Few pubs have the gall to question Brits’ taste for steak pies and beer-battered cod. But The Blacksmith and the Toffeemaker, on St. John Street, has been 100% vegan since January, or ‘Veganuary’. Their menu now includes vegan mac ‘n’ cheese, the Nashville hot ‘chicken’ burger and polenta fries.
The move has worked wonders for the pub’s business. Sam Pryor, chef and general manager, said: “We had a two for one deal in January if you made a donation to Islington food banks. Our revenue for that month increased by 300%. The only item that’s more expensive for us to buy than before is our vegan cheese, ‘Violife.’”
“The food’s much easier to cook, too,” he added. “Before we went vegan we were constantly throwing away meat that was already off when it was delivered. Now things stay fresh for longer and there’s very little chance of cross-contamination in the kitchen.”
Vegan on the rise
Between July 2016 and July 2017, the number of vegan products purchased in the UK increased from 125,000 to 350,000. Food delivery service JustEat recently announced that they expect veganism to be the biggest food trend of 2018.
The Blacksmith was inspired in part by another North London business. The Fields Beneath, a cafe in Kentish Town, went vegan after the owners watched the Netflix documentaries ‘Cowspiracy’, and ‘Forks over Knives’, about the diseases that animal products cause.
A natural step
For The Blacksmith and The Toffeemaker, veganism was a natural step. “Most of the staff were already vegetarians. But you can’t really be an ethical veggie,” said Pryor, referring to the cruelty involved in the dairy industry. “I’ve been a vegan for a year. We just had to convince the owner this was a good idea.”
“The atmosphere has changed a lot,” said Pryor. “People now come here to eat rather than just get hammered, and the staff get to go home earlier. We love it.”