All Aboard: The Cliffs Collective
Cliffs in Margate welcomes award-winning Bus Cafe grub in enticingly rustic revamp
Collaboration, one of the cornerstones of modern-day small businesses, is no better demonstrated than at Cliffs.
Dissecting the monstrous Northdown Road that runs from deepest Margate through Cliftonville and beyond, Cliffs has a dash of urban invention with a twist of warm welcome and elevated experience now synonymous with this corner of Kent.
A ground-floor coffee shop and restaurant is accompanied by a second-hand record and vinyl store upstairs, a hairdressers and a flexible event space in the basement.
“We knew we had to have different things going on in here; it was such a big building it couldn’t have just been a coffee shop or a record shop,” says Ed Warren, who owns Cliffs alongside partner Kier Muddiman.
A passion project that echoes the beliefs of its owners, Cliffs is described as a place in which Ed and Kier love to spend time and which has an environmentally friendly outlook and people-friendly understanding.
It uses compostable takeaway cups, lids, straws and carrier bags, the electricity is 100 per cent green, there is minimal single-use plastics and the food in the kitchen is local and organic wherever possible.
The coffee is provided by local producer Curve Coffee Roasters, while Stirling Hair provides the snips in the salon.
Sofas and seating of all shapes, sizes and conditions make for a higgledy-piggledy charm, but each is chosen and placed with absolute care and attention by Ed, a lighting designer working mainly with live music acts, and Kier, an interior designer.
The pair moved to Margate from London almost four years ago with the dream of owning a café and they ended up being a front-runner of the mixed-use space phenomenon.
“We’d been attracted to coffee shops and record shops for years and that stirred ideas up for a long time,” explains Ed. “When we were renovating the building, people would stick their head in and say ‘You don’t want to build anything here, you’re crazy’. But we’re still here and we try to be as inviting as possible.”
Cliftonville still has its edge, which is one of its charms, but it can also be a reason some stick to Margate’s flourishing Old Town.
“It would be easier to put a front up and try to ward off undesirable people, but everyone is welcome in,” says Ed. “There’s a few local people who are less fortunate and we bring them in and give them a cup of tea every day. We try to treat people like family. In general there’s a much better vibe around the area now.”
The awakening of the nation to Margate’s beauty has also had an effect further up Northdown Road, with day-trippers and tourists making the journey to experience Cliffs.
“That has definitely been happening the last couple of summers and even the winters,” says Ed. “There are so many Airbnb places opening and they all very kindly put us on their list of places to go.”
The rips in the sofa and slightly peeling paint are an attraction rather than a repulsion and the sense of community is plain to see, with a chalkboard of activities ranging from yoga and pilates through to monster Scalextric tracks and comedy gigs taking place in the basement.
Records from across the ages are mounted on the walls in the café and prompt natural conversation and a buzzy atmosphere, while upstairs the vinyl is more organised for those looking for something in particular.
”I’ve been into music and records all of my life and always collected them,” says Ed. “Sometimes one goes up on the wall and I’m tempted to take it down and keep it.”
THE BUS CAFE AND CLIFFS
Launching in the first week of June, the Cliffs kitchen will be run by the team over at the Bus Cafe on Margate seafront.
Some Cliffs classics like its signature bacon sandwich will be added to by the team at Bus Café, which won Breakfast Bagel of The Year at the National Breakfast Awards, with new items that will be great for the early morning repast, brunch and lunch.
Look out for menu items such as The Boss Bagel (parma ham, poached egg, charred cherry tomatoes, leafy greens, homemade salsa verde and toasted seeds), The Vegan (sourdough toast, vegan sausages, peppered mushrooms, charred cherry tomatoes and salad), or The Veggie (smokey baked beans, sourdough toast, haloumi, leafy greens and homemade salsa verde).
Former Cliffs chefs Tomas and Rio are setting out on their new venture, New Street Bistro in the Old Town, meaning an opportunity opened up for another collaboration.
“They’ve worked so, so hard as our chefs at Cliffs for more than two and a half years, having helped us build and launch the kitchen from scratch,” says Ed. “Their well-deserved reputation in Margate is exceptional and they will absolutely smash it over there.”
The pride rather than frustration Ed and Kier take in seeing their long-term chefs head out to do their own thing is testament to Cliffs as a whole.
It is itself a community, and one within which you can lose many hours.
“Without any one of the aspects we have at Cliffs, it just wouldn’t be what it is.”