WHEN Fran Fosh set up Charlie’s Café Bar she made sure her menu always included a ‘green page’ with options for vegetarians.

That was unusual back in the 1980s when the Sidbury based café first opened, but she was inspired to do it because her own children were vegetarian. Vegan options soon followed and, when Ms Fosh discovered she was intolerant to wheat and cow’s milk, she rolled up her sleeves again to create ‘free-from’ recipes including gluten-free, dairy-free and meals suitable for coeliac diets.

Ms Fosh said: “It means a family can come and eat here and if one is intolerant they are all catered for. We also do homemade gluten free pastries with vegan fillings. I don’t think you find those anywhere else.”

Maintaining this uniqueness is a principle Ms Fosh strongly supports. She said: “I think it would be dreadful for the city and the people who come here if there was only a standardised product on offer.”

It’s why she’s happy to be part of Worcester BID’s Uniquely Worcester campaign, celebrating the city’s independent businesses.

The campaign highlights the city’s extensive range of independently run shops, cafés, bars, restaurants and professional services.

Nadja von Dahlen, Marketing & Events Officer at Worcester BID, said: “It’s the independents that give the city its character and make sure it’s not just any old High Street.

“There is a rich diversity of more than 300 independent businesses, of which over 80 are specialised in food and drink. These are often hidden gems, nestled within the quirky streets and picturesque black and white buildings that help to make our city so special.”

Across the city centre from Charlie’s Café Bar, Manir Haque is also working hard to bring something different to Worcester.

He runs Café Mela, pictured above, on Foregate Street, a family-owned Indian restaurant.

He said: “You won’t find anything else quite like us in Worcester. We use great quality ingredients, organic spices in our contemporary dishes and everything is freshly cooked on site. It’s modern but with a cosy interior with exposed beams.”

Mr Haque believes we should cherish Worcester’s unique character. He said: “The people are so nice. And there are a lot of small, unique shops so it has a very different character to other places. We enjoy getting involved with the local community. It’s the best city I’ve seen.”

A free book, Uniquely Yours, which showcases the independents of Worcester, is available soon at businesses across the city centre. A digital version will also be published on www.worcesterbid.com/uniquely.

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