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On a roll...
9:40am Saturday 4th August 2012 in Features
York’s new café is up for a punt, thanks to fresh food and a funky gimmick. MAXINE GORDON is hit for six
DID you hear the one about the café where if you roll a six on a die you get your purchase for a quid?
If this sounds too good to be true, Lucky Days is the real deal – tempting hungry dinners with the prospect of tasty, home-made food for a fraction of the price.
“It’s no gimmick,” says enthusiastic owner Chris Holder. “If you throw a six, every item costs just a quid. There’s no terms and conditions.
It’s all day, every day.”
The idea has been rolling around Chris’s mind for several years. He had built a career in catering, first in York, working at the likes of St William’s College and the National Railway Museum, then in London, managing cafés for attractions such as London Zoo and Buckingham Palace.
But he always longed to open his own place. So 18 months ago he returned to his home city to in search of the perfect premises. He found them on Church Street, in a former opticians, just round the corner from St Sampson’s Square.
Determined to introduce his “roll a six” feature, he also wanted to ensure food, service and setting were top quality, unashamedly setting his sights on mirroring the business ethos of Pret A Manger.
“We make everything on site,”
says Chris, who recently was a finalist on the Sky 1 show The Angel, a cross between The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den.
After 20 years in management, Chris is back in the kitchen, working from 6am every day preparing fresh salads, filled sarnies and an array of cakes and scones.
His business partners are father and daughter duo Nigel and Alice Hildred. Alice is a whiz at cakemaking, her claim to fame being that she made the birthday cake for David Attenborough’s 85th birthday – a giant chocolate devil’s food cake with sugar-crafted butterflies on top decorated in edible gold leaf.
Nothing quite as fancy is on sale at Lucky Days, although Alice’s experimental green pandan cake with coconut icing was a sell-out.
For lunch, there is a choice of ready-made wraps, sandwiches and salad boxes to take away or eat inside (don’t be put off by the lack of seating on the ground floor, there is ample space upstairs).
Diners can also choose a piece of terrine or frittata, a portion of poached salmon or a slice of bruschetta with a selection of salads.
Culinary combos include curried cauliflower with sultanas and toasted almonds; cucumber with watermelon and yoghurt and poppy seeds or tomato with beetroot and orange.
There are treats a plenty too; giant white meringues filled with lemon and passionfruit curd, gooey cakes, and freshly-made scones, both sweet and savoury.
A state-of-the-art coffee machine delivers the usual suspects of caffe lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites.
It’s only when customers come to pay that Chris’s quirky imprint comes into play.
People are invited to roll a die on the counter. If they score a six then every item is reduced to a pound. Winners are celebrated with a fanfare going off in the café.
Using twitter and facebook, Chris will launch an “idiosyncrasy of the week” – turn up in purple, or odd socks or earrings, or whatever is prescribed that week, and earn a second roll of the die.
“It’s all good fun and great for the customer. The odds are that one in six customers will roll a six,” says Chris, who is already established on the York catering scene through his Dine About tours, where diners visit three or four restaurants in one evening.
This wacky approach to business doesn’t stop there. Upstairs in the customer loo, the “gambling”
theme is continued with a Vegas theme. There’s a ‘Welcome To Vegas’ montage on the wall, a mirrored ceiling with a black chandelier and an ornate, full-length mirror.
“I’d love to install a singing statue of Elvis in here,” says Chris with a grin.
What’s the bet he does?
Lucky Days’ sticky banana and cinnamon cake
THIS is a really moist and delicious cake. Really ripe bananas are required: green or speckle-free ones simply won’t do.
Here’s what you need to make an 8” square cake (12 portions):
200g softened butter
200g soft light brown sugar
4 large eggs
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 large/3 small mashed ripe bananas
2 large/3 small ripe bananas, sliced in half lengthways
4 tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Grease and line an 8in square tin. Spread the golden syrup evenly over the base of the tin. Lay the sliced bananas flat side down on top of the golden syrup.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk the butter and sugar together for three minutes until lights and fluffy.
Whisk the eggs into the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, until well combined.
Fold in half the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the mashed bananas.
Fold in the rest of the flour mixture.
Pour the mixture into the tin.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until deep golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool inside its tin on a wire cooling rack. When the cake has cooled completely, turn it out onto a serving plate so that the sliced bananas show on top, and enjoy!