Edinburgh Eats: Don't Tell Mama

The duo behind Don't Tell Mama Coffee Bar tell us how they realised their vision of bringing Greek and Mediterranean coffee culture to Edinburgh

Feature by Emily Corpuz | 22 Apr 2019
  • Breaking Grounds - Coffee

If you fancy a trip to the Mediterranean without leaving Edinburgh, step inside the coffee bar of Don’t Tell Mama. Best friends since the age of four, owners Stathis Tsakiridis and Themis Simaioforidis designed the coffee bar to evoke the feeling of being in the Mediterranean. So when they opened Don’t Tell Mama five months ago, they wanted their customers to step into a space that looked “very homey and cosy and gives the feeling of being outside,” Simaioforidis tells us.

Their eye for detail made this vision come to life. Simaioforidis continues: “We painted the ceiling pastel blue to look like the sky. And we have the hidden lights to look like the sun.” He gestures upwards to the lighting running parallel to the trim, which brightens the space with white and gold accents. Above the tables hangs a milkwhite trellis with tastefully interwoven vines. Simaioforidis adds that they didn’t want to evoke “a specific place” in Greece or the Mediterranean; rather, they wanted the space to capture “a Mediterranean atmosphere, something traditional with a modern twist”.

Not only did the two design the coffee bar, but besides the chairs, they made everything by hand, from the tables to the decorations to the glass display case. This is thanks to their creative backgrounds as well as Tsakiridis’ knowledge of woodworking and glassmaking. “So this means if something breaks, we know how to fix it,” Tsakiridis smiles.

The vibe of Don’t Tell Mama is palpably unique, in part because it offers the particular experience of Greek coffee culture, which Tsakiridis describes as “like having a night out in the morning”. This is why the owners stress that they’re a coffee bar, and not just a typical restaurant or cafe. Tsakiridis and Simaioforidis also emphasise the fact that though they both grew up in Greece, Don’t Tell Mama offer treats that take inspiration from kitchens across the Mediterranean.

In fact, the kitchen is the inspiration behind the name of Don’t Tell Mama. Simaioforidis explains that “mums are a big part of Greek culture and our food culture”. They always make tasty treats, some of which they hide for special guests or occasions. “So,” Tsakiridis continues, “sneaking into the kitchen became like a challenge, where you’d grab all the goodies, and say ‘Don’t tell Mama’.” Tsakiridis and Simaioforidis bring this idea to their coffee bar, where they offer all the best treats from Mama’s kitchen for their customers to enjoy.

Since opening their doors in October, they reflect that the most challenging aspect of opening a coffee bar is not building or running it, but “passing on our vision to the customer”. But “once the customer is able to get it,” and they see the customers’ reactions to their food and drinks – whether it’s the look of amazement when they bite into a flaky spanakopita or watch the preparation of a stunning freddo cappuccino – that moment is very rewarding.

Though the experience of dining in Don’t Tell Mama feels complete, Tsakiridis and Simaioforidis say they have big plans for their future. Simaioforidis has a sharp eye for design, and he still has a number of improvements he’d like to make to their already chic establishment. He also has an incredible fondness for art, so he’d like to set up an art exhibition featuring not only Mediterranean pieces, but any art that brings people joy. Finally, after making sure Don’t Tell Mama has a solid footing, the two plan to expand to another, bigger location.

Tsakiridis’ and Simaioforidis’ devotion, kindness and passion radiate throughout every aspect of the coffee bar, from the design to the menu to the way they treat their customers. Undoubtedly, the success they’ve enjoyed stems from the way they effortlessly complement each other. From what we can tell, their future is as bright as the Mediterranean atmosphere they’ve created in Edinburgh.

Don’t Tell Mama, 64 Home St, Edinburgh, info@donttellmama.uk