Cast your mind back to February 2020…
Storm Ciara and Dennis were busy battering the Promenade, a new £20 banknote featuring JMW Turner enters circulation, Blackpool was inundated with playing cards and brilliantined hair as the Magic Convention came to town and it was the wettest February in the UK since records began in 1862. It was also the month that Blackpool’s newest coffee shop and eatery, the Upside Down opened its doors on Edward Street.
Along with a loyal clientele from Shaws, the Upside Down became an immediate hit with anyone looking for top quality coffee, delicious vegan and vegetarian food and a warm welcome (accompanied by the odd metalcore track). Almost as soon as the cafe began to take off, history did its thing and Covid-19 caused them to close.
I caught up with Ryan and Rob from the Upside Down to see what they’ve been up to over the last few months.
What made you want to open a cafe in Blackpool?
We want to show that there is a place for somewhere doing vegetarian and vegan food and specialty coffee in the town centre. It’s arguably easier for places to try this sort of thing in Poulton or Lytham but people talk about Blackpool town centre having nothing to offer and we are one of a number of places trying to show that isn’t true. We’d had Shaw’s, Ryan running it with his mum Yvonne and Rob working there in its latter days, and always wanted to stay in the town centre.
How did you come up with the menu? (is a vegetarian menu important to you? How did you come up with the names of the dishes?)
The menu follows on from Shaw’s, where we’d started to do vegetarian and vegan food. We don’t eat meat, we don’t want to cook it or sell it. We are trying to limit waste, limit environmental harm and show that food can still be interesting. The names are sometimes references to TV shows or bands we like or tributes to people, such as the Resh Boss, named after Reshmi, who we affectionately regard as the bossiest member of staff and without whom we’d not be open.
What’s your most popular dish?
The Power Trip, a combination of assorted mushrooms on toast. Ultra umami.
How has lockdown affected the Upside Down?
We were open exactly a month when lockdown kicked in. Because our entire premise was to create somewhere nice to sit in, trying to serve nice coffee and nice food on nice plates, we were absolutely not geared up to do takeaway. So instead we took time out to reflect. As things have opened up, we’ve watched the implications closely and find it hard to imagine reopening in a rush, especially seeing people flock to beaches. It’s undoubtedly a very challenging time for us and all businesses in our position. In the meantime, we’ve started selling our retail bags of coffee from a variety of great roasters in our online shop. Ryan grinds them for you and posts them from his local post office! Meanwhile, we home deliver a selection of plants, which can be ordered from our @upsidedownhouseplants Instagram.
You’re clearly coffee connoisseurs. How did that come about?
Ryan went to get a tattoo in Manchester, visited Grindsmiths and had a mind blowing latte. It wasn’t bitter, it tasted totally unlike any coffee he’d ever had. He’s put in an extraordinary level of time and research into understanding why this coffee tasted so good and how to make it himself. Meanwhile, Rob got a job in a cafe and wanted to learn how to do latte art. He saw a video of Ryan’s work online and went to ask for help. Shortly afterwards he realised latte art was pretty but that making the coffee taste good was the really cool part. His latte art remains rubbish.
What sort of work do you enjoy doing the most?
Ryan’s favourite work is brewing an aeropress of some new, possibly quite rare coffee and sipping the results. Rob finds chopping vegetables oddly therapeutic.
Where would you like to see Upside Down in 1 year’s time?
Open would be a start! We want to reestablish ourselves after lockdown, make ourselves a place for the community to congregate (get in touch if you want to use our space!) and eventually try some evening events.
What is Upside Down’s place in the local community?
We probably haven’t had time to establish ourselves in the community yet. We want to be a hub for people as well as somewhere you may just pop in for a coffee. We see ourselves as having a responsibility towards the community rather than just taking from it.
Is art important to you?
Art is important to us and we’re trying to find a way to express our identity through art in the shop. It’s in the early stages, though we have a beautiful permanent piece by Heather Thomson on our back wall and we have some ideas about displaying more work in the future.
What’s the best piece of advice that you can give to someone starting a new business in Blackpool?
People will tell you Blackpool is the wrong place for you. Don’t listen to them. A place is made up of its people and the more people trying to succeed and start businesses especially with novel ideas in Blackpool, the better it is for our town. Also, visit Blackpool Unlimited, they are very nice and helpful.
Quick fire round:
- Cake or Pie?
- Book or Film?
- Facebook or Twitter?
- Be the funniest person in the room or the most intelligent?
- Fulfil Your Biggest Wish Or Solve Your Biggest Regret?
- Favourite or most inspirational spot in Blackpool?
- Song that sums up how you’re feeling now?
- Thing That You Miss Most During Lockdown?
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