Vegan restaurant Stem + Glory’s crowdfunding campaign allowed it to launch its first Cambridge site in 2016. Now it’s coming to London to shake up the vegan scene in the capital.
After visiting 25 sites, founder Louise Palmer-Masterton settled on opening the London flagship at the Barts Square development. It will throw wide its doors on January 14, offering breakfast, brunch, eat-in and takeaway lunch, and a new evening dining concept of sharing plates, cocktails and mocktails.
Palmer-Masterton tells Food Spark that she saw an opportunity in London, as she felt the food she likes doesn’t exist in the capital and that the vegan market is still massively underserved.
“London veganism is very much geared towards junk food. You’ve got a few notable exceptions to that, but we want to provide food that is not junk and is accessible to everyone, pushing the cuisine into a more gastronomical direction with much more experimentation with ingredients and process,” she explains.
Stem + Glory’s head chef, Gemma Doherty, and Palmer-Masterton are obsessed with Japanese techniques and ingredients, and this is driving some of the development in the kitchen.
“Now we are starting to play around with fermenting rice, which becomes unbelievably sweet. It’s a bit like making yoghurt, and it becomes something so sweet that you can use it in dishes and you don’t have to use sugar anymore,” she reveals. “It’s a natural probiotic and healthy ingredient, and these are new techniques that you will see a lot more of across the board this year.”
Desserts is an area she predicts will also see a big evolution in 2019 as people find better substitutes for dairy and eggs, while moving raw treats on from just using nuts, which pose obvious limitations for those with allergies.
Grab-and-go to fine dining
The flagship site has a new menu, but some Cambridge favourites have also made the cut, like the kimchi pancakes.
Standout dishes for Palmer-Masterton include ‘ribs’ of yuca with chipotle mayonnaise, which sees the vegetable baked with barbecue sauce and Mexican chilli sauce, as well as the tacos of blue corn with ‘cochinita pibil’ – a take on the classic Mexican dish that substitutes pulled pork for jackfruit marinated in an achiote chilli sauce with guajillo chilli, bitter orange juice, habanero chilli, cinnamon and pickled red onion.
There are also dishes she describes as more accessible to those looking for traditional meals, such as the Thai ramen bowl and scrambled tofu for brunch.
Palmer-Masterton expects a strong lunchtime trade at the site and believes grab-and-go bowls – both hot and cold – will be a hit. Choices include the Darwin bowl, a paleo-friendly item made up of cauliflower rice, edamame, purple carrot sausage, beetroot sauce, sunflower seeds, cilantro, baked zucchini and pepper dressing. The Rainbowl, meanwhile, is filled with zucchini spaghetti, watercress salad, avocado, carrot, nori, basil, seaweed tapenade and olives, accompanied by tempeh sausage, baked butternut squash and chipotle mayonnaise.
For the evening, Stem + Glory is going to tap into the trend for sharing plates with options like its albondigas (vegan meatballs in a green sauce of tomato, white wine and parsley), ceviche of mango and celery root pickle, and oven-baked cauliflower gratin.
“Sharing is just a social trend. Quite a few of restaurants in London like Sabor are doing it. It’s a trend in hospitality at the moment but no one is doing it in the vegan spectrum,” comments Palmer-Masterton.
Once the team is fully bedded in, fine dining tasting menus are also on the agenda.
“They have been a big success in Cambridge, selling out in advance without even really producing a menu, and in one sitting everyone dines at the same time,” adds Palmer-Masterton. “It’s a communal occasion and it gives the chef a chance to show off their skills. It’s pre-sold in advance so you don’t need to worry about people turning up.”
Through experiences like this, she hopes to normalise vegan food, with a vision that Stem + Glory will be seen as a restaurant that serves excellent food rather than something that caters to a niche diet. To that end, the long-term aim is to open more sites across the country.