KELLY DE LAUTOUR
Detour Café owner, Kiwi Kelly de Lautour, spills the beans about the secret to a perfect coffee – and what would make London perfect.
Where did you grow up?
In a tiny country town on the north island of New Zealand. Till I was ten, I lived on a farm in Hawke's Bay, the beautiful (west coast) wine region. I have three half-brothers and one half-sister. In fact, my parents had a marriage swap. My dad's first wife married my mum's first husband. It's a cool family actually. All the kids get on really well.
Are you an adrenaline junkie like so many of your bungee-jumping countrymen?
Compared to most New Zealanders, no. For my 21st, I got given a bungee jump and a skydive but I refused to do either. I'm terrified of that stuff. All my friends over here think I'm a sport junkie because I play netball once a week, squash two or three times a week, and tennis. When I was at high school I rode horses three or four times a day. I even thought about trying for the Olympics to do dressage but gave it up when I went to uni.
Were you like the little rich girl with her own pony?
No, dad was a stockman. He ran a farm for a Filipino Congressman. We farmed beef stock, which funded the Congressman's racehorses. I got into food because Dad used to take a mobile food trailer to events and sell amazing venison burgers. I used to take the money. I just loved all the banter. Customers loved it because dad has such an amazing sense of humour. And a really infectious laugh.
Why did you leave New Zealand?
I was working for KPMG in Auckland and my best friend, Andrea Daniell, who was already in London, sent me a cheque for £800 and said, get over here now, you'll love it. She's amazing. We'd spend all day at school together then go home and talk for another hour on the phone.
Has she gone back now?
Her visa ran out and she went back six months later. My mum and dad want me home. Everyone's a bit gutted, especially Andrea, who paid for my ticket. She wishes she'd never done it.
What made you stay?
I got a job at the BBC. I'd studied business management at uni. And then I worked for Siemens, who bought out our section at the BBC. After that I was Financial Controller for the government's ID card project for a French IT and security company. The incoming government dropped it, but they still use those ID cards for foreign nationals. But I didn't stay here for the work. I just love it over here, being in the hub of the world. From here you can go anywhere. I've travelled everywhere.
Why did you choose to set up your café on Askew Road?
I just love making people happy.
I love west London. My partner, Andrew, was brought up in Ealing. I was looking for cafés for sale in west London and I found this one on a UK businesses for sale website. It wasn't exactly how I wanted my café to look, hence the refurb, but it was cute and it had a customer base already. It was a risk for me, not having worked in the food industry before, but each month gets better and better. Andrew said, do you really need to do a refurb? But I didn't feel it was a part of me. I didn't feel like it was my place until I put my mark on it. The cool lake picture reminds me of home and of why I wanted to set up a café.
So, why a café?
One of my favourite things to do in New Zealand was to go out for brunch – French toast with banana and bacon, or eggs Benedict – and drink a delicious flat white. Over here, it was a mission to find that place and I just missed it. And I wanted to create my own place. I like the one to one I have with customers. It's all about customer service for me.
Where did you learn about customer service?
From dad. And in New Zealand it's just expected. People don't get tips, because good customer service is a given. You're paid to do a job and people think you should do it. We've only been open since October, but the feedback has been so positive. People say to me, you act like you care.
What makes you so positive?
I don't know. I've always been a really happy kid. Mum said I used to clean my own high chair to make her happy. One customer came in recently and said, what I love is you're always smiling. A Kiwi friend who was working with me at the time said, I've known Kelly 20 years and I've never known her not smiling. I don't know if my partner, Andrew, would say the same thing. Maybe he gets all the grumpiness.
What is the secret of a good coffee?
The coffee. And we have a really good coffee machine and grinder. I did a barista course and I also got the guys trained. It's so important to get the milk to the right temperature. A lot of people complain that the milk is not hot enough but to get the best flavour it can't be too hot. And it's incredibly important how long you run the hot water through the ground coffee. It can completely change the flavour.
How do you feel about Costa Coffee moving onto Askew Road?
I think it's great for the street. When people drive by they notice the Costa and stop, but I don't see it as a threat. I see it as an opportunity to get more people to the street.
What would you change about London?
There are so many good restaurants, but there's a lot of rubbish. You take a risk when you try a new place over here. You will not survive in New Zealand if you do not have the quality or the service. But the good ones here are amazing.
Is your diplomacy tested when New Zealand beats England?
I support England second after New Zealand. My partner loves his sport. He's more of a sport buff than me, but we're really competitive. We Kiwis are brought up outdoors and New Zealand is the world's greatest playground. Everyone can swim. I had a Scottish boyfriend once who thought he was a great swimmer, but he didn't even put his head under the water.
Your surname sounds French but your voice sounds Kiwi. What's your family history?
I think we're related to (actress) Frances de la Tour. Our ancestors left France during the French Revolution and they were based at Hexton Manor in Luton before moving to New Zealand. When I worked for the French company I thought they'd all speak to me in French, but they never did. When I asked them why not, they said, no French person would be called Kelly.
Thank you, Kelly. It's been a real pleasure to meet you.
Photo by Cathy Masser