SoNo Secrets Community Champions Part 4: Mel at The Lakes Cafe, South Norwood

Our Community Champion number 4 is Mel Whitlock at The Lakes Cafe. The Cafe is next to South Norwood Lakes at The Waterside Centre; it’s home to Mel’s amazing gluten-free baking, children’s activities throughout the week and enough space for lots of buggies and toys- it’s a winner!

Mel what inspired you to set up The Lakes Cafe?

Growing up I had two dreams — to be in a rock band and to have my own café. In my misspent twenties I was in a girl-fronted punk band played on prime-time Radio 1! Then, after hanging up my bass guitar and having kids, I discovered how hard it is to find a place you can hang out with mates over a coffee while your kids play. That drove me to turn the Lakes Café into the kind of place I would have loved, somewhere new parents can relax and anyone can feel at home. As a coeliac it makes me angry that supermarket gluten free food is overpriced and pretty revolting, so the Café and my baking business Owl Kitchen makes sure gluten free doesn’t mean taste-free. My yard stick is my family, none of whom are food intolerant but would happily fight over my left-over pastry!

What do you love about living and working in South Norwood?

What’s not to love — you’ve got everything from a lake with sailing boats to ancient woods plus Jerk Chicken aplenty. SE25 has a real sense of community, and I honestly can’t imagine living anywhere else.

What one thing do you think could improve South Norwood?

People picking up after their dogs!

South Norwood Lakes and Grounds

What have you got coming up at The Lakes Cafe?

We have daily activities for children at the cafe, you can find out more about this on our facebook page We have a knitting group on a Tuesday 1–4pm for grown ups too. We’re also planning a May Day Bank Holiday Fun day for all the family!

Delicious cake and coffee at The Lakes Cafe