Reviewing restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, takeaways and street food vendors during a global pandemic has constantly thrown up the unexpected, surprising and unusual.
Sitting outside a caravan on a driveway in Allesley on a Thursday afternoon sampling a taste of New York is right up there among them.
While I’ve seen numerous establishments adapt their offer to be Covid-19 compliant and retain connections with customer bases, there’s also been a heartening rise in start-up businesses. People using the pandemic as an opportunity to go it alone, chase their dreams, put into action the plans they previously didn’t have time to pursue.
For some it has been a way to channel energies and use time wisely, for others their hands have been forced to a degree through losing their jobs.
Jade Wilks is an example of this. She lost her job in the hospitality industry during the pandemic and decided to plow her remaining savings into a caravan her partner had intended to refit to become an office space. From the caravan, she set about serving coffee, drawing on her experiences of working in cafes.
“Initially it was just an idea to make a little bit of money while doing something that we both love,” said Jade. “We just served coffees and cookies but it quickly grew to us serving brunch options too. The response and feedback we’ve had has been incredible.
“I never thought it would work. I hate admitting I was wrong but I totally was. I didn’t have much choice, so I took his crazy idea on board and spent our last savings gutting the caravan out and buying the most important thing of all, the coffee machine!”
I spoke to Jade as she busily cooked for the people who were steadily joining the queue before her caravan which sits on the driveway of her home in Browns Lane. It’s not the easiest to find, I drove past a few times before spotting my target location. But that’s part of the charm, it’s a hidden gem that is now firmly on the radar of many people.
My food order consisted of…
New Yorker bagel which contained pastrami, honey mustard, mayo, Emmental cheese, pickles and rocket.
Avo Smash; smashed avocado with corriander, lime, chilli, sunflower seeds, dukkah and sumac on toasted sourdough with additional feta
Contained within a neat, small box was my bagel which was accompanied by a generous portion of mini pretzels.
The distinctive smell of pastrami was immediately released from the container, with some of the meat poking outside of the bagel along with melting cheese.
It’s a sizeable bagel, but it’s all about that first bite. Somehow, it managed to contain an abundance of moisture without the whole thing crumbling away and becoming soggy.
The slight saltiness of the pastrami was offset by the creamy cheese and the rocket and pickles offered different textures and twists of flavour. It was a finely balanced, well-crafted combination of ingredients that was both filling and delicious to eat. All from a caravan in Allesley!
Thing of beauty
Visually the ‘Avo Smash’ is a thing of beauty, with the contrasting greens of coriander and avocado mixed in with striking red chilli and crumbled white feta.
This one survived the journey home and refrigeration, as the toasted sourdough held firm enough to scoop up and eat from the box.
This was my partner’s order and I concede I’m not fully on board with the avocado obsession that seems to be sweeping through the nation. Yet I found myself wanting more than just a bite of this, as the combination of citric zest, the heat of chilli, the crunch of sour dough and the creamy crumble of feta cheese was once more a winning combination.
No corners cut
My hot drink order was a flat white. Visually, it’s a work of art and to taste, it’s everything I love about this beverage choice. A strong punch of coffee, smoothed off by the microbubbles of milk. It’s a quality cup of coffee that showcased Jade’s experience and know-how of the industry. No corners have been cut here.
Alongside the savoury food offerings and hot drinks is a selection of homemade cakes and bakes, of which a marbled billionaire’s shortbread was particularly memorable, as a generous layer of caramel lay between a crunchy chocolate topping and a melt-in-your mouth shortbread base.
Wherever you turn with Caravan at the Cottage, you’re experiencing quality and care. There wasn’t a weak link to my experience – aside from nearly giving up trying to find it in the first instance!
While this project would likely have not been launched if it wasn’t for the global pandemic, I expect it to outlive Covid-19 and go on to thrive and grow in the months and years to come.
Caravan at the Cottage can be found on Facebook and Instagram.