Image above: Homayoun Fahimipour, owner of Mali’s and Nikki’s Bakery
Mother and daughter cafés run by a very busy husband and father
It is nearly ten years since Nikki’s Bakery opened on Chiswick High Rd. The early bird café beside Snappy Snaps on the corner of the High Road and Turnham Green Terrace, open from 7.30am every day except Sunday (when they open a whole half an hour later) has become a firm favourite with Chiswickians for its good coffee, fresh pastries and cakes, sandwiches, quiches and seasonal salads.
It is always busy and owner Homayoun Fahimipour and his wife Mali have been able to branch out and open a second business in Chiswick: Mali, the café-delicatessen next to Waterstones, which Homayoun named after his wife and opened in June. (Nikki’s was named after his daughter, who once as a small child declared she was going to own a bakery. Now she’s 18, but is quite content for him to run it).
Can Chiswick support so many cafés? Why did he want to open another one here?
“Yes I think it can. It still has too many places which rely on packaged, frozen food. What we need is more places that sell quality, fresh products that are healthy and made fresh daily.”
Image above: Mali’s café-delicatessen
“I was thinking of calling it ‘Loose and Lazy’ “
Homayoun was particularly keen to secure this site. It was empty for three years after the previous incumbents Kitchen & Pantry left, because he says the negotiations with the landlords dragged on, drawn out by Covid.
“We have such a passion for Chiswick, it’s lovely, and it’s getting better all the time with the Sunday markets.”
Having explained that it’s called Mali’s after his wife, Homayoun confides that he had been thinking of calling it ‘Loose and Lazy’, with the intention of conveying the idea of somewhere people could hang out and relax. Thankfully her realised in time that the name could have had other connotations and given a different impression entirely.
It is a bonus that the property is quite big, taking up the frontage space of two houses, and also on a corner. Previous cafes on the site went for the dark and comfy vibe, with big sofas. Homayoun has opened up the space by putting in big windows facing Megan’s at the Flower Market as well as the windows facing the High Rd, and he has gone for a cleaner, lighter, more pared back design.
The food is very similar to Nikki’s – salads, quiches, sandwiches, pastries, cakes, freshly squeezed juices and smoothies made to order. The pastries and cakes are made at Nikki’s in the early morning; the hot food and salads made fresh every day in the kitchen at Mali’s.
Nikki’s meanwhile has branched out into offering made to order cakes online. Customers can see the cakes online and order by phone, because Homayoun and Mali like to have a conversation with their customer to make sure they get exactly what they want. Offering the cake service has expanded their business and made them known more widely than just Chiswick. They have one customer for example who has rung them from the United States to make a cake to deliver to her daughter in Chiswick.
Images above: Quiches and salads at Mali’s
“We were the first business to start serving almond milk as well as cow’s milk”
Everything is made fresh using local ingredients – meat from Macken Brothers, eggs and dairy produce from Alan Reeder in Acton for example. I can vouch for the courgette and red pepper quiche with filo pastry, which I had with a salad involving crisp iceberg lettuce with sweet potato, mango and fetta cheese. It was light and tasty and accounted for at least three of my five a day.
Homayoun puts a lot of emphasis on the healthiness of their fare.
“We use fresh, quality products. Chiswick is a foodie place now. We’ve noticed over the years we’ve been here how that has changed. It used to be the case that people didn’t ask what was in the food. Now they want to know; they’re very health conscious.
“We were the first business to start serving almond milk as well as cow’s milk. Now we have about ten types of milk – almond, oat, coconut, dairy … I like to talk to customers about what goes into the food. We cater for customers who are on a gluten free diet, or who are vegetarian or vegan.”
Images above: Made to order cakes from Nikki’s Bakery: L to R Black Forest, Caramel Lotus Biscoff; Vegan lemon & raspberry
Homayoun learned about hospitality in Belgium. Leaving Iran as an 18 year-old he chose Belgium as the “gastronomic Mecca – even more so than France.” For ten years he studied every aspect of the hospitality business – event catering, restaurant management, customer service. He gained experience in Michelin starred restaurants before opening his own – Le Petit Paradis in Ghent.
It is noticeable that the customer service is good. The staff in Mali’s are young and welcoming and he interacts with them a lot, buzzing about chopping vegetables, popping something in the microwave, talking to customers. He expects the highest standards of his staff, and does not ask them to do anything he does not also do himself, with expertise, at speed.
It was his wife who wanted to come to London, to live in a truly international city – “one nation in one city”. What they like about Chiswick is that they find people friendly and relaxed, not too stressed, even though we are in the metropolis. The decision to move to London was also coupled with a promise that Homayoun would give up running a restaurant and run something which meant he could be at home in the evenings more.
So what plans does he have for Mali?
“We are planning to extend our hours into the evenings”. Ah well.
Images above: Cakes at Mali’s
We are delighted to say that both Mali and Nikki’s Bakery are members of our Club Card scheme. See their current offers here:
Mali – Club Card offer
Nikki’s Bakery – Club Card offer
Image above: Adam, behind the counter at Mali’s
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