Bonnington Café is a vegetarian and vegan cafe in a homely old shop, selling tasty, healthy and reasonably priced food. Run by a co-operative of chefs from around the world – whom you can ‘meet’ online before visiting – this seemed to me what local food should be. Started in the 1980s, it has blossomed from its roots as a squat café providing cheap meals for the community.
As we sat in the café, admiring our surroundings and the sense of tranquillity, complete with magnificent large window looking out onto the street, I realised that until I took my friend along to last month’s food co-op she didn’t even know what one was! As we ate and she enthused happily about the quality of food, I felt I’d started something. To my interest, she continued to tell friends we bumped into on the way back home about it.
Just around the corner from the café, Bonnington Square is a little piece of paradise amidst the throng of Vauxhall, with a community-run garden, which has spread its green tentacles among the neighbouring streets.
Bombed in WWII, for many years the square possessed a couple of token municipal swings and later became a centre for dog mess and vandalism, the council apparently forgetting about it. In the 1990s, plans were made to redevelop the site.
With a sense of community already in place, locals fought, and won, the right to transform the area into a community garden, which is now successfully run by volunteers. With the garden’s towering exotic trees, you half expect to see the odd monkey swinging past on a vine. Here residents have taken real ownership of their slice of the city, a natural progression from the café’s roots.