First look: Stokes opens new cafe at The Lawn in Lincoln

Coffee company Stokes has opened the doors to its brand new cafe at The Lawn – The first major milestone in its £2 million refurbishment project of the Grade II listed building in uphill Lincoln.

The new 60-seat cafe restaurant, which adds to the company’s existing High Bridge coffee shop and cafe at The Collection, has undergone a £150,000 plus revamp and created 12 new jobs.

The team opened the doors to the Stokes Lawn Cafe on the morning of Thursday, July 27.

The Lincolnite was invited for an exclusive first look tour of the new space:

The cafe will be open seven days a week, from 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 10am to 4pm on Sundays.

On the menu, visitors will find a selection of locally sourced, high quality dishes from traditional breakfasts to cream tea selections, seasonal specials and main meals.

Needless to say, guests can also order their favourite Stokes beverage, and coffee even features as a key ingredient in many of the menu items – like the Stokes coffee tart.

Inside, the former tea room has been refurbished from top to bottom. The space has been filled with carefully restored and upcycled furnishings with an industrial coffee theme and, as a nod to the company’s eco recycling targets, a specially commissioned sculpture takes pride of place.

The impressive giant whale hanging from the rafters of the building has been crafted from former coffee machine parts by artist Ptolemy Elrington.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

“The whale came about because we were reading about the sixth continent, plastic”, explained Managing director of Cokes Nick Peel. “Tonnes of plastic are thrown into landfill every year and is polluting the ocean, so we wanted to address that and bring awareness to it.

“That’s why in the cafe we tried to reuse everything that we possibly could. The floor is actually made up of the dance floor from the old hall. The cafe seats are made up of old or spare furniture from the cafe and The Lawn which has been refurbished.”

The company was handed the keys to the building, formerly owned by the City of Lincoln Council, in April after plans were approved.

Stokes managing director Nick Peel

“It was a shell when we took it on”, explained Nick and cafes manager Jean-Sebastien Braen. “We have knocked through a solid wall and opened the space right out. The cafe before was very small and had a fake ceiling so there was no light. We’ve given it the height back and installed new windows. The kitchen is open too so that people can see their food being prepared.”

Head Chef Colm Gummoe said: “Stokes is Lincolnshire based, so we will be doing things like a Lincolnshire afternoon tea, which includes sandwiches, Lincolnshire haslet, Lincolnshire sausage scotch egg and locally made pork pie.

“Of course we want to bring out the ethos of the business so we wanted to bring a bit of the coffee into the food too and so we have a Stokes coffee tart. The scones are made in house and also on the afternoon tea is a Lincolnshire strawberry mousse.”

Cafe manager Tracy Laws, who previously worked as manager at the former Henry’s Tea Rooms above Ruddocks, added: “I think it’s really different to anything that we have in Lincoln. You can really tell that it’s a family-run business and you get the sense that a lot of care and attention has gone into all aspects of the space.”

Up next at The Lawn

Over the next few weeks, the team will be working to open a viewing gallery off the cafe, where people will be able to see the coffee roasting and production process in the heart of the building.

A barista training centre will then be prepared ready for September. The school will be aimed at industry professionals, but also will also be available as an experience gift for tutorials on how to make the perfect coffee.

After moving their headquarters from previous offices on Mint Lane, Stokes is now being run from The Lawn full time, with another 15 production and admin staff working from offices created in former ‘cells’ of the building (used originally as a mental hospital).

By September, retail units on the site will also have the addition of a new bridal shop, pottery barn and cutlery design workshop.

Talks are still ongoing for a large commercial unit in the buildings forecourt, and management hope to also open a high end restaurant in the building by the end of the year.

Other areas of the building, like the grand old Victorian theatre are already being booked up for events such as performances and functions too.

Nick added: “It is a great pleasure and privilege to bring this historic building back life and continue to develop Stokes, whilst remaining loyal to its traditional values. I am sure my great, great grandad, who founded the company back in 1901 would be very proud.”

Stokes has received support from the regional growth fund which is operated through the Lincolnshire chamber of commerce and Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership, managed through Lincolnshire County Council.

Take a tour of the empty building at the beginning of the project.