VegFest Awards 2016: Best Vegan Restaurant

Woah! We've just returned from an amazing weekend away at VegFest London 2016 in Kensington, where we were honoured and overjoyed to be named 'Best Vegan Restaurant' in the UK at their annual awards ceremony!

Now in its ninth year, VegFest London is the UK's biggest vegan festival with over 12,000 guests, 250 stalls and notable speakers and activists from around the world filling a busy programme of talks, workshops and other activities. In the months running up to the event, online voting for its prestigious awards was available to the public with 16 categories celebrating the best in vegan business, innovation and personalities, from 'Best Vegan 'Meat'', to 'Best Vegan Athlete'.

In the category of 'Best Vegan Restaurant', there was stiff competition amongst ten nominees from across the UK, but the North pulled through with us coming in first place representing Manchester, followed by the brilliant El Piano in York and Glasgow's famous vegan gig venue Stereo Cafe Bar.

We're so humbled and grateful for the way vegans, veggies and omnivores alike from Manchester and across the UK (and now even the world) have taken V Rev into their hearts, and went out of their way to share this with VegFest by voting for us.

We want to take this opportunity to extend our sincere gratitude to everyone who's reached out to offer their congratulations and support. We owe so much not only to those who ticked the box by our name on the online voting form, but to all our customers - particularly those who've told their friends and families about us, because that's what got us to this level of recognition!

Most of all, we owe so much to our amazing team: Beth, Claire, Derrick, Ebony, Helena, Marwa, Sam, and Felicity (who kindly helps us out on odd shifts). Special mention also goes to team members we've loved and lost this year: Hannah who's now with Club Mexicana in London, Sophie who's in Ibiza and Ailsa and Desirée who are only round the corner but slaying the tattoo game as Shop Manager of Redwood Tattoo Studio and Tattoo Artist at Vanilla Ink respectively.

We're so excited to take V Rev to a whole new level with our move to Edge Street in the next couple of weeks, and to repay your love and support with a level of service quite unlike anything we - and hopefully the UK vegan scene at large - has been able to offer before. What a time to be alive!

Photo: (Left to Right) Tim Barford (VegFest Organiser), Karin Ridgers (VeggieVision Presenter), Faridah Newman (Head Baker, V Rev), Dom Moss (Owner, V Rev), Peter Egan (Actor)

Press: 24/10/16 Manchester Evening News, 'Manchester's V Revolution named best vegan restaurant in the UK'

 

The Sexual Politics of Meat

carolj.jpg

On 8th September we travelled to London to see vegan feminist activist Carol J Adams in conversation with vegan comedian Sara Pascoe to celebrate the 25th Anniversary edition of The Sexual Politics of Meat: Adams' groundbreaking work calling attention to the intersected oppressions of women and animals.

Carol J Adams has laboured tirelessly as an activist all her adult life, working to end domestic violence, homelessness, racism, and violence against animals. We were a little late to the party having only discovered the 20th anniversary edition of The Sexual Politics of Meat shortly after we went vegan in 2010. Since then our copy has become quite dog-eared through reading, re-reading and lending to our friends, so we were excited to pick up the most recent edition - signed by Carol and including a photo taken by us (page 205)!

In The Sexual Politics of Meat, Adams proposes a trinity of oppression which links butchering and sexual violence in our culture:

  • Objectification: allows an oppressor to view another being as an object, and violate their victim by treating them as something rather than someone
  • Fragmentation: either literal (e.g. the butchering of animals into smaller parts), or metaphorical (e.g. women being referred to and/or treated as a "piece of ass" or "a piece of meat")
  • Consumption: either literal (e.g. digesting the fragmented parts of an animal), or metaphorical (e.g. a culture which compares women to a product, both attainable and consumable)

In this way, both women and animals share the status of absent referent, which functions to "keep something from being seen as having been someone, to allow for the moral abandonment of another being".

As Adams explains, "Without animals there would be no meat eating, yet they are absent from the act of eating meat because they have been transformed by violence into food." A baby cow becomes "veal", its mother "beef", a pig becomes "pork", and together they fall under the mass term of "meat", all of which disguise and ignore the individual identity of each animal, and the violence and death inflicted upon them to become consumable objects.

"Just as dead bodies are absent from our language about meat, in descriptions of cultural violence women are also often the absent referent. Rape, in particular, carries such potent imagery that the term is transferred from the literal experience of women and applied metaphorically to other instances of violent devastation... The experience of women thus becomes a vehicle of describing other oppressions. Women, upon whose bodies actual rape is most often committed, become the absent referent when the language of sexual violence is used metaphorically. These terms recall women's experiences but not women." (page 22)

Have you ever wondered with frustration and annoyance why the general public seems content to eat ham sandwiches and steaks without a second thought, but whip themselves into an emotional frenzy when Cecil the lion or Harambe the gorilla are killed? - These famous tragic animals have names and individual identities which draw them out of absent referent status - they become very much present in the discourse surrounding their death in a manner not afforded to the 56 billion land animals killed for food worldwide every year. Rather than attacking omnivores for their hypocrisy on this issue, Adams instead encourages us to draw reference to the privatised structure of caring in contemporary society and to seek to encourage an extension of this process to other animals. 

We could waffle on for ages about the many illuminating observations to be found within Carol J Adams' huge body of work, but we simply can't do justice to her theories in our own words, nor fit all her interesting ideas into one blog post! We heartily encourage you to check out her many works (in particular the most recent edition of The Sexual Politics of Meat which you can purchase from Bloomsbury here.) If money's tight, Manchester Central Library stocks the previous edition, and we've included a neat little animated interview with Carol by Suzy Gonzalez below.

Our main takeaway from the event was a feeling of validation and encouragement in our kind and gentle approach to vegan activism. We will continue to try to avoid aggressive patriarchal modes of discourse when broaching vegan feminist issues, and seek to embrace instead a softer, more nurturing approach in line with the feminist tradition of care

Thank you, Carol, for all that you have done and continue to do for women and animals. 

 

 

 

Shrinking our shop for the move

Pinch and a punch, it’s the first of the month! October is here, which means as well as pumpkin spice flavoured everything and Halloween to look forward to, it’s roughly a month until construction is finished on our new premises and we can share with you everything we’ve been working so hard on for the past two years!

As we mentioned in our FAQ post about “the new place”, the current setup we have at Oldham Street (where roughly two thirds of the premises is used for food service and a third for shop bits) will be changing when we move to Edge Street. At present we can fit 20-25 people dining with us if we get the “spare chairs” out, but the move will see our covers almost tripling to 60, which will hopefully make queueing to eat in or having to opt for takeout because of lack of space a thing of the past!

When we first began designing the Edge Street diner with our architect, we thought long and hard about the mix of dining and shop space we would require. We weighed up our need for a big enough increase in dining space to make the move worth it, with the general rise in the availability of vegan products in mainstream outlets since we first started out with V Rev in 2011. Back then, you could maybe get your hands on Cheezly if you were lucky: Now, with the wonderful rise of veganism in the UK and worldwide, major supermarkets stock Violife, as well as their own brand vegan cheese (sorry: vegan Gary), ice cream, faux meat, spreads and all sorts of yummy delights. With this in mind, we decided our efforts would be best placed focussing on the restaurant, bar and bakery, and substantially reducing the shop to V Rev own brand products like our famous burger sauce, and other convenience foods like cookie dough and cake mix.

So, from now on we will be running down any current stock in the shop and we will not be reordering once it’s gone. In the future, if there’s anything you used to buy from us that you’re having trouble locating elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to drop in and ask us in person or e-mail us at hello@vrevmcr.co.uk and we would be happy to try to signpost you to other vendors.

Manchester Vegan Beer Fest

This weekend just gone (Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th September) we joined Mother May and Essential Vegan catering Manchester’s first Vegan Beer Fest, organised by FatGayVegan and sponsored by Follow Your Heart.

We rocked up to the beautiful Islington Mill early on Saturday morning and set about creating a pop-up V Rev experience for attendees, with a special menu designed to complement the amazing selection of vegan beers and ciders on offer:

 

Saturday:

Mac and ‘Cheese’ Burger: ‘beef’ burger, mac and ‘cheese’, creamy Buffalo sauce, served in a sesame bun

Pulled ‘Pork’ Bun (pictured): pulled ‘pork’ in Chipotle cola BBQ sauce, apple slaw, avocado aioli, served in a pretzel style bun

Chilli ‘Cheese’ Dog: hot dog, ‘beef’ and five bean chilli, queso ‘cheese’ sauce

Pulled ‘Pork’ Nachos (GF): corn tortilla chips, queso ‘cheese’ sauce, pulled ‘pork’ in Chipotle cola BBQ sauce, mango salsa, avocado aioli

Chilli Bowl (GF): ‘beef’ and five bean chilli, served with sour ‘cream’ and home made corn bread

Pulled ‘Pork’ Mac and ‘Cheese’ (GF): mac and ‘cheese’, pulled ‘pork’ in Chipotle cola BBQ sauce

Sub rolls: All Day Breakfast / Ploughman’s / Hoi Sin ‘Duck’

 

Sunday

Chipotle Mayo Burger: ‘beef’ burger, Chipotle mayo, Apple slaw, served in a pretzel bun

Buffalo Ranch Burger: ‘beef’ burger, Buffalo Ranch sauce, queso ‘cheese’ sauce, lettuce, tomato, served in a pretzel bun

Chilli ‘Cheese Dog:as above

Loaded Nachos (GF): as above

Chilli bowl (GF): as above

Sub rolls: as above

 

If we’re being completely honest, we had designed and prepped Saturday’s menu to last the whole weekend, but as the beer flowed, so grew the appetites of the many festival attendees, and we were sold out of all our pulled ‘pork’ (there was a lot) within only two hours! This led to some hurried brain-storming early on Sunday morning whilst nursing our Queer Vegan Disco hangovers, but we pulled it out of the bag and delivered another excellent day of junk food. We really hope there will be another Manchester Vegan Beer Fest next year because we had an excellent weekend, and with our new premises on Edge Street up and running by then, being able to prep in a large kitchen space with walk-in chiller space should mean pulled ‘pork’ for everybody next time.

Massive thanks to Sean for organising the event, Josh and the lovely group of volunteers who helped make sure it ran smoothly, Islington Mill for being such brilliant hosts (and our favourite events venue in Manchester), and last but not least, Felicity, Sacha, Bernie and David who served food with us. Special mention to Lola for being the most beautiful snow princess doggo we ever did see, and to Pitfield Brewery’s Woodbine Racer for powering us through a busy event. We returned home on Sunday night really feeling the vegan love; thank you all!

Summer 16

September's rolled around again, a new wave of Freshers is flooding into the city, and here at Team V Rev we finally have some time to take stock and reflect on what has proved to be a very busy and exciting Summer: Our last on Oldham Street before we move to our new place on Edge Street next month!

Since we got the keys to our new premises in July, fit-out work has been continuing at a promising pace but still with enough hitches to keep us nervy. Our brand new commercial kitchen (complete with fryers for chips!) is being fitted at the moment, and we were delighted yesterday to see that our walk-in chiller and freezer is now installed. The thought of being able to prep and store large quantities of yummy vegan food from scratch (thereby reducing our chances of running out of stock) is almost too exciting to navigate. Baby V Rev's getting all grown up!

Hopefully power will be connected to the new kitchen next week and we'll be able to get in there from the end of September to refine our new menu whilst the bar and restaurant is being kitted out upstairs. With this in mind, we're tentatively aiming for a soft launch on Edge Street by the end of October, but with the caveat that we don't have psychic abilities and there may yet be some kind of unforeseen glitch that holds us up. Now the ball's really gotten rolling on site, we'll make sure to update you on our progress here so keep an eye out!

As well as overseeing development of "the new place" we've been holding usual service down on Oldham Street and even catered our first wedding in July! We ran a totally vegan bar with our good friend Tom Plant from Blackjack Brewery, and provided vegan junk food for around 150 guests. An afternoon buffet of sandwiches and snacks was followed by sliders, mac and 'cheese', pulled 'pork', chilli, loaded nachos and 'chicken' nuggets... And breakfast burritos in the morning to help ease revellers' hangovers. We had an absolute blast and were so chuffed to receive great feedback about our service... Yet another avenue we're excited to explore more once we have a lovely brand new kitchen to play in!

In August, BBC Radio 4's You and Yours came to visit us to discuss the rise of veganism in the UK. You can listen again on iPlayer here around 22 mins 40 secs in, but we don't know how long it will be up for so hurry!

We saw the Summer out with the third annual International Vegan Junk Food Day 2016 on Bank Holiday Monday 29th. We made an extra special Special for the occasion (Sister Act II: Mac in the Habit) and really enjoyed seeing people's vegan junk food creations from around the world on the #IVJFD hashtag.

While we're on the subject of awesome vegan events organised by Sean (FatGayVegan), how many of you are coming to Manchester Vegan Beer Fest on the 17th and 18th of September at Islington Mill? We're catering, dogs are allowed and it's gonna be a tonne of fun. Take a look at veganbeerfest.co.uk for tickets and more info! See you there?

Everything's coming up Milhouse!

Hello again!

Welcome to our second blog. It's been six weeks since we first updated with a (hopefully) helpful little FAQ covering all the main information about "the new place". (TL;DR: bigger, better, open later, bar, bakery, dogs still welcome)

As you probably know, this has been a long time coming but it's a brand spanking new construction so we were (somewhat) prepared for the delays that could entail. We persevered over 18 months because Edge Street is an amazing community to be a part of within the Northern Quarter, and the premises really are fantastic. We're striving to create our own dream vegan venue, and are so excited to make it a reality and share it with you!

Anyway, we've covered all that before and you're here for an update...

We've been ploughing on trying to get last bits of "snagging" finished on site and are pleased to report that it's now finally all sorted: We exchanged contracts and got keys to our new premises earlier this week! Yay!

Finally getting the keys and official tenancy on Edge Street means we've been able to spring into action making arrangements for all the works to begin to turn the space from its current empty 'shell' state, to the finest vegan junk food emporium in all the land.

Work begins fitting and kitting out the diner and bar towards the end of this month. At the beginning of August, our custom vegan commercial kitchen and bakery will begin to be installed, including... a smoker! When we say we're stepping things up Manchester, we're serious.

We're delighted to have one of the North's finest traditional sign painters and illustrators Jim Medway on board to decorate our windows, new A-board, and signs inside the diner. We've loved Jim since he put out the comic Teen Witch back in 2007 and as a former Manchester resident, we knew he would understand the area we're joining and what we hope to add to it.

We enjoy Jim's work in particular from a vegan perspective. As studio.co observed:

Jim Medway's drawings combine social realism with children's book anthropomorphism. 
“…friends often tell me with delight that they've just seen some of my cats outside the cornershop or brawling at the taxi rank.”
Typically depicting a young urban socially and politically excluded underclass his drawings merge ideas of 'urban other' with 'animals as other' and reveal a cast of cheeky or loveable rogues.
Paradoxically, turning people into cats seems to humanise them, in the sense that we are often closer to our pets than our siblings.

Awesome, right? We're also well on with collecting art work to decorate, both prints from artists around the world, and commissioned custom works from our vegan friends, including tattoo artists Harriet Heath, Hannah Clark, Tom Chippendale and apprentice SJ Young, as well as illustrators Michael Ribeiro and former team V Rev member and current Redwood Tattoo shop manager Ailsa Rhiannon

In addition to adorning the walls, we're commissioning some rad merch with designs from various artists, with a portion of profits donated to various animal rights and vegan causes.

We'll be capturing progress from now on with the help of local vegan designer and photographer Elliot Forde. You might have met him already working at Lush Arndale or at a Manchester Pig Save demo - we're really excited to work with him to capture the close down and farewell from Oldham Street, and the decoration at Edge Street, as well as the menu items we develop there, so keep an eye out for future blogs and newsletters as they'll definitely be more visual!

So, the wheels are finally in motion: what a time to be alive! Brb with more progress soon...

Start Today

Hiya!

Welcome to our first blog, in which we hope to get you up to speed on "the new place" and all the exciting things we have planned for Manchester's vegan food scene in 2016. We've broken this down into a few Frequently Asked Questions we've been getting both in the shop and online so give it a look and tell your friends!

Are you still moving? - YES!

As you may remember, we announced our intention 6 months ago to move from our current premises at 88 Oldham Street (where we've been since 2011), to a bigger, better, brand new site on Edge Street, our favourite spot in the Northern Quarter. At this point, construction on the building we're moving into was already 12 months over schedule. We were assured we'd be able to get the keys early in the new year but were already jaded by budged deadlines, so played it safe in saying we'd be moving in "early 2016"...

Why's it taking so long? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We won't bore you with the details but suffice to say the construction of our new premises has continued to run over target. It's been a long stressful slog but we have a brilliant architect on board helping us plough on, and our new landlord has been incredibly helpful in trying to move things along.

When are you moving then?  - Soon... Really!

We don't want to make any promises we can't keep and timelines still need pinning down, but we will be getting in there finally this month (June 2016). From this point we need to allow roughly 12 weeks for fit out. We're getting the shop as an empty shell which needs a full commercial kitchen, loos, a staff room and an office fitting in the basement, as well as a diner upstairs (obvi) and a lift between floors. That stuff takes time to do properly, and after waiting so long for the very best, we don't want to rush and spoil things at the last minute. So, if we had to give a rough target, we're now aiming for an August/September opening.

Will the Oldham Street premises close? - YES!

The whole reason we're moving is that we have outgrown where we are. We initially rented this premises 4 years ago as a shop for vegan food supplies and records. To our astonishment and great joy, this has somehow morphed into a pretty popular diner (still with a vegan food shop), but that's never what it was intended or designed to be. At the moment our whole menu is prepped with one plug-in oven, grill, toaster, blender and coffee machine, and at busy times (which are growing more and more frequent), customers have to wait for one of our 8 tables or opt to take out. We love 88 Oldham Street dearly and will miss it when we leave, but it's time to grow!

Will there be more tables? - YES!

Currently we can seat around 20-25 people in the shop if we get out the "spare chairs" and everyone crams in a bit. At Edge Street there will be 60 covers, and we hope this will translate to tables for everyone, even at very busy times like weekends.

Will there be a shop still? - Kind of!

There will be a shop but, due to the rise in availability of many products we sell elsewhere and our need to maximise covers in the diner, this will be significantly smaller than at present. If you need any help finding things we used to stock elsewhere we'll be happy to point you in the right direction. Eventually we plan to grow our own branded product offer, for example our burger sauce, cookie dough and other convenience junk foods.

Will there be a bar? - YES!

We have a liquor license and will be offering wines, beers, spirits, cocktails and boozy milkshakes that you can be confident are entirely vegan (no more drunken scrolling through Barnivore trying to figure out what's been filtered through fish guts or has honey in!). There will be virgin cocktails and a great selection of soft drinks like Fritz Cola and Club Mate for our customers who choose not to drink alcohol. 

Will you be open longer? - YES!

We will be open until 11pm! We haven't locked down our opening times yet because we need to work out our staffing and demand and all that tricky stuff, but it will most likely be brunch time, earlier than our current opening of noon.

Will there be a bigger menu? - YES!

Finally having a proper commercial kitchen means we can do chips (and loads of other deep fried treats), and offer way more menu items. We don't want to give too much away, but it's gonna be awesome!

Will there be more gluten free options? - YES!

As above, with the space and equipment to keep allergens separated and to prep everything from scratch, we'll be doing what we can to make V Rev more accessible to our gluten free customers.

Will there be more cake? - YES!

We will have our own in-house bakery, Tender Vegan Bakery. Get following it over on Insta now so you're ready for all the delicious treats we have to share with you!

Will the premises be fully accessible? - YES!

Our Edge Street premises are fully wheelchair accessible, with a lift from the diner upstairs to customer toilets in the basement, which will be for all-gender use with vending machines for organic sanitary wear and vegan condoms. Large print easy-read menus will also be available on request from your server.

Will dogs still be allowed? - YES!

We love our canine customers and they will remain VIPs at V Rev. We may reserve the right to refuse entry to dogs late at night if the diner is very full or getting pretty loud, but this is from an animal welfare perspective rather than us being party poopers: Our primary concern is that any doggos visiting us feel safe and aren't stressed out. We will have complimentary bowls of water and Tender Vegan Bakery vegan dog biscuits on offer to assist in making them feel welcome.

Are you looking for staff? - YES!

Once we get properly stuck into fitting out the new place we will be able to share job specs and recruit for front of house, bar, kitchen and bakery staff. If you would like us to include your CV in our search, please e-mail a copy to hello@vrevmcr.co.uk (a short covering letter explaining why you're interested in working with us and what skills you could bring to the V Rev team would be a bonus too!)