Hospitality Hero: 'Biggest prize is appreciation,' says tearoom owner
- Credit: Cash Boyle
The co-owner of Romford's Small Talk Tearooms said being appreciated is the "biggest prize" after being crowned a Hospitality Hero by the Recorder.
Monika Samuel admitted she was "shocked" to discover her café is a readers' favourite.
"We were totally unaware," she told the Recorder.
"It was a good shock when we found out that we had won. For me, it's about knowing that people appreciate us - that's the prize."
Co-owner alongside husband Michael, Monika said such positive recognition has proven a tonic after an 18 months dominated by Covid-19.
Though this period was nothing short of "horrendous", Monika is pleased to report a continuing recovery.
She and Michael opened their first branch in 2011, with the Romford shop only set up in the last three years.
The unique décor is designed by Monika, who decorated the shop in a manner she would appreciate as a customer.
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Referencing the older style, she joked: "Before we opened people thought it was going to be an antiques shop!"
With Monika's keen eye and Michael's expertise in the kitchen, the joint venture has continued to go from strength to strength.
Though proud of the pair's success, Monika is keen to dedicate this accolade to the staff: "They're the people who are there every day; they make the atmosphere.
"Michael and I play our role, but people keep coming back because of how they're treated by staff."
Proof of the tearooms' popularity means a great deal to Monika, she said, especially since she recently left her job of 24 years to make the shop her key focus.
A dental nurse at the Royal London Hospital for more than two decades, Monika said it was a wrench to give that up.
After coming through a pandemic, which could have threatened the tearooms' survival, Monika and Michael can now celebrate being a readers' favourite.
"To know that is a privilege," she said.