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The cafe’s Nissan GTR mural and (©AAH/Alan Wright)

Published on 1st February 2023

The Moto Torque Café opened its doors on the same day that Elliott Lotvonen-Best finished his studies at Collyer’s. Located next to Coffee Real, the company founded by his parents Gary Best and Maarit Lotvonen, the café soon established a reputation for good food and great coffee. However, its winning formula owes just as much to its array of motorsport memorabilia…


The Moto Torque Café has become such a success in its own right that it’s easy to forget its association to the family business next door. Gary and Maarit founded Coffee Real on the Graylands Industrial Estate in 2007 and a year later were producing coffee, using the finest Arabica beans from around the world. In 2020, after a decade of success, the idea of a car-themed café was mooted. 

Gary said: ‘We took up the option of buying the building and refurbished the Coffee Real roastery in 2018. A part of the building which had been used for storage sat empty for a couple of years and we weren’t sure how to utilise the space. It was Elliott who had the idea of an automotive-focused café. As we’ve always loved cars and motor racing, we agreed it was a fantastic idea and supported him.’


Early in 2021, father and son set about transforming the space into a two-level cafe. They did the bulk of the work themselves to keep costs down and displayed a range of motoring memorabilia to appeal to petrol heads. This includes Formula 1 posters, vintage oil cans, scale models of rally, endurance and F1 cars, and replica helmets of legends including Valentino Rossi, Ayrton Senna and Kimi Raikkonen. 

Gary said: ‘A lot of what is on display is memorabilia we’ve collected over many years, but our regulars have donated items too. Several even have their own coffee mug behind the bar. On the ceiling of the downstairs café area, we’ve constructed a Scalextric model of the track at Spa, and the cars on the track are scale versions of our customers’ race or road cars. One person unfortunately crashed recently, so he has now crushed the front of his Scalextric car too!’ 


For all the fascinating memorabilia, it is a series of impressive murals that steal the show. They were created by an artist called Uncle Stubble, based on ideas by Elliott and Gary. Downstairs is a Nissan GTR and further images of Senna and Rossi, while upstairs is dominated by a mural of a Porsche 917 in vintage Gulf Racing livery. 

The Moto Torque Café opened on 15 May 2021 and proved an immediate success. Elliott said: ‘It was raining on our first day, but lots of people turned up to support us. It wasn’t long before the café became a hub for car groups and we now have themed days aimed specifically at owners of different types of vehicles, including Japanese cars, classic cars, American muscle cars, and an Autobahn day for German marques. It’s basically a place for petrol heads to meet up to chat with like-minded people!’ 


Although the family have extensive knowledge of coffee and naturally serve their own product to customers, the food side of the business developed more organically. As the café became busier and word spread through social media and car clubs, Elliott organised barbecues to cater to visitors. However, it wasn’t long before an in-house kitchen became essential. 

Elliott said: ‘We never expected the cafe to take off in quite the way it did. We were very busy very quickly, so we built the kitchen after three months and it has given us another revenue stream. Our food is very good, as the sausage rolls are made with meat from the Outwood Butchery. We also use Outwood beef and bacon in The Torque Classic (burger) and The Filler Cap (bacon roll). Also on the menu is a range of pizzas, all baked to order using our own tomato passata. Anything that isn’t made fresh in-house is sourced from the local area too.’ 


As well as good food and beautiful cars, the café has a racing simulator, which has proved popular with children and also drivers preparing for track days. In one instance, it was used by several drivers to learn the track at Anglesey before they competed in a 24-hour endurance race. 

During a themed car gathering on a summer’s day, the café can attract up to 100 cars to the industrial estate, which can cause issues of its own, as Gary explains. ‘We quickly realised the need to limit the number of people coming, as we were concerned about the impact on other businesses on the estate. We had to remind drivers to be respectful, as we don’t want them revving their engines or showing off in the car park. There have been a couple of occasions when I’ve had to be the grumpy old man and send people away. We operate a zero-tolerance policy and eradicating any problems early was a reminder to everyone of the need to be respectful.’


The cafe is led by 20-year-old Elliott, with support from dad Gary and sister Elina too, making it a truly family-run business. However, Elina’s focus is mostly on Coffee Real, where she works alongside mum Maarit, having opted against university for now. 

Elina said: ‘I didn't know what I wanted to study, but I did want to learn business and the best way to do that is by working. When I was younger, I often helped at Coffee Real and loved learning about the various aromas and roasting techniques. I also enjoyed visiting different events in our van, serving hot drinks to customers. When the café was built, we stopped attending most of these events as we had something new to do, and it’s gone very well. People like the fact that the coffee is roasted next door and that we’re a family-run business. Customers find our story interesting, as it is unusual for parents and children to build a business out of their shared passions.’


Further information: Visit: Graylands Estate, Langhurst Wood Road, Horsham, RH12 4QD

Tel: (01403) 263381