Appledore team takes the top spot with their new cafe The Coffee Cabin

This is the dream team behind the success of The Coffee Cabin.

This is the dream team behind the success of The Coffee Cabin. - Credit: Archant

What does it take to open a tiny café and then snaffle Devon’s top foodie spot? SUSAN CLARK grills the owners of Appledore’s The Coffee Cabin to find out

The Coffee Cabin: Cute on the outside and cute on the inside.

The Coffee Cabin: Cute on the outside and cute on the inside. - Credit: Archant

The 20-at-a-squish Coffee Cabin café in Appledore is as cute as it is successful. Open seven days a week, it’s not unusual for strangers to happily budge up to make space for each other or visitors to the picturesque North Devon fishing village to queue around the block to get in.

Both dog- and family-friendly, The Coffee Cabin marks it’s first birthday on 20 March with owner/partners Richard Parsons, 33, and Martin Ford, 32, announcing expansion plans designed to double the available seating (and probably triple the quirky cushion count) next year. They will do this by opening up the upstairs space where they used to live before moving to a rented house around the corner.

Richard and Martin are two of the nicest people you could meet and that must be a key factor behind the phenomenal success of The Coffee Cabin which was recently named as the UK’s best ‘Lunch for under £20’ restaurant by The Sunday Times. The owners have no idea who came and ranked them and their food so highly but whoever it was certainly has very good taste.

It’s hard to say who is most surprised by The Coffee Cabin’s success over such a short period of time. Both Richard and Martin admit: “We started out with really very humble expectations and just never expected it to take off so dramatically.”

Of course their success has very little to do with luck or happenchance and everything to do with passion, commitment, a strong vision for what they wanted to create together and a huge amount of slog and hard work.

Richard, who spent 14 years working in social care, is up with the dawn chorus to cook every single one of the delicious cakes they sell and Martin, a former Virgin Atlantic steward, goes to bed at night thinking about how he can bring his A-game to every aspect of their growing business.

Coffee Cabin Dream Tea

Coffee Cabin Dream Tea - Credit: Archant

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Dig a little deeper and you will also discover that beneath their gentle demeanour, neither are strangers to the kind of challenges that can only make a person ‘grow.’ Richard, for instance, who grew up in Hartland, struggled with dyslexia through his childhood and Martin, who was raised on a dairy farm at Newton Tracy, has conquered a rare form of bone cancer that almost cost him his leg.

You may actually have bumped into Martin on the foodie circuits as one half of the Hey Mambo mobile coffee van which he ran with sister, Sharon, who actually introduced the couple to each other. It was Martin’s parents, Raymond and Patricia, who helped finance their son’s long cherished dream of owning a café and it was Richard’s mum, Hilary, and late gran, Mary, who taught him to make great cakes. Richard is also a talented horseman who counts eventing and dressage amongst his hobbies,and whilst he’d like to spend more time with his horses, for now, it is the kitchen that keeps calling which is lucky for us because really, his cakes are delicious and well worth a trip to Appledore to discover for yourself why The Coffee Cabin still holds that Number 1 spot.


The Coffee Cabin’s Top Tips for Running A Successful Food Business

1. Put together a great team with friendly staff who are people-oriented, hard working and willing to go the extra mile

Richard's delicious spicy carrot cake is a favourite with Coffee Cabin customers

Richard's delicious spicy carrot cake is a favourite with Coffee Cabin customers - Credit: Archant

2. Identify your niche. The food at the Coffee Cabin is simple, honest, cooked with love and – mostly – on toast!

3. Pay attention to the details. Your customers will notice and love you for taking such good care

4. Think about your branding and design. The Coffee Cabin has a very quirky appeal that has been engineered and is not the result of just throwing a few looks together. In fact The Coffee Cabin ‘look’ was developed in partnership with local designer and branding ace, Hannah Lintin.

5. Make sure the partnership behind scenes is strong, shares the core vision and an equal commitment to make a success of the venture

6. If, like Richard and Martin, you hail from Devon, then make sure you shout about it. The locals will love you for it and also support the business which is important once the holiday makers have all gone home.

It’s In The Mix

There’s carrot cake and then there’s Richard’s spiced-up secret carrot cake recipe which (happily and after much hounding) he has agreed to share here:

Carrot Cake recipe


2 large carrots, grated

3 medium eggs

10½ oz light brown sugar

300ml vegetable oil

10½ oz plain flour

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tsp baking powder

1tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

Pinch of salt

2 drops of vanilla extract


Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C.

Mix together the eggs, sugar and vegetable oil. Add all the remaining ingredients to this mix and beat for about two minutes. Split your mixture into two 20cm cake tins and bake for 30 minutes.

Make the frosting by whisking a tub of Philadelphia cream cheese with 13oz of icing sugar.

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