Behind the Counter: The Purple Carrot Hassocks


By Deirdre Huston

Brighton’s loss is Hassocks’ gain. I’m not in The Purple Carrot for long before I realise just how much there is going on. Many years ago when Chris went travelling he was fascinated by the cafe culture he saw. The mixing of the generations (not just families going out) and the general feeling of bonhomie. Back in the late 80s, inspired by his travels around Israel, Chris made tentative attempts to start a Mediterranean style café in Brighton, but loans were not readily available and, sadly, Chris had to shelve his plans.

He put in a good few years working for the council but when redundancy created an opportunity for him to make a change, he was eager to rekindle his earlier ambitions. He accepted that he’d become rooted in Hassocks and found his first premises on the west side of the station where many of you will have sampled the excellent cheeseboards at book club or card evenings. When the lease at No 6 became available, Chris recognised its potential and the prominent corner location between high street and station is well suited to his vision for The Purple Carrot’s future.

The interior is light filled and relaxed. Customers wander in and out and Chris is quick to put people at their ease. As he talks to me, although he is diffident and self deprecating, his motivations soon shine through. Rather than bean counting, it’s a wish to create a community which is at the heart of his business plans. He elaborates: “I’ve always been drawn to dealing with a range of people of varying ages and backgrounds. I want them to be allowed to be able to take their time and enjoy their food and drink.” Chris has a real passion for the food side of things; the invention and experimentation, the getting people to try out new things.

Behind the Counter: Bella and Megs, Hassocks

Chantal and Phil from Bella and Megs Cafe in Hassocks

By Joe Wayte

When Phil and wife Chantal decided to move into their corner plot on Keymer Road, they heard the cries from the people of Hassocks hoping it wouldn’t be ‘yet another coffee shop’. While during the day you can turn up any time for a quick beverage and a bite to eat, Friday nights at Bella & Megs are quite different, and if you haven’t already booked, you’ll need to join the waiting list.

In April 2018, Bella & Megs café and bistro opened its doors for the first time. The sun was shining, prosecco was on tap and many locals showed up to see what owners Phil and Chantal had done with the place. “It was very white when we first acquired the shop,” Chantal explained, “so we decided to do a refit. I wanted somewhere that felt homely, yet rustic and modern.” The launch was a huge success and, after twelve months in business, the pair are pleased with how things are going.

Originally from Newick, Phil started his career in stage management at the theatre in Worthing. After ten years of commanding crew behind the scenes, he decided he was ready for his next challenge and turned his hand to hospitality. “I went into training with the British Institute of Innkeeping,” Phil told me, “and then advertised myself locally when I was ready to take on a job.” Phil received an offer shortly after and moved to Poynings to work at the Royal Oak. It was there that he met Chantal, who grew up in the village.

This isn’t the first time the duo have gone into business together. For a number of years they ran Dolly’s Pantry in Ditchling, which they sold in 2007.

[Read the full article in the May 2019 issue of Hassocks Life magazine]