New vegan-friendly Alice in Wonderland themed cafe opens in Felixstowe
PUBLISHED: 18:26 02 April 2019
The Mad House is catering for special diets and has a "crazy" design inside. Our food writer CHARLOTTE SMITH-JARVIS went along to find out more.
A kooky Alice in Wonderland themed café has opened in Felixstowe, with community at its heart. Not only is The Mad House catering for vegans and those looking for gluten-free options, but the owners hope local groups and charities will use the premises for events, and they’re even beginning a monthly event for teenagers in April.
Hannah Hawkes, who owns The Mad House with friend Amber Jones, says: “We wanted to open somewhere for the people of Felixstowe, using all local suppliers and had the mad idea to loosely base it on Alice in Wonderland’s tea party. We found these premises in a few days and completely renovated them. It took us three months to get where we are.”
The premises (formerly an American diner and steak grill) on Crescent Road offer both a physical and visual feast for customers, with Hannah saying it’s “very different” inside.
“We’ve got loads of clocks all set to different times, and gold trim on lots of things, the chairs don’t match, the floor is completely crazy, there are teacups hanging off pegs and we have two sofa areas, including one for children with lots of toys.
“The other sofa area is where we’re going to have a reading scheme where people can read and swap books. Nothing inside is at the same height and we’ve even got a mirrored ceiling in the lobby area – we really really love it. It’s been a long hard slog and towards the end we thought ‘what are we doing?’ but it’s been amazing.”
The pair wanted to offer simple, home-cooked food at reasonable prices, while catering for special diets. Hannah is a vegan and says she’s often struggled to find anything beyond pre-made vegan burgers and sausages, but reveals The Mad House will always have something fresh for vegan diners, who have their own separate menu. Those intolerant to gluten will find plenty to choose from too, including a gluten-free cake every day.
“Everything is freshly made to order,” adds Hannah. “It’s not a fast food place, you don’t come in here to eat and run, you come in to have nice food and to relax.”
The café uses the local butcher, fishmonger and bakery in its kitchen, where breakfast is served from 9am (with a meat, vegan and vegetarian full English available). Pancakes are available all day, served as standard with lemon and sugar cinnamon dressing, and with the option to add all kinds of goodies on top.
And from noon the menu branches out into lunches of jacket potatoes, baguettes, sandwiches, loaded nachos and more – with the chunky fishfinger sandwiches proving especially popular.
“We’re also catering for our little customers. We can make them a smaller portion of anything, but if they just want a simple jam sandwich, we can do that too.”
When it comes to sweet treats there are the ice cream sundaes (called anydaes) packed with everything from honeycomb to crushed meringue. Milkshakes and treat shakes are heavy on ice cream to keep them nice and thick. And afternoon teas are pre-bookable (including a children’s tea) with the special Mother’s Day tea already nearly sold out.
“The afternoon teas are perfect for parties,” says Hannah, “they can be Alice in Wonderland themed, or whatever theme you like. For parties we can do the cake, decorations and even entertainment for children. I have four children of my own so I know how difficult it can be to plan things.”
Talking about children and families, from the first Friday in April, The Mad House will host a youth night where teens can pop in and hang out with their friends. There will be free wifi, and maybe pizza. “We wanted them to have somewhere safe and warm to go so they’re not sitting in a car park or on street corners,” says Hannah, “Anything we can do to be involved in or help the community is really important to us!”
For more details of the menu or youth night and other events follow The Mad House on Facebook.