Tempting new Plymouth cafe is dream come true for owner

Hannah Megraw, manager, and Ervis Balaj, owner, outside Salt and Pepper Kitchen, Bretonside, Plymouth
Hannah Megraw, manager, and Ervis Balaj, owner, outside Salt and Pepper Kitchen, Bretonside, Plymouth -Credit:William Telford

The owner of a new £30,000 Plymouth food outlet says his lifelong dream has come true after it celebrated a busy first day’s trade. Ervis Balaj, who has worked in the hospitality industry since he was a teenager in his native Albania, has reopened the Salt and Pepper Kitchen, in Bretonside, with a special welcome for bookworms.

Mr Balaj bought the business, on the corner of High Street and Buckwell Street, when the previous owners decided to move on. He has invested in a new bar/counter, kitchen equipment, decor and furniture, spending about £30,000 in total for a month-long refit, and introduced a “snug corner” where customers can relax and enjoy a book.

Mr Balaj has also kept much of the menu that made Salt and Pepper Kitchen popular under previous owners, but has added a range of paninis - which were certainly drawing customers on the establishment’s first day of trading. He said: “This has been my dream. I’m a people person and love serving good food. And it’s been busy today.”

Read next:

The Salt and Pepper Kitchen is open from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. The menu board contains hot drinks, breakfasts, burgers and a range of paninis: caprese, Mediterranean, southern fried chicken, ham and cheese and tuna melt.

Salt and Pepper Kitchen has 16 covers inside and can seat another 16 outside but Mr Balaj stressed takeaway trade was strong too. He said: “The paninis are a good draw, and the cheesy chips, curry chips and dirty fries. A lot of students are coming here.

“We have changed the decor, brought in new artwork,” he said. “In the snug people can come and read a book. Some friends are bringing me books. My wife Monika is a design expert, she came up with the colours. We have planters outside too.”

Salt and Pepper Kitchen, Bretonside, Plymouth -Credit:Submitted
Salt and Pepper Kitchen, Bretonside, Plymouth -Credit:Submitted

Mr Balaj, who most recently worked as a waiter, said opening his own establishment was something he had been working towards for years. He said: “When I was 14 I worked in my parents’ restaurant in Albania. Then when I was 17 I came to England. There were more opportunities here and at that age I wanted to leave the nest and meet people. I also love rock and roll, The Rolling Stone, Ozzy Osborne, he’s my favourite. I’m a rock fan.

“I lived in London for 20 years and for the past seven in Plymouth. My wife came here for a week and decided we were moving here.”

Mr Balaj, who runs Salt and Pepper Kitchen with just one other person: his manager Hannah Megraw, said: “I’m not a chef, but I love to cook. It was my dream to have a cafe, start small, have a twist. I would like to open in the evenings, a couple of days, sell canapes, cocktails, and home-made bread. But that is later. I might put some Albanian food on later, but I’m more into Italian and French food, and Mexican too.”

Inside Salt and Pepper Kitchen, with its book snug at the rear, Bretonside, Plymouth -Credit:Submitted
Inside Salt and Pepper Kitchen, with its book snug at the rear, Bretonside, Plymouth -Credit:Submitted

Sam Matthews, who runs an electrical business and works a lot with businesses on the waterfront, helped Mr Balaj acquire the cafe. He is friends with both the previous owners and Mr Balaj put the two together. He said: “I put my knowledge and skills into making Ervis’ dream come true.”

Salt and Pepper Kitchen is based in a unit that was used by various hair and beauty salons before becoming the Daily Fix cafe in 2018. Salt and Pepper Kitchen opened in 2021 and was run by the same owners for three years until Mr Balaj bought it.

Click here to join PlymouthLive on WhatsApp and we'll send breaking news and top stories directly to your phone. We also treat our community members to special offers, promotions, and adverts from us and our partners. If you don’t like our community, you can check out any time you like. If you’re curious, you can read our Privacy Notice.