Like the White Queen in ‘Alice Through theLooking Glass’’, I try to believe six impossible things before breakfast, but Trump becoming US President was a one too many. So when I found out that an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed café had opened up near the Nottingham Railway Station, I just had to go down the rabbit hole and find out all about it.
The Wonderland Café is situated in the basement of the old Hopkinson building on Station Street, and began trading in December. It is the creation of Beestonian Ash Hudson, who lives in the Rylands, but is originally from Chesterfield. Ash had previously worked there selling watches from a stall. When the tearoom closed down, he had the crazy idea of running one himself, using his favourite book as inspiration. And so Wonderland was born. It is currently open seven days a week between 12 & 5pm.
Hopkinson’s began as a Victorian engineering business, but in 2010 the building became an arts centre. In fact I exhibited some photographs there in that year, as part of a Flickr group that I was involved in. But now it contains three floors crammed with antiques and collectables: real nostalgia trip down Memory Lane.
There are two ways to reach the café. One is to hunt out the stairs amongst the shelves of bric a brac, while the other is more direct, being down the side alley, where signs and a mannequin direct you. Due to the high winds that day, Ash had had to lock those away, so the stairs it was.
The café area is quite large, with twelve tables and seating for fifty people. Motifs from the book are everywhere, although Ash was keen to point out that he has followed Carroll’s original novel, rather than the 1951 Disney film. Ash of course is the Mad Hatter. There isn’t really anyone else he could be. He employs two waitresses, who become The Red Queen and Alice, when they are looking after the customers. Of which there are many, especially on a Saturday.
There is a small, but interesting menu, with teas, sandwiches, and a stew on offer. And of course cake, some of which come courtesy of our very own Beeston Brownie Company.
Tea parties, either for two people, or groups, are welcomed, and themed events are in the pipeline for this year, the first being a ‘Lonely Queen of Hearts’ speed-dating event set for St Valentine’s Day.
The café has been kitted out with props sourced directly from Hopkinson’s. Someone that works in the building has specially made some of the more intricate and unusual items, while two flamingos came courtesy of eBay. Local graffiti artist ‘smallkid’ has used spray paint to create a forest scene of giant mushrooms along one wall, and a row of grinning Cheshire Cats and the signage outside.
The Internet has been brilliant for Wonderland, as its story was one of the most locally shared on Facebook during 2016, with over 11,000 mentions. Ash originally wanted to open a café in Beeston, as he loves the town so much, and was looking at the former estate agents on Wollaton Road, but was beaten to it by what is now home to vintage café ‘Time For Tea’.
The future looks exciting, as Ash has plans to turn the rest of the basement area into a bar/restaurant. He is going to launch a Kickstarter project in May, which we wish him luck with.
‘Drink Me’ cocktails anyone?
Wonderland can be contacted on 07930 877496.