Sunday sit-down with…Dadinha Carvalho of Albufeira Café
We caught up with Dadinha to find out what it's like to be the owner of the only Portuguese café in Newcastle.
We chat to the founder of the first Portuguese cafe in Newcastle to find out how she got started and what’s on the menu.
Tell us about yourself?
I lived in Portugal before I came to the UK when I was 19 years old, initially just for six months to learn English and help my sister look after her baby. Now, 19 years later, I haven’t left! I went on to work in retail and hospitality. After six years, I moved to London because I wanted to get more exposure and experience. I worked there for 10 years and became a manager working in bustling, successful restaurants before moving back to Newcastle.
What made you want to open your own business?
When I went on holiday with my family, because I was promoted to general manager, I was on my phone constantly answering emails and phone calls; my Mama said, why don’t you do this for yourself and open a Portuguese café? I always wanted to open a pizza or burger place, but when she mentioned it, it made me want to open something closer to my roots. So, bringing something that brings my own culture to my new home of the North East means a lot to me.
What was it like opening a business during lockdown?
I was meant to open in March 2020, but I pushed the opening date to August with everything that was happening. So, we opened in August until December, where we did takeaways, but then we decided to close that because it wasn’t worth it – it was a fairly new business and I wasn’t well known enough yet.
From January to May, we stayed closed. I used this time to explore my menu more because when I first started in August, my menu was half of what it is now. I now have a breakfast menu and I’m getting into catering, too.
Why’s it important to you to bring your Portuguese culture to the North East?
When I was doing a bit of research, I felt like most places in Newcastle were very similar and only served what people are used to here. But I wanted to take a risk and do something different by bringing my culture here.
Portuguese culture is all about good food, people enjoying themselves with a glass of wine and giving everyone a warm welcome – which I bring to my café. I want to make it a peaceful but friendly place to come. Growing up, we never had ready-made meals. I only learnt what they were moving here! Everything we have at home was made from scratch. At a young age, I knew how to cook proper meals, thanks to my Mama.
What do you love most about your job?
I’m a chatty person, so, for me, it’s working with people. I could never see myself working in an office and doing a nine-to-five job – it just doesn’t work with my personality. I like to get to know people and hear their stories. At times, I stop and look around my café and see people from Asia, Portugal, Africa and Newcastle all sitting there. Bringing people together from different communities to enjoy good food within a welcoming environment is just amazing!
What advice would you give to any women who want to open their own business?
I did a lot of research and found out there’s so much help out there that many people don’t know about. Since day one, I had a business advisor – all free of charge – who helped me find my premises and negotiate the rent.
I would say to be 100% sure that this is what you want to do. Are you ready to sacrifice your personal life and not go on holiday to save money to open your business? You have to be focused and have ambitions – you can’t go out every weekend, you won’t have time to. It’s all about taking time and not rushing into anything. A business isn’t built overnight, it takes time. I feel so proud being a black woman from Portugal who didn’t go to university and was still able to open this on my own. Now, I want to empower other women to do the same. I want to tell anyone that it is possible to do it independently, without a business partner.
What’s next for you?
Those are my ‘baby steps’; I wanted to test the waters to see how people would accept my food, which has been a success so far. Now that I know my customers and know what foods they like, as long as things go as planned, I would love to open a Portuguese restaurant to serve evening meals too in a couple of years.
Albufeira Café, 179 Westgate Road, Newcastle, NE4 6AA