Sahar Lone profiles Kreuzberg’s best-loved British-themed café, Hudson’s…
Back then, the buzzer on the kitchen oven in their apartment would go off at hourly intervals because it could only fit one cake at a time. It was only when the building Katie’s yoga classes were held at became available for rent, that the couple could finally install a kitchen and change the fit-outs.
As with so many success stories – especially in Berlin – Hudson’s started as a hobby. Katie had been gainfully employed by the BBC as a project manager for R&D in Europe, while Jim, her husband, worked at an architecture firm.
They began a small catering company specialising in cakes, which grew so popular they found a permanent site and, after several months of hard labour, expanded into the café project.
Two years on, they’re still improving the original kitchen as well as redesigning the seating and constantly evolving the menu and goods on offer in their now-famous café.
The breezy, welcoming space, smartly decorated in blacks and whites, is host to a small cluster of wooden tables and amusing decorative touches like the bowler-hat lampshades that hover above the counter.
They knock up a supremely good flat white and the weekly specials on the chalkboard include sandwiches, slices and soups. There are meat and vegetarian options (vegetarian lasagne with salad and bread, or a sandwich or bagel with homecooked ham with mustard and tomato filling), and on Sundays a superlative buffet of cakes and scones is available with tea, as well as sekt for 8 euros.
The breakfasts, served between 8am-12pm between Tuesday and Friday and 10am-3pm on weekends, have become just as legendary as the venue’s succulent cakes. Katie says they were careful to listen to input and suggestions from customers when the cafe first began serving breakfast and, against their initial reservations, have eventually added a traditional full English.
“When we started we were reluctant to do an English breakfast. Places tend to get it a bit wrong. They don’t get the idea that it’s supposed to be a bit messy. And you don’t have salad on the side, and no cheese – although sometimes people do add cheese.”
The couple have a commitment to local produce. All their fruit and vegetables come from a farm in Rudnitz, to where the organic waste is returned.
Hudson’s also serves as the drop off centre for Kreuzberg businesses that receive produce from agricultural co-operative, Wilde Gärtnerei farm in Bernau.
Katie says the system has allowed them to get to know neighbours and other businesses in the area better. Work on the farm is also a shared responsibility of the produce buyers and membership information is available at the cafe.
Unsurprisingly, Hudson’s has a strong appeal to tourists and expats from England, America, Australia, and New Zealand, though the clientele are not exclusively from the Anglosphere. Tables at the Boppstraße and Schönleinstraße intersection are often filled with Kreuzberg residents, German families with young children and tourists, and whatever other foot traffic passes by this quiet but characterful building.
Katie and Jim say they’ve always been keen on building a loyal, local customer base, and claim that although the prices might be considered expensive by Kreuzberg standards, where you can get away with buying a felafel for a third of the price, specials like the five euro daily lunch (often smaller portions of soups or salads) keep customers coming back.
Details like ensuring there is always free water available on each table also help: “I get really frustrated that in some cafes you ask for tap water and you get a thimble full,” says Katie. “Tap water is a right.”
The pair also went to the effort of asking their customers (and British and Antipodean staff) which beers they miss from their own countries; and now subsequently stock brews from England, Scotland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, though the choices are of course limited to what is already being exported from those countries by German suppliers.
As well as beer, the drinks menu includes beer, German wines and – in keeping with the British theme – Pimms and Gin & Tonic. This is perfect for the venue’s regular events, which include a monthly stammtisch for the Berlin Architecture Circle (run by Jim, who runs a great blog about architecture and has been editing a book on the subject).
The cafe is also a meeting place for a speech therapy group, quiz nights (in English) and a cook book club where each attendee brings a dish from a particular cook (information about which is posted on the Hudson’s Cakes Facebook page).
From July 2012, Katie and Jim will stop delivering cakes to other businesses and focus their energies on the expanding cafe business, complete with longer opening hours.
“A lot of our customers have said that they like our cakes so much that they will still come and collect them from us so that’s a win for us. I think we’ve only lost one customer out of eight or nine out of switching. So we should have done it ages ago.”
As you leave the café, look out for the canvas above the door that features the famed cheshire cat from Alice In Wonderland. It’s mischievous grin seems to represent perfectly this friendly, upbeat couple and their successful mission to bring tasty British flair to the German capital.
Hudson’s is now open from 9.00 until 20.00 Tuesday – Thursday, 9.00 – 22.00 on Friday, 10.00 – 22.00 Saturdays, and 10.00 – 19.00 on Sundays.