About Time You Met: Mariell Lind Hansen, Co-Founder of Benk + BoBy Angelica Malin
Introducing Benk + Bo; a new café-bakery, yoga studio, shared workspace and more, founded by Antony Burger and Mariell Lind Hansen. Just moments from Liverpool Street station and Spitalfields Market, Benk + Bo is a welcome oasis just on the outskirts of the hustle and bustle. We chatted to Mariell about the new space, bakery menu and what sets them apart:
Tell us a little more about Benk + Bo?
Benk + Bo is a café/bakery, yoga studio and shared work space near Liverpool Street station. Anyone can pop by for a coffee and freshly baked pastry (we’re famous for our hard to find vegan pastries), brunch and lunch. Our yoga studio is also open to the public and we hold around three classes a day. For members, it’s a beautifully designed, integrated space; one for freelancers and small business owners to collaborate and share ideas. You can quite happily spend a whole day here for work, meetings, wellness and fuel. On top of that, membership at Benk + Bo is very reasonably priced, the best value we’ve seen in London.
How did you guys meet? When did the idea for Benk + Bo first come about?
We met nine years ago as neighbours in London. Antony started dating my childhood friend Elias who I lived with, and shortly after we all moved in together. We all still live together now.
Hospitality is definitely a shared passion of ours, we’ve always loved hosting friends for dinners and parties. Antony has a family history of baking and I was always inspired by the community spirit of Arctic Norway where I grew up. We brought those two elements together to create Benk + Bo.
What was the idea behind opening not just a cafe, but also a co-working space and yoga studio?
It started out as an idea for a hangout spot and shared workspace, and it then developed one step further with the café and bakery. The yoga studio was actually meant to be a gallery, but as we got to know the building better during the refurbishing process, we realised it would function much better as a yoga studio.
Everything at Benk + Bo has changed and evolved as we got to understand the space more. For instance, the event space grew out of one request to host a supper club and now we’re inundated with private events requests.
Why do you think co-working spaces are becoming more social hubs rather than just an office space?
Being able to collaborate with likeminded people, those from different backgrounds and industries; that’s a real source of inspiration. In our eyes, it’s so important to be surrounded by people who enjoy this kind of environment.
What’s on the menu in the cafe?
We’ve just expanded our menu to include brunch and everything we serve is based on what’s baked on-site. Egg and soldiers with asparagus is served with Benk + Bo’s sourdough. We cater for dietary requirements and people often reserve our vegan croissants when we open first thing in the morning. My personal favourites throughout the day are the beetroot spelt porridge for breakfast, cinnamon bun for a midday treat, and one of our salads for lunch paired with a charcoal brioche. Delicious!
What’s been the biggest challenge of opening your own business?
I’m not going to lie, it was pretty scary at first! Neither of us had done anything like this before so it was a steep learning curve. The day we opened the cafe, Antony unfortunately was sick and had to stay at home, much to his dismay. We’d hired a barista who, like some otherworldly hero, had set up the cafe and had the most confident look on her face. Thanks to Sarah, she helped us survive that first day. She is still with us now, and is the mastermind behind the beautiful illustrations on our menu.
Other than that, it’s quite a challenge trying not to spend all of our waking time in Benk + Bo, because we absolutely love it here, we never run out of things to do in the building.
What sets you apart from other bakeries/cafes in London?
We believe in small batch cooking, skilled hands, no compromise on quality ingredients and only presenting food that we love to eat ourselves! Apart from our killer baked goods, people always mention the good vibes at Benk + Bo and how friendly all the staff are. We want everyone to feel at home. We’re very lucky to have Julien Valmier taking lead in the bakery who came from The Savoy Hotel as their head baker. That’s a real stamp of quality.
The space has a homely, Scandinavian aesthetic – who designed the interiors?
The interior has been my passion project. My upbringing in Norway and love for mid-century design has definitely had a real impact on the aesthetics.
Favourite place for breakfast in London is:
Brunswick East – it’s hidden away behind Gillett Square in Dalston. Their menu is all you need for a healthy but yummy start to the day.
Favourite restaurant in London is:
Right now, it’s 100 Hoxton. Their menu is perfect for sharing and you almost feel like you’re not in London when you’re sat in their outside area.
For more information on Benk + Bo, visit the website here.
Benk + Bo, 4-6 Gravel Lane, London E1 7AW