As the Easter weekend came to an end, myself and Nicola had big plans to get up early and head down the M74 towards Dumfries with the hope of maybe visiting Castle Douglas and Newton Stewart. However after a longer lie in than we had originally anticipated, we decided to stay closer to home and made the shorter journey to East Kilbride.
We arrived just in time for lunch so decided to check out the food court at Centre West Shopping Centre and see what was going on. As well as the usual fast food suspects, the food court has a few independent restaurants. After a quick look about, we decided to grab a table at Cova Mediterranean Creperie & Deli.
As we sat waiting on our food, I noticed that Cova were on Twitter so I logged into my account and started following them. These days, businesses need to get involved with social media so I was impressed to see that Cova very quickly followed Gerry's Kitchen back. I had initially planned on just doing a review on our lunch but after checking the Cova website and reading about James and Sonia's history, I thought that they had a story that would fit in with my '5 Questions'. James agreed, so after a few tweets back and forward, here's their story;
How did you get started?My ultimate ambition was to be a footballer but was never quite good enough but having my own business was something that I would always dream about and knew one day I would try to achieve. My wife Sonia, who is from Barcelona and I both worked for BAA (British Airports Authority) and we were always out exploring different restaurants and different food cultures when we both fell in love with crepes. After months and months of researching, negotiating and soul searching we used our life savings to buy a crepe stand from a company in Annecy, France. We negotiated a spot for the summer of 2006 at Glasgow Airport and traded as Crepes on the Go. We were then offered a space at East Kilbride shopping Centre and again we had to take a massive financial gamble but we prepared well and opened in October 2008 as Crepe Ole. It was a small unit offering sweet & savoury crepes as well as Spanish tapas. Quickly we became very busy and had built up a fantastic and loyal clientele. This in turn gave me inspiration and confidence to approach East Kilbride and ask for a more prominent and bigger location. In October 2010 we moved to our new premises and although there had previously been restaurants there that had closed, we felt we had prepared long and hard enough that we had a chance of succeeding. We eventually opened the restaurant 2 months later in December and currently trade as Cova (a name inspired from our daughters names Carla & Olivia)
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
We had a real desire to achieve our dream and what has worked for us so far is that for anything we have set out to do we have researched thoroughly. This gave us the confidence to go all guns blazing on each of our adventures. Along the way on the journey we have worked extremely hard whilst sacrificing so much and a real willingness to learn everyday.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
We are currently exploring different avenues at the moment and as well as this we would like to open at least one more Cova in Scotland before trying our hand at opening a restaurant in Sonia’s home city, Barcelona.
If you could only have one of your own products, what would it be & why?
Can we please have two?? The first one would be our crepes. Crepes are what started our journey, and it is something that we are extremely passionate about. The second thing isn't strictly a product but our team of staff have been fantastically loyal, reliable and hard working. Therefore, we will need to take them to Barcelona with us!!!
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Easy. Michel Roux Jr to join Sonia the girls and myself. His approach, his passion and attention to detail with food fascinates the life out me. That, and he clearly loves what he does would be enough to inspire the full family. On the menu would be traditional Scottish, Spanish & French. Think haggis & pan fried chorizo crepes!!
On our visit, we were quickly seated at a table overlooking the lower lever of the shopping centre. Due to the wide range of the menu, choosing our lunch was more difficult that it should have been. There is a huge choice of both sweet and savoury crepes, (as you would expect from a creperie), as well as plenty of starter dishes, paninis and sandwiches, plus some fail safe traditional mains like fish'n'chips, burgers and lasagnes. The special 'two courses for £7.95' caught my eye as it seemed to offer very good value for money, so much so that we ordered a chicken liver pâté followed by a BLT sandwich which came with French fries, plus a separate starter plate of deep fried mozzarella cubes. I asked the waitress to bring everything out together so that we could share our own little tapas selection.
Our food arrived pretty quickly and as you can see, there is plenty there to feed two hungry mouths. The deep fried mozzarella came with a sweet Thai chilli dipping sauce that worked well with the crispy, cheese filled cubes. The chicken liver pâté, served with toasted focaccia, was slightly coarse and very strong tasting - which suited me perfectly - my only gripe is that the same Thai chilli sauce was served with the pâté. Don't get me wrong, the sweetness worked well with the strong flavour of the pâté, I would have just preferred a red onion marmalade or redcurrant jelly as a partner for the delicious pate.
We nibbled away at the starter plates before moving on to the BLT, slices of bacon with mixed leaves, tomatoes and a few other roasted Mediterranean vegetables on thick slices of toasted bloomer. Nicola could tell that something was bothering me as I looked at the sandwich,'where's the chicken I asked?' Before being reminded that we were eating a BLT, not a Club Sandwich - Silly Gerry! At this time, I apologised to no one in particular and continued eating my delicious sandwich.
All three plates came with a dressed salad on the side, ensuring that there was plenty to keep us going on what was to become a long afternoon shopping!
Our bill came £13.40, including a can of San Pellegrino Aranciata orange drink - excellent quality & value for money for a restaurant in a food court. All through our visit, the uniformed staff were attentive, polite, and always about if you needed them.
I wish James, Sonia and their staff every success with Cova in East Kilbride and their plans for the future. As previously mentioned in their answers, a couple of other restaurants have filled the flagship space that Cova now occupy and have unfortunately closed down. It's always going to be hard in the restaurant trade but with two people with huge passion for quality and attention to detail running the show, there's no reason that James and Sonia won't be funding my expenses paid trip to Barcelona in order to witness their Spanish launch.
Keep up to date with Cova Mediterranean Creperie & Deli on Twitter.