown or Surry Hills. At least it would be immune to the new lock-out laws.