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Middle Eastern Cuisine – Baobab Café

PUBLISHED: 15:57 08 August 2016 | UPDATED: 15:57 08 August 2016

Middle Eastern dishes at the Baobab Cafe in Crediton

Middle Eastern dishes at the Baobab Cafe in Crediton

MATT AUSTIN

A foodie couple have realised a long held dream and opened up a child friendly café with a Middle Eastern twist in Crediton. Laura Dale meets the owners of Baobab café

Eran Hovav, head chef at Eran's Kitchen, and his wife Laura Jones, co-founder of the Baobab Café in Crediton.Eran Hovav, head chef at Eran's Kitchen, and his wife Laura Jones, co-founder of the Baobab Café in Crediton.

On the square in this peaceful Devon town is an atypical café with a vibrant blue frontage. Inside there are rustic tables and chairs, an open kitchen, a dedicated play area for children, and a mural of a baobab tree, which all lends the café a homely feel.

When I arrive there is already a group of mums enjoying drinks and food whilst their children run about in the well-equipped play area; and, perhaps surprisingly, all the café’s inhabitants are calm.

In creating a homely, bright and airy café, Laura Jones and her husband Eran Hovav have avoided the usual sense of chaos associated with mixing children with eating out.

Baobab Cafe in CreditonBaobab Cafe in Crediton

Laura explains: “It was about looking at what is needed and how having a child of our own (three year old Oshi), impacts on your ability to go out and eat. We wanted to create a family environment where children had a place as well.”

Laura, who was brought up in Devon and went to the South Devon Steiner School, has always been interested in food and where it comes from. She met Eran whilst living in London. Laura says: “The plan had always been to bring our children up in Devon. It was about how to grow the business around a family.”

Inside the Baobab Cafe in CreditonInside the Baobab Cafe in Crediton

The café’s chef, Eran, started cooking when he was 13 years old having watched his grandmother Rina cook Egyptian food in her kitchen. Eran recalls: “I went to her house every Friday after I finished school. I would stand on a little step and watch her cook.” He adds: “My father was born in Egypt and my mother’s parents were born in Yemen. In terms of cooking I was very lucky because I was exposed to different cuisine from around the world.”

Eran was later trained at ‘Food Art’, the most prestigious catering company in Israel at the time, where he learnt the art of combining fine dining and traditional cooking methods. During his career Eran has catered for some of the most influential people in the world, including Bill Clinton in late 2000 whilst he was US president, Al Gore, Prince Charles, Boris Johnson, various Israeli prime ministers, and many high profile celebrities such as Roger Taylor. But his feet are firmly planted on the ground and his passion lies in creating home-cooked healthy food. Eran explains: “There are a lot of cafés doing a lot of traditional English food and we wanted to offer something different. I like to use fresh ingredients when I cook. Everything we cook is fresh, everyday. There are no additives in our hummus.” As if on queue, a plate of hummus, freshly made pita bread and crudities comes out of the kitchen. It’s delicious. Eran adds enthusiastically: “My spice wrack in the kitchen is huge because I use Iraqi and Yemenite spice mixes. The spices I use are for health reasons, not just for flavour. Paprika is good for your heart and tumeric is good for your kidneys.”

Eran Hovav, head chef at the Baobab Cafe in CreditonEran Hovav, head chef at the Baobab Cafe in Crediton

The passionate duo already have a strong sense of what their new venture is about and they certainly offer something different; and it’s served up with attention to flavour, taste and health. Laura says: “We make our own nut butter, gluten free rye bread and traditional pita. We bring different skills to the business – we have always worked as a team.”

All of the cafe’s vegetables, meat, bread and coffee are sourced in Crediton and Eran hopes to start growing his own herbs. As well as serving up a reasonably priced day time menu including Arabic mud coffee with cardamom, Shakshuka (a North African breakfast with poached eggs and a rich tomato sauce), hummus and pita, and a host of more familiar breakfast and lunch offerings; Baobab are open one evening a month - Around the World in Friday Night Dinners - where they serve up food from different Middle Eastern cultures.

So far, the couple have received rave reviews on Facebook and their following is growing (and they aren’t all mums and toddlers). As I leave with takeaway Shakshuka in hand and several of Eran’s pitta breads, I can’t help wishing this child friendly café with a Middle Eastern twist was a bit closer to my home.

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