Cereal Killer Cafe – and the brothers, Alan and Gary Keery, who run it – were blasted by the press for being hipsters leading the gentrification of east London, by selling bowls of cereal for £4.50. Business is now booming. We talk bright pink milk and Weetabix origins with Alan…
For most of us, pouring cereal from a box into a bowl in the morning is almost a reflex, the first act of the day done on auto-pilot. But Alan and Gary Keery don’t believe in eating cereal mindlessly. Co-owners of Cereal Killer Cafe in Shoreditch and Camden that sell bowls of cereal, they want us to get enthusiastic about what we’re adding our milk to in the morning. Alan Keery tells the Early Hour why.
Where did the idea for a cereal cafe come from?
We were hungover and wanted to get something to eat. We both had a craving for a really sugary bowl of cereal, so we googled it and couldn’t find anywhere that sold bowls of cereal. It didn’t exist. That was the light bulb moment, and the more we thought about it over the next few weeks, the more we became convinced it was not just a really good business idea, but something we needed to do.
So do you literally just pour cereal and milk into bowls and sell it to people?
No! We wanted to recreate the excitement you get when you were a kid in the supermarket and you were staring at that big wall of cereal and your mum told you you were allowed to pick just one. It was a big decision for an eight-year-old, and so exciting.
We have over a hundred different types of cereal, with lots of childhood favourites from all over the world, and all the memorabilia that used to come along with breakfast cereal. The toys and the tokens and old adverts, and things like Batman and Robin pogs. People can sit and eat their cereal on single beds with vintage duvet covers. It’s more of a ‘cereal experience’.
Our cafes are full of 90s crap
How do you find all the cereals, and source all the ephemera that went along with it all?
We import cereals in from all over the world – America, France, Australia, South African, Portugal, Germany, and all over – and we get most of the cereal memorabilia on eBay. There’s so much of it on there, including things like unopened boxes of toys, that people have kept for years. We do wonder why they’ve kept them, but it’s great for us. Our cafes are full of 90s crap.
How do you decide what to stock and what not to?
A lot of people grew up with Coco Pops, for example, but maybe the packaging was different in their country. We wouldn’t stock one from every place, just the British one in that instance. But then there are some that are very similar. In New Zealand they have a cereal called Weet-Bix, which is a bit shit. We bought two cases of it and ended up having to throw away both because no one bought it. Then a girl from New Zealand came in asking for it and we were like ‘Why didn’t you come in earlier when we had it?!’ She claimed Weetabix nicked the idea from their Weet-Bix, but I think it’s the other way round. But then that’s cereal politics.
You’ve become poster boys for the down side of the ‘hipsterfication’ of places like Shoreditch and had a lot of flak both in person and in the press. How have you dealt with that?
It’s been interesting. For a while any time a hipster was mentioned in a newspaper article there was a picture of us alongside it, including one newspaper which I think ran an article about hipsters being bad lovers. I don’t mind. I know I’m a lazy lover! Everybody still tags us with that hipster tagline, but we’re of the mind that all publicity is good publicity, and it’s not harmed our business.
What’s your favourite cereal?
I really like peanut butter cereals. You can’t get them over here, we import them from the US, but I wouldn’t eat it for breakfast. That’s a snack cereal for later in the day.
What cereal do you eat for breakfast then?
I don’t! I start the day with two boiled eggs. I’m tasting new cereals all day and coming up with recipes for cereal cocktails and you can have too much of a good thing. A lot of the cereals we sell are very sugary and not what you’d want to eat every day. I don’t think you could actually stomach what I call ‘treat cereals’ every morning.
What odd cereals do you sell?
In South Africa you can get Strawberry Pops which turn the milk nuclear pink, and we had a South Korean version of Special K that was made with sweet potato, that was really weird. We’ve got vintage cereal packets on display featuring Barbie and Pokemon and Pacman, but they’re not for sale. The American stuff is made with lots of GMO ingredients that you wouldn’t get here, but it’s all clearly marked on the packaging. We’re not dealers in illegal cereal boxes.
What if it were a really miserable day, and we came into your cafe in need of something chocolatey to cheer us up, what cereal would you recommend?
All our staff are fully trained to prepare your perfect bowl. We cereal sommeliers really and everybody comes in with their own way to eat their cereal. Some like it with water, or orange juice, and some don’t want any liquid at all. We make every bowl to your specific requirements, and you can go as crazy as you like. On a miserable day I’d recommend chocolate Coco Pops made with chocolate milk with a Kinder chocolate hippo in it. We cater for different dietary requirements and try to pair the right milk with the cereal too. Coconut milk with chocolate cereals is really good, so I’d give you chocolate-flavoured coconut milk on chocolate cereal. When you got the bowl and saw your floating chocolate-y hippo in it, there’s no way that wouldn’t cheer you up.
Have you been to Cereal Killer cafe? Let us know your favourite cereal in the comment section below…