Alan Keery co-founded Cereal Killer Cafe with his twin brother, Gary. (Photo: Micah Spangler)
“The unicorn poop is really popular.”
The waiter grinned as I struggled to make a decision. In front of me sat more than 100 different boxes of cereal, and behind me a line of people eager to try out one of Britain’s most talked-about new restaurants – where breakfast is the only thing on the menu.
After a fierce internal debate, I took a chance on the unicorn poop.
The dish was true to its name. A base of Ricicles (the U.K.’s version of Rice Krispies) topped with crumbled cookies, marshmallows, and rainbow sprinkles; it really did look like a mythical creature had taken a squat over my bowl.
Unicorn poop is just one of several “cereal cocktails” served up at Cereal Killer Cafe in London’s ultra-hip Shoreditch neighborhood.
Now entering its second year in business, Cereal Killer is trying to make America’s favorite morning meal an all day treat.
“It all started when my brother and I were in Shoreditch and we wanted to go out for something to eat,” cafe co-founder Alan Keery told me in the restaurant’s basement dining area, surrounded by a dizzying assortment of ’90s pop culture memorabilia. “We were hungover and just thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to go out somewhere for a bowl of cereal?’”
Problem was, Alan and his twin brother, Gary – despite harnessing the awesome power of Google – couldn’t find a single place in the U.K.’s vast capital that offered the comforting meal they so desperately craved.
“Not only could we not go out for a bowl of cereal in London – we couldn’t get one in the U.K. or Europe or anywhere! So then we just asked, why not? People eat cereal daily – but it’s only confined to living rooms. That seemed strange to us,” he said.
And soon thereafter, a business opportunity was born.
Cereal Killer opened its doors in December 2014, and has since attracted customers from all over the world looking to find out what a restaurant that only serves cereal is really like.
“I heard about it on social media,” an American teenager told me during a recent weekend, sitting at a table with her parents and younger brother. They were visiting from New York. “I just had to see it.”
A bowl of “unicorn poop” next to a much more normal-looking bowl of Waffle Crisp. (Photo: Micah Spangler)
The father seemed relaxed but a little put off by Cereal Killer’s carefully crafted ambiance – a wall of old TVs playing episodes of “Clarissa Explains It All,” as Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone” buzzed through the sound system. Suddenly, one of his children came running down the stairs.
“It was £30!” the boy yelled. “For cereal!”
While £30 ($42) isn’t an astronomical amount to spend on lunch for a family of five, this sort of sticker shock has attracted the attention of some of London’s most vocal activists, who say Cereal Killer is the kind of “peak hipster” nuisance that gentrifies diverse, working-class neighborhoods.
In fact, the restaurant was the target of a mass and surprisingly violent protest in September 2015, when hundreds of Londoners focused their growing anger over rising home prices on the independently owned Cereal Killer Cafe.
Writing about the protest in the Guardian, one of the demonstrators said, “Many parents in the area suffer the indignity of relying on food banks to feed their children while the new Shoreditch residents can make a successful business selling children’s cereal for £5 a bowl.”
“We’re a small business … we aren’t some chain.” Keery said, characterizing the protest – which included masked figures who vandalized the cafe’s windows – as “people being idiots.”
Cereal Killer has become one of London’s most talked-about restaurants, with lines of hungry customers forming out the door. (Photo: Micah Spangler)
While the equivalent of $5 for a bowl of cereal may raise some eyebrows, it’s clear that Cereal Killer’s real appeal is the sheer variety of its menu.
The cafe has a wide collection of cereals from all over the world – including Spain, Israel, Germany, and Australia – and rare, seasonal choices such as Halloween Cap’n Crunch, Ice Cream Fruity Pebbles, and (once upon a time) the now-discontinued Oreo O’s.
“We want cereal to be something you do in public. You can tell a lot about someone by how they eat their cereal. Like what do you do with the dusty bit at the bottom of the box?” Alan asked me as I finished a bowl of Kix. “Do you eat it?”
“No, I usually don’t,” I replied.
“See, I would use that to make a cocktail,” he said.