Q&A with London's Burnt Toast Café’s Daniel Fiteni

The restauranteur explains the story behind his eatery's quirky name, and why he chose Brixton as its home

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

One of Burnt Toast Café's many delectable brunch options.

If you are a foodie and have not been to Brixton recently, make some time to check it out! It has to be one of London’s most vibrant food scenes. So what about Burnt Toast Café? The café is tiny but the portions are generous, and there are many stand-out menu items to choose from.

The frytato served with salmon and a poached egg is an innovative mix of rich flavors. You get cheese, pumpkin, with a variety of other ingredients that work well in coherence, and the accompanying spicy sauce is delicious. The pancake was possibly the thickest one I have encountered in my life, and definitely epitomizes the café’s vision of keeping you well fed. The coffee is a blend which is roasted on site, and the toast is truly exceptional—it exemplifies sour dough bread at its best.

The café is the vision of Daniel Fiteni, and since no restaurateur fits the mould, I did not know what to expect when meeting him. On this particular morning, the village was quiet. Fiteni carried an air of the new cool that’s been permeating Brixton. Most importantly, he seemed uncannily in touch with trends, Brixton, and his customers. Throughout the interview, Fiteni was serious, generous, and focused; he communicated with a genuine sincerity that provided invaluable insight into the changes Brixton is undergoing.

Although Burnt Toast is still growing, it demonstrates that London can get brunch right. There is no doubt that a lot of thought and hard work has gone into this eatery, and it’s helping to shape a bright and delicious future for Brixton!

Why the name ‘Burnt Toast’?

There are not many cafés in London that have toasters outside for people to make toast, so generally when people sit down, they order their food and they get so deep into conversations and they actually forget about their toast, and 80% of the time they burn their toast. So it was just a fitting name for us to call the café.

So do you just come in and make your own toast?

For most of the meals on our brunch menu, people either get two slices of toast or homemade English muffin. People sit down and make their toast themselves, so you always have fresh toast with your breakfast. "Four years ago, there wasn’t really much in Brixton in terms of retail units, so we had an idea that we should bring something a little different."

Do you get an unlimited supply of toast?

You get the toast which is part of your breakfast and if you want more there is an add on charge.

What is the focus on bread?

I think high-street bakeries are a thing of the past. Everything has gone to chain supermarket bakeries where it is not face to face between a baker and customer. We partnered up with The Bad Boys Bakeries which is linked to Brixton Prison - a friend of ours actually runs the bakery there. Gordon Ramsay is also involved. So they bake all of our bread. I lead a baking class there at least once a fortnight, just to give something back.  

Where do you get your produce?

We get everything from the market. We also have a meat supplier. We have to have reputable suppliers.

Why did you choose Brixton?

Four years ago, there wasn’t really much in Brixton in terms of retail units, so we had an idea that we should bring something a little different. No one was really doing the brunch theme. Of course there was ‘Federation Coffee’ and ‘Cornercopia’. So we thought, let’s go for it as the rent was so cheap. We had the space and time to do our thing. It was a platform for us to get ‘Burnt Toast’ out there.

Have you always loved food?

Yes. I have been in hospitality since I was 18. I learned to bake in seven days and opened my own bakery, which I was always eager to do.

What’s the ethos behind Burnt Toast?

We just want to give people a really fresh, well-cooked breakfast at a reasonable price. It’s also about showing people that good bread is still made within bakeries; it’s not just about buying cheap bread from supermarkets. It is about giving people a decent product.

So it’s about making good food affordable?

Exactly.

Paula Pennant is the Daily Meal's London editor. 

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