By: Mate Paškanović Pavković
Last weekend, whilst on my trip to the southeast of England, I stumbled upon Amedea, the half Croatian café-bar located in the quaint town of Whitstable, just north of Canterbury. Amedea was filled to the brim with guests. The café-bar experience that I am used to in Croatia was on full display in the English seaside town.
It has been a year since Croatia Week first wrote about the half Croatian café-bar in Whitstable and since then business has been booming. The café is a hit with the local clientele, but most recently owner Ed Thomas has had an increased number of Croatian visitors to the café.
“Ever since the Croatia Week article, many Croatians living in England have come to visit us. During the lockdown many put Whitstable on their bucket list just so they can experience a little taste of home away from home,” said Ed Thomas, the owner of Amedea, the café named after his late Grandma.
Ed went on to explain that locals and visitors alike enjoy the café-bar because of its comfortable space. The concept for the café-bar is quite the anomaly in Southern England. The concept of a European café-bar in England is a hard sell as most places either specialize as a bar (pub) or a café. Despite this, Amedea has found their niche and is selling Croatian wine, beer and other products like hotcakes.
As Ed told us, it is not unusual to have a guest come in the morning to do work and order a coffee then stay for a few hours and trade their coffee in for a glass of wine or beer. It sounds like the Croatian way of life is starting to trend on the English seaside.
Wherever Croatians go, we always spread our culture while making a living. As a Croatian-Canadian, I was lucky enough to grow up in a community with successful entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers and other highly capable professionals. So, I asked Ed about his entrepreneurial drive and how his upbringing influenced how he runs the half Croatian café-bar. Ed’s entrepreneurial spirit comes from his dad and his hospitality towards the costumers comes from his mom.
It is no surprise that the café has a fun and uplifting atmosphere. Ed explained that his dad has for the past 30 years been an entrepreneur, running a shop in the Whitstable harbor.
“My dad never took his job too seriously. He keeps me grounded when something doesn’t go as planned. Sometimes I think it is the end of the world when I run out of a particular beer, wine or Smoki, but he always reminds me that is a part of the experience and to go with it.”
The hospitality that I experienced at Amedea was second to none. We sat down and immediately bought a bottle of Kabola Merlot from Istra, and two pieces of Cake. It was excellent!
We came to Amedea at a particularly good time since Ed’s mom, Suzana, and sister, Saskia, were also working the shift. When Ed brought us everything, he started a conversation with us and he found out that we were Croatian. He then gave us a bag of Smoki, and 2 shots of Šljivovica on the house.
Suzana gave us an additional 2 shots of rakija straight from her village in Croatia which was of course poured from a Jana bottle. Before Suzi, Saskia and Ed left, Suzana came over and gave us some flowers to bring home. Great food, wine, rakija and even greater service- Amedea embodies the Croatian experience that not just the Croatian diaspora yearn for, but also what others yearn for in fast paced societies.
The hospitality that we experienced was overwhelming and after all the alcohol- we needed to sober up. To sober up from all the rakija we then decided to order the Croatian platter which included olives, Croatian olive oil, ajvar, kulen and Paški sir (Pag Cheese).
In London I was having a hard time finding certain Croatian items, but Amedea had a rack of Croatian jams, chocolates, and of course Croatian wines and spirits. We decided to stock up while we had the chance and to of course support the café that greeted us with open arms and made us feel at home.
There was no empty table in Amedea and it begged the question- what is the secret to running a successful café-bar? As Ed explained it, this industry requires empathy and agility. “None of us have run a café-bar before, but we all enjoy going to different restaurants, bars and cafés. We apply what we have learned on the other side of the bar to how we treat our customers and that is something that we are always trying to improve.”
After a successful year, what else is in the pipeline for Amedea? Are they going to open another location? What will they offer next?
“I feel that expanding the café and creating a second location would affect the overall quality of what we offer. We are thinking about making a kitchen so we can serve Croatian specialties but if there is one thing that I would want to serve- that would be Ožujsko! We already serve many Croatian beers such as Zmajsko, Medvedgrad and San Servolo from Istra. We hope to import Žuja into the UK and serve it in the near future,” said Ed.
Amedea is also looking for musicians to play Croatian and other music. If you are a band in England or planning to go to England in the near future, get in contact with the Amedea team via email: [email protected]
Amedea brings together the best of what it means to be Croatian in the diaspora. Ed and his family welcomed their community into their café and they have shared the best of what Croatia has to offer- Our food, our hospitality, and most importantly our culture. If you plan on visiting Canterbury or Whitstable, take the opportunity to visit Amedea!
3 Oxford St, Whitstable CT5 1DB, United Kingdom