Saturday, 2 June 2012


I wanted to set up a tea room and the good news is that is exactly what I have done.

You may have spotted a small gap in my blog story telling with my last post being published on Tuesday 27th March 2012. That post heralded the news that following two years of planning, 44 blog posts and around 5500 tweets my dream of running a tea room was finally realised.

My abrupt silence was a deliberate and direct reflection of how all consuming setting up a business is. I will try to write about the experience now that I have some perspective. At various points over the past weeks of radio silence I have toyed with writing to you to explain, narrate and share my thoughts, feelings and adventures. My instincts told me to leave it, to experience it, so that I remember it and then share to it and so here we are.

You may have been part of the experience in real time, visiting the tea rooms in person. For that I can only thank you all. There has been no greater pleasure than meeting someone who connected to my story online and then made the effort to come in and say hello. Would we ever have met otherwise?

Here are some facts...
Since opening the doors in late March we have served over 15kg of Pettigrew Breakfast Tea, 800 toasted tea cakes, over 40 Victoria Sandwiches, 500 sandwiches, 4500 shots of fine Welsh roasted coffee, nearly 3000 scones and made countless new friends many of which I am delighted to say have become regulars!

Today my catch up will bring you how we went about taking on the West Lodge and translating all that planning into a living operating commercial tea room; to wake from my dream so to speak.

I need you to know that it has been incredibly tough but indescribably rewarding.

The 'Tea Room' in storage in my house

Decision Making

I had confirmation that I was the preferred operator for the tea room at West Lodge in late January this year and from that time on it was a race against the clock to turn all my procrastinating into a brilliant business that I was visualising.

One of the mutually agreed terms of my tenancy was to ensure that the tea rooms were open in time for the RHS Flower Show Cardiff on the weekend of Friday the 20th April. RHS attracts around 22,000 visitors to Bute Park each year and if anything would be a test for the tea rooms, then this would be it. From all of my research and speaking to other small business start ups, giving yourself time to test out your operation is key.

The builders gave us a get in date of the 9th March with a full handover of the building on Tuesday 20th March. With the RHS weekend less than four weeks from the handover date, I knew that the fit out would have to be quick and so I picked the date of Friday 30th March as our grand opening with a soft opening from the Monday before.

Her are some pictures which speak for themselves really, enjoy!

Fit Out Schedule
Monday 9th March - Kitchen Build

Friday 13th March - Still Room Build

Tuesday 19th March - Tea Room Fit Out

Saturday 24th March - Tea Room Dressing

Tuesday 27th March - Staff Induction and Soft Opening

Friday 30th March - GRAND OPENING

On the morning of Friday 30th March 2012, I was busy setting out the outside seating on our beautiful terrace and a random runner came past and shouted "Bake Free Brother!".

This was one of the most moving things during the opening. I still don't know who that was but thank you, it was brilliant. The good news is, I feel free... I am free.

Come in soon and say hello.

More photos and story to follow soon.

David & team

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


I managed to get my face into the Echo on Saturday :o)

Shame no one told me my tile was the wrong way round! But you can't have everything eh?
So we are all go for the grand opening from 7:30am on Friday 30th March 2012, closing at around 5:30pm

You may have grasped from my lack of activity on the blog, Twitter and Facebook etc that I have been rather flat out making this dream into an operational Tea Room.

The good news is... we are on track! It should be a really busy weekend so come say hi and forgive us if we aren't the slickest business in town [yet!].

Our First Customer

I am delighted to say that we have served our very first paying member of the public Mrs Jayne Pugh of Llanishen, Cardiff.

There is still time to enter our competition which is closing this Friday to win some beautiful tea and coffee check it out via the link below.

Just to tantalise you here are some snaps of the Tea Room...

See you Friday!


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

BBC Radio Wales - Interview

March 2012

Today I was lucky enough to be interviewed by the lovely Jamie Owen and Louise Elliott on their week day magazine show. Listen along by clicking the play button below.

NOTE: The link above is HTML5 if it doesn't show in your browser click HERE or below is the flash version.

BBC Radio Wales 200312 by IWantToBakeFree

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Tea Room Launch Date Confirmed

It brings me enormous pleasure to announce that Pettigrew Tea Rooms will officially open to the public on Friday 30th March 2012.

Needless to say, there is still a lot to do and I am working hard to finally bring my plans to fruition. Here is a sneak peek at the interior...

See you soon and spread the word!

Pettigrew Tea Rooms, West Lodge, Bute Park and Arboretum, Cardiff CF10 1BJ

Thursday, 1 March 2012



Unbelievably the countdown has now begun to the opening of my traditional Tea Rooms in Cardiff. It's been a long journey over the past two years and if you have been following from the beginning you'll know the ups and downs. Somehow during this time baking has become more popular than ever and my passion for bringing a traditional slice of Tea Room culture to Cardiff has never been stronger.

I am blessed with a beautiful venue in the very heart of Cardiff City Centre, the West Lodge, Castle Street at the entrance to Bute Park and Arboretum. The responsibility is great and I know that expectation is high. The next few weeks until opening will be intense, but stay with me and please tell your friends and family.

To give you a taster of what's to come at Pettigrew Tea Rooms, today I am announcing an essential competition. I have teamed up with some of my key suppliers, Kitchens Cookshop [Cardiff], Peter James Gourmet Coffee [Ross-on-Wye] and the delectable Tea Palace [London] to create a Tea and Coffee lovers paradise.

The Prize - Totalling over £200!
A Stunning Vintage Tea Set
[milk jug, sugar bowl, set of teaspoons four cups and saucers as pictured]
A Gift Voucher for 'Two for High Tea' at Pettigrew Tea Rooms, Castle Street, Cardiff

To WIN simply enter your details below and follow the instructions:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A Tea Room is Brewing

Introducing '_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Tea Rooms'

Bute Park is in amazing hands

You may say that I am biased as I am soon to directly benefit from the restoration of this stunning historic park land with the chance to turn my dream into a living reality. I hope that if you have gleaned anything from this blog it is that I am honest and open.

I have found all those connected with Bute Park, both working there daily and assisting in the careful and considered restoration, to be professional, passionate, intelligent, considered, leaders and doers. You will not find people more concerned with the welfare of the park itself, for the benefit of the users now and for those of the future. This is not some faceless bureaucracy, but a live and exciting family who have gone over and above their work remit donating hours upon hours of their own time to breathe life into community projects they help create and believe in.

If you have been to the Park recently hopefully you will have experienced this yourself too, if not Spring is a perfect time to visit and you should definitely go and see the new Education Centre!

I turned to this family for inspiration for a name to bestow on this new use for an historic building opening its doors for the first time to the public. My own ideas along with those from the custodians of the Park have been at the forefront of my mind for weeks.

Giving Birth

I have heard that deciding a name for your child can be difficult.
Do you wait until after the birth, look at your child, live with it, try and understand its personality?
Do you even know someone who was born without a name?

I believe that the greatest compliment for naming may be to inherit a family name or to bestow a title upon the next generation that has great personal resonance. With this in mind a wonderful name soon came to mind along with a superb opportunity to inform and educate today's park visitors about its history.

The Pettigrew Family

Many people know the Title of 'Marquess of Bute' and many people know the famous architect of Cardiff Castle, William Burges, but arguably less popularly well known for his contribution to Bute Park is Mr Andrew Pettigrew.

Andrew Pettigrew and his three sons William Wallace (‘WW'), Hugh and Andrew Alexander (‘AA') all contributed to a legacy of public owned gardens and parkland in Cardiff that is second to none in the UK.

Andrew Pettigrew (1833-1903) was Head Gardener to the Marquess of Bute at Cardiff Castle between 1873 and 1903. Originally from Ayrshire, he and his family moved to Cardiff from Dumfries House in Ayr, another Bute property, to work with the Third Marquess of Bute and William Burges on the layout of the Castle Grounds at Cardiff (re-named Bute Park in 1947 when it was gifted to the city along with the Castle and Sophia Gardens by the fifth Marquess of Bute).

The Marquess, who also came from Scotland, made all his money by sending coal and iron from the South Wales Valleys all around the world. What we now know as Cardiff was then a collection of small villages before the Marquess created a busy port, where hundreds of ships sailed every day. Cardiff became the largest coal exporting port in the world.

Many people came to live in Cardiff and it soon became a large city, but many of them lived in crowded houses with poor facilities and no gardens or space to relax and play in. The city needed parks and gardens.

So the Marquess and other Cardiff landowners gave land to the people of the city, so that they could have pleasant places to walk, to sit and listen to bands playing, to play or to watch sport such as bowls and cricket.

Introducing 'Pettigrew Tea Rooms'

In homage to his superb work in developing Bute Park into the recognisable space that thousands of visitors enjoy today, I feel it is appropriate to commemorate Mr Andrew Pettigrew's work by naming this business 'Pettigrew Tea Rooms'. I am passionate about sharing the history of this man, his family and the lasting legacy of their work with new and future generations visiting Bute Park and Arboretum.

Now for your say...

I have maintained from the start of this project that you would be involved. I value your thoughts and opinions. So now I turn over to you lovely people one of the biggest decisions I face. This is a traditional Tea Rooms and the Logo will be in pride of place on the menus, website and throughout. Please make your choice wisely.

Option a.)
Option B.)
Option C.)

Place Your Vote...
<a href="" title="Which is your favourite Pettigrew Tea Rooms Logo?">Which is your favourite Pettigrew Tea Rooms Logo?</a>

P.s. constructive criticism is great and always welcome, but if you don't have anything nice to say, then come and sit next to me.

Pettigrew Tea Rooms - Bi-Lingual Website Under Construction Coming Soon

Thank you. Keep your eyes peeled for more updates and maybe maybe maybe a competition some time soon...


Friday, 10 February 2012

Without Prejudice & Subject to Contract


So all the waiting is over and the hardest part of starting my Tea Rooms business so far is concluded. I am proud, delighted, elated, humbled and jubilant as I tell you that I have been successful in my tender for the operation of a Tea Rooms as part of the West Lodge redevelopment within Bute Park in Cardiff City Centre. If you are unfamiliar with the building please read my introduction HERE.

Here is a snippet from the first ever post that I made to 'I Want to Bake Free'

Dreams and Talents - taken from 'Somewhere in the Middle Part One' 25th July 2010
"Really cool dreams, the ones that make your heart feel light, chest tight and pulse race are great for weekends and holidays. My dreams are simple, making, baking, creating. I am surrounded by talent, beautiful inspiring talent that over the past two years has made our home and made my life. It takes a holiday usually to step out of the one track work mind and explore your dreams. My dream is for a Tea Room, that sells good tea and home made perfect cakes. My dream is to make drift wood art works and learn other artistic skills. My dream is to grow a garden of ingredients for use in my business. My dream is to support my family and spend time together doing the things we love."

The really really cool thing, aside from making it this far, is that the dream is not over. This has been a long introduction and I am so humbled by the interest and support that you have all shown me, but there is more to come; a lot more. Most excitingly we now have a place in reality outside of this blog to meet and you can truly become part of this project.

So today's post covers the following;

1.) Working timeline*
2.) Where I will ask for your help
4.) Where this blog goes next
*this is my working timeline which almost certainly will change, but I will do my best to stick to it!

1.) Working Timeline
The building work on the West Lodge is due to finish in the first week of March 2012. I am aiming to get on-site and fit out the Tea Rooms to my exacting standards from around this time.

If all goes well I will spend the next 14 days lovingly decorating, cleaning and laying out systems for how the business will operate.

I am aiming to train up my new team mid March, with a view to opening the doors to trade around the end of March beginning of April. I will keep you updated and no doubt make a lot of noise about opening nearer the time.

So you will need to get telling every single person you know, in work, at school, in the hairdressers, everywhere that the new place to be is the _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Tea Rooms at the West Lodge.

2.) Your Help
Logo - As you are all so fabulous and opinionated I have decided to put the choice of the final logo design to you. I am finalising the name of the Tea Rooms business at the moment and will be asking for your help in the next week or two.

Recruitment - The time has come to find the very best waiting staff who want to work in a challenging but rewarding quality catering outlet. A passion for tea, coffee, cake, service and the beauty and history of Bute Park will be preferred. If this is you or someone you know then drop me a line, various positions will be available from full to part time.

Takeaway - I have an amazing Welsh coffee supplier lined up who roasts coffee in South Wales to order. So all of you folks who wander past the West Lodge/Castle Street in the morning need to divert and pick up your morning coffee from me. I will be doing some opening promotions and will of course reward loyalty! Takeaways coffee will be served from opening in the morning until around 09:30am. More details and exact times to follow... BUY LOCAL!

3.) A Competition
I am finalising the details of a FABULOUS competition in conjunction with a brilliant local Cardiff business. The full details will be up on the blog this weekend or early next week so come back and check it out. The more times you enter the more chances you have to win and will you be supporting me and them, you have nothing to lose.

4.) The Future
I hope that this post has shown you that there is a lot further to go in this journey. I still want to bake free, having the venue is only the first piece of the puzzle. Anyone who knows small businesses knows that the first 6 to 12 months are crucial. Now I will need your support more than ever, I will try to give you the very best quality experience I can, so please come and be part of it and join in online here. This story is just starting to get interesting...


Now share this post if you will, using Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or just old fashioned talking to humans in real life. Thank you.

I Want to Bake Free on


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