Book and Kitchen is what it says it is, and is also a lot more. An independently-run bookshop, and cafe (as revealed through the title), it is also an events space and, more recently, a member's club. The evening events include talks, poetry, art and music and the member's club, launched last Friday, aims to be "the only private member's club in West London that doesn't require an exclusive price tag". It is more centred around community - providing additional perks, networking and the use of its wonderful space to those who are willing to invest in the space initially.
Book and Kitchen has existed for three and a half years, and the space and atmosphere are beautiful (ps there is an excellent Italian next door). It can't hurt that it is on All Saints Road, a Notting Hill street surrounding by rows of incredible white London townhouses, but the shop itself feels like the best kind of living room - an eclectic mix of books for all interests, amazing furniture and art, and space to sit and read, or study, or drink, or eat. They write on their website that it aims to be "integrated in the thriving local community" which is "reflected in the book we stock which grows organically with the shop based on our interests and customer suggestions". It certainly feels like a place you could just sit and enjoy.
But, I guess, the beauty of this concept is also where its struggles lie. Muna, the founder and owner, reveals the difficulty of having customers who browse without buying, or sit and use the wifi without ordering food or drink. The overheads are high, and people love the aesthetic, but it is hard to maintain this kind of space without frequent investment from the customers. It strikes me that this is such a difficult balance to strike - aspiring to be a community space and social hub (so popular these days with the rise of freelancers and start-up owners who can work from anywhere), but also needing people to understand that this is also a business. It seems that, with this kind of concept, customers love the aesthetic but are less willing to accept the reality. This tension becomes even more pronounced for a bookshops, desperately trying to compete with the digital giants.
This is where the idea for the member's club has come from - by encouraging people to invest in the space initially, they can enjoy it with its perks (such as access to the wifi), and Muna can keep it running as a business. This creates a community where everyone wins - the customers who can browse and sit to their hearts content, and the business who can keep their dream a reality. It also means there is an alternative to the exclusive member's club world of Shoreditch House and the like - where it is founded on a genuine local community rather than a sense of status or privilege.
We loved the space, and we loved meeting Muna and her colleagues (dott in general LOVES bookshops, so they can do no wrong in this sense). It clearly has been carefully curated with such a sense of love and care, and a concept for providing something beneficial to the local community. We also love the idea of creating a member's club which is inclusive and affordable. Small communities have a tendency to be insular, so we just hope this ambition can be maintained.
Author: Vicky Noble