Sally and frank the pembroke welsh corgi

If you live in Islington, you'll know Sally's cafe, Nanna's. Come have a look... 

If you've ever been to Islington, or live there, you'll know that there is no shortage of restaurants, coffee shops and bars. There are chains, independents and some fast food holes that don't fit into any category. It must be quite hard to stand out to the footfall. But Nanna's, on St. Paul's Road, will quickly grab your attention. 

It might be the stark white, double-fronted exterior, or maybe it's the quaint, quirky interior with a severe case of brilliant '70s nostalgia, or could it be the oh-so-cute resident corgi, Frank? 

It is, in fact, all of these things. I have actually been into Nanna's before, cooed in by the smell of fresh coffee and the cool interior, and friends that live in the area know it too. When we arrived at Nanna's to shoot Sally and Frank, it was a quiet Monday morning, they had just opened the doors. The coffee was being brewed, Frank was sleeping in his bed and Sally was putting out the delicious pastries (check out the vintage cabinet they sit in below). It took approximately 20 minutes for people to start streaming in: locals and regulars who visit daily, newbies who got drawn in like I did, and even some of Frank's friends. 

When Sally, Nanna's owner, got in touch to ask if we wanted to feature her, Frank and the cafe, we jumped at the chance. It would be the first feature we had done that involved someones place of work, and I thought it would be perfect for the site, seeing as the cafe is uber photogenic, and it's dog friendly too, which always gets a thumbs up from us. 

Scroll down to hear about the hardships of opening a cafe, how Nanna's came to be named so, Frank and his daily routine and amazing interiors. 

"It's impossible to be sad or angry when he has his tongue hanging out, happy and waiting for you to play with him."

On life with Frank: Having a dog is amazing. Frank is 7 months old, so we’ve only had him for 5 months. The first month was tough; keeping him indoors until his vaccinations were done, and toilet training (what a mess!) but they learn everything so quickly that I can barely remember it now. 

Life with Frank is never dull. It’s impossible to be sad or angry when he’s got his tongue hanging out, happy and waiting for you to play with him. Walks in the park are great times for me to relax and forget about life’s stresses, when all that matters is Frank and his ball. 


On Nanna's: Nanna’s is a pretty small operation, so I do pretty much everything; the book keeping, rotas, ordering, social media, organising events and I also work some front of house shifts. Plus there’s always unexpected stuff that pops up and takes a lot of time and energy, like staffing, maintenance, talking through menus with our chef, and liaising with suppliers. 

Owning a cafe was an idea that was in the back of my mind for a long time, perhaps something to do in semi-retirement. I’ve always had an interest in food, and although not the most amazing cook myself I do love to eat! The casual dining that Australia excels at is a huge influence as it’s what I grew up with. I like unfussy food, made with fresh ingredients and lots of love.

Nanna’s is named after my grandmother and loosely modelled on her home when I was young. I adore those nostalgic moments when you see something you remember from your childhood, immediately transporting you back to that place. My grandmother isn’t a hoarder so a lot of those things disappeared as I got older so it’s really enjoyable to surround myself with those things again. I love it when customers say they had the same crockery in their family homes, hopefully it triggers the same response as mine. 

Before the cafe I worked in event management, mostly at music festivals in Australia and here in the UK. I still work with two events, La Soirée and Green Man Festival - I just can’t let them go, I love them too much!

On being dog friendly: Even before we got Frank Nanna’s was always dog-friendly, if for nothing else than for me to live vicariously through other dog owners! All the staff love dogs too, and we all have our favourites. We have lots of canine regulars!

I think dog-friendly businesses are great, and it makes our lives easier knowing we can take Frank out with us, but I understand that it’s not for everyone. Not everyone loves dogs and not everywhere is appropriate, which we have to be respectful of. 

My partner John is really lucky to work in a dog-friendly office, so he takes Frank in two days a week. I have no idea what they get up to, although I have it on good authority that Frank did a poo in a client meeting once


On interiors: Nanna’s is a lot more of a time capsule than our home is, but we have a lot of mid-century furniture there too. I think what I like about the 70s/80s decor is its warm colours. The dark wood, mustard hues, burnt oranges and forrest greens are warm, not stark, and make me feel calm and cosy. I suppose Nanna’s decor reflects me in that it’s homey, unfussy, practical, and a bit messy!


On a career plan B: I never really had a plan at all, to be honest! I always worked freelance and casual jobs that I enjoyed and never looked too far ahead. I always felt that it was more important to do what you enjoyed every day rather than do something you didn’t enjoy to get somewhere you thought you wanted to be. Things change when life throws things at you, priorities change, and I don’t want to have any regrets about wasting time.  


On her daily routine: If I’m not working a morning shift at Nanna’s, I wake up around 7.00 when my partner gets up, Frank might jump up on to the bed and we’ll doze for a bit, then John usually brings me a cup of tea. I’m not great in the mornings, so it’s a bit of a slow start! John will head to work, Frank, Ziggy (the cat) and I will have breakfast and I’ll go through some emails, then I’ll take Frank to Clissold Park for a bit of a run around before walking down to Nanna’s. 


Frank has been coming in to the shop with me from the day he was allowed to leave the house. He’s learned how to behave when he’s there and most of the time he sleeps in a little bed under my desk or tries to eat crumbs off the floor! After lunch I’ll take him out along the New River Walk in Canonbury for about 45 minutes and then walk him home around 5/6pm. If the weather is nice we’ll head back to Clissold Park and play with some of his friends, then come home and have dinner. He tends to be really receptive to learning new tricks in the evenings, so we might practice a few things with him then. He’s a smart dog, so we need to keep teaching him things otherwise he’ll get bored and tear the house apart! At the moment we’re trying to teach him to roll himself up in a towel.


On career advice: It’s tough. Really tough. I don’t say that to deter people, but sometimes I wonder if I knew what it was going to be like whether I would have done it at all. Not that I shy away from hard work, but just knowing the scale of it is really important. Do your research. Talk to people who are doing a similar thing and ask them if they are happy and how they got to that point. You’ll have the passion already, but you’ll need to learn the skills too. Always have contingency money, you’ll need it. Be pragmatic. Delegate. Be patient. Be calm.


On a favourite Frank tale: He can be such a weasel. Like if you say to him at bedtime ‘Frank, get in your bed’, then you turn the lights off and go into the bedroom, almost immediately you can hear him climb out of his crate and jump onto the sofa to sleep there instead. Or if he’s sitting on the bed with you and he decided he wants to lick your face he’ll just slowly shimmy his way up to your head with his little wet nose sniffing away and burrow into your neck. He’s a charming little weasel.


On the breed of dog she'd like to be: I’d have to say a greyhound. They are graceful yet goofy, can eat whatever they like, and lounge around folded into weird and wonderful shapes most of the time. They also have really small heads like me so they get to wear specially designed collars. Bliss!


One thing people should know about her: I’m always 5 minutes late.