Shop Local: Romford cafe owner hopes for luckier 2021 after opening during Covid pandemic

Festim Shahini

Festim Shahini, who owns Prickly Pear cafe in Romford. - Credit: The Brewery Shopping Centre

A Romford cafe owner revealed he hopes his business has more fortune next year after opening during the Covid pandemic.

Festim Shahini runs Prickly Pear at the Brewery Shopping Centre, having been a chef for 25 years.

He decided to launch the business during the pandemic as he wanted to fulfil his dream of opening a cafe.

But he is "devastated" at rising coronavirus cases and Havering moving into stricter tiers.

Festim said: "Christmas is the busiest time of the year and it’s also meant to be the most joyous too.

The front of Prickly Pear cafe in Romford.

The front of Prickly Pear cafe in Romford. - Credit: The Brewery Shopping Centre

"Here at Prickly Pear we will be offering a takeaway service and hope to brighten each of our customers' day with a lovely hot drink.

"There are a lot of worries regarding when restrictions will ease and I hope Prickly Pear will have more luck in 2021."

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His venue has had to close for eat-in customers with Havering having moved first to tier three and now tier four, but had announced it would be providing takeaways from 8.30am until 7pm every day.

Festim added: "It is hard for all business right now, but it is important to keep working hard and strive for your dreams.

"I dream that more people get to know and love Prickly Pear Café and I am wishing everyone good health and happiness for the new year.”

He came up with the cafe's name after working in a London restaurant where he had to prepare many salads featuring "prickly pears".

Having been a chef at the back of the house, Festim opened the cafe so he could be front of house and interact with the community.

He revealed that he has been amazed by the response to his cafe so far.

"The encouragement, compliments and support from my customers has been amazing and I feel very welcomed."

After what he described as an "up and down" year, Festim said coming out of the first lockdown was a highlight.

"Everyone was happy and delighted to be out, sharing their lockdown experiences with us, sitting outside of the café and enjoying the weather."

He hopes for an end to the pandemic in 2021, adding: "I am looking forward to welcoming new customers to Prickly Pear and I will continue to work hard."