Stem and Glory, which operates two vegan restaurants in Cambridge, is planning to open a first site in London with a view to a national roll-out.
A successful Crowdcube fund of £616,170 — from a target of £350,000 — is expected to fund a restaurant in the Old Street area, with founder Louise Palmer-Marston and chief operating officer Jim Masters seeking a national and then international roll-out to fulfil a five year exit strategy. Head chef Gemma Doherty has garnered a loyal following in Cambridge for her entirely vegan menus, and Palmer-Marston and Masters will be hoping to replicate this success in London.
Typically for an all-vegan restaurant, the menu ranges globally rather than focussing on a particular cuisine, which doesn’t always come off. Here, gap year vibes are refreshingly low-key. On the main restaurant’s menu, food is made vegan, rather than being vegan. Vegetables replace fish in nori rolls; tempeh replaces bacon; there is an abundance of super-foods and “immune-boosting” vegetables. The King Street café moves in another direction, leaning harder into the custom salad trend that has recently taken US cities by storm, but is curiously absent in London.
Stem and Glory looks primed for London: there are very, very few vegan-only restaurants (only 0.1% of restaurants in the U.K. take the label) and a high footfall location optimised for grab and go would likely trade well. As Eater contributor Laurel Ives wrote, though, the burgeoning growth of explicitly vegan restaurants — heavily reliant on substitution — must be weighed against the capital’s surfeit of very good restaurants serving very good food that happens to be vegan, by dint of the restaurant’s cuisine, rather than any ‘decision’ to serve vegan food. Food that is tasty first and vegan second, rather than the other way around. Stem and Glory has a waiting customer base, but that will involve preaching to the converted: it’s telling that so many of the city’s best vegan-only offerings come from street food vendors, pop-ups and residencies, or tap into the hugely successful “vegan junk food” model. To sustain a fully-fledged London restaurant — in a climate of downturn, rising rents and challenging business rates — regulars will be required, regulars that are eating for taste, not just for ethical choice or dietary requirements.