INTERVIEWED BY Lindi Brownell Meiring IMAGES Shavan Rahim
If you’ve driven down Bree Street in the last couple of weeks, you might have noticed there’s a new addition to the neighbourhood. The General Store, easily identifiable by its wooden facade, is a small café and grocer owned by Colette Robert.
We caught up with her to find out more about the design of the space and what delicious treats you can expect to eat when you visit.
Who handled the interior design?
Marco Simal and Jaques Mouton were my interior design and architectural partners for The General Store. My partner runs a creative agency called ANDPEOPLE, and they have worked on a number of projects together with Marco. His meticulous eye for design, his knowledge and passion for the food and retail sector and his reputation for space transformation made him an easy choice for the job.
When I took the plunge and signed my lease I knew I needed to change the shop front, layout and interiors drastically. With only 58m2 to work with, it wasn’t an easy task. I needed someone with real credibility to help me achieve my vision. Marco was my guy.
What inspired the design of the space?
The initial inspiration for The General Store was the original local grocers and general stores of days gone by, but brought to life in a fresh, contemporary way. I wanted to create a space that felt welcoming, unpretentious, natural and comfortable. A place that leaves everyone feeling better for having been there, not just because of the food on offer but because of the entire service and ambient experience.
With only 58m2 (including the kitchen) to work with, it was quite challenge. We spent a lot of time researching the cafés of Melbourne, London, New York and even Tokyo to understand how best we could utilise the space.
The combination of timber, concrete, white tiles and a light colour palette with accents of colour was perfect to provide that contemporary feel, and our unique shelving system allowed me to curate a selection of provisions and goods for the home, and of course my plants.
What made you decide to open The General Store?
I studied as a chef at Silwood Kitchen and was lucky enough to spend time in some of Cape Town’s top kitchens, including Beluga and 95 Keerom. I then moved to the UK and spent eight years at Finn’s of Chelsea, a luxury deli and caterer located just off the Kings Road in London. Somewhere along the line I realised “I could do this.” I continued to be inspired by what people were doing with food around me and I developed a vision for what I wanted to create and run myself.
My boyfriend and I decided home was where the heart was and came home in 2014 to start our own businesses.
What kind of food can readers expect to tuck into at The General Store?
We’ll have healthy breakfasts on offer every day, from home made granolas and oats with fruit to poached eggs and smashed avocado on toast. For lunch we’ll be making a selection of fresh salads daily (which will always change), like grilled mediterranean veg, asian slaw with sesame and soy, spring bean salad with shaved radish and lemon. We’ll also have meat dishes on offer, like Za’atar spiced lamb with coriander and tahini lemon yoghurt, grilled chicken with paprika lemon and thyme and grilled salmon with thai pesto.
We’ll also have a range of healthy meals for home on offer in store or to order from our menu. People are increasingly time poor, but we feel convenience shouldn’t compromise quality.
Saturday mornings are for brunch – we’ll have some simple cooked classics like poached eggs, bacon and field mushrooms, as well as a special brunch dish which will change weekly. We also serve rosetta coffee, as well as freshly pressed juices.
The General Store is located at 22 Bree Street, Cape Town. It’s open from Monday to Friday from 7am until 6pm and on Saturdays from 8am until 1pm. For more information, contact 021 418 2305, visit the-generalstore.co.za or follow @thegeneralstore_sa on Instagram.