It would be ignorant to assume that the random yet rising number of people who proudly don T-shirts printed with ‘Vegan For The Animals’ or ‘Friends not Food’, followed by a dozen other vegan quotes plastered all over ethically sourced clothes, around the capital, are all on their own. As in the UK, the sheer volume of vegans has risen by 360% in the last 10 years. Just over 540,000 people aged 15 or over, more than one per cent of the British population, have adopted a plant-based diet. According to the UK Vegan Society, the survey proves that veganism is now one of Britain and Ireland’s “fastest growing lifestyle movements”.
In Ireland, it is catching on too. The Irish Vegan society have already run out of the booklets they send out for free when you sign up to their society due to the amount of Irish people transitioning towards veganism. There you have it, it’s high time Dublin got a boost in the vegan dining sector.
One such boost resides at 51 Pleasants St, Dublin 8, just off Camden Street: Sova Food Vegan Butcher. Inside a rustic wooden exterior, the two storey building with distressed grey-white washed walls is dimly lit by vintage lighting, and seats forty plus people at distressed wooden tables, which by the way happened to be in a constant flux on the day I visited. Sunday, I was told, is “a more relaxed atmosphere, if you want to come for brunch”, but the staff are kept busy by the never-ending flood of eager diners arriving hungry and intrigued, and departing satiated with a “we’ll be back soon”.
I brought my partner, fashion designer Aoife Banks, and my friend Michelle Wickham, a fine chef at that, who accompanied me last year when Sova Vegan Butcher was only a pop up out in Rathmines. From humble beginnings …
We had just come from the Dublin VegFest, an annual event that seen its largest ever turn out of over 3,000 people. The increase in numbers had lead to a venue change last minute, and a rather unexpected hectic run of things as a result. Again, it is clear to see the demand for plant-based food is on the rise in Ireland.
SFVB’s mission statement is simple: ‘to promote vegan food and a healthy lifestyle’. They are not claiming to be seeking a Michelin star, so what can one really expect from Dublin’s newest vegan restaurant arrival?
First of all, don’t expect to eat meat. This is obvious, but people automatically expect to see lamb, steak, chicken and fish on their menus, so before you walk in the door, bring an open mind and heart. What you will get are some meat substitutes such as tempeh, soy, tofu and seitan, an array of either healthy colourful salads, or vegetables, any of which will fend off any pangs of hunger and satisfy any meat or fish eater, including my two guests.
I ordered the Seaweed Chowder with Pan-fried Samphire and Sourdough Baguette (€6.95) which was a beautifully presented light flavoursome chowder with an al-dente bite to it. The pan fried samphire complemented the dish subtly. A perfect starter. I didn’t have the bread as they ran out of gluten free options as it had been a busy day. It didn’t have that creamy overload that you’d sometimes find with a normal fish chowder, so tasting the alternative was refreshing and delightful. Ready for the next course!
Next was the Potato Pancakes, Creamy Saffron and Mushroom Sauce with Smoked Tofu Shavings (€9.95). The mushroom sauce was absolutely sublime, full of rich herbs and with slow bursts of flavour. Stacked on the sauce were thick dense potato cakes that rested around a lush mound of green garden salad, a portion so generous I simply couldn’t finish it on my own. This main course would literally fuel an army. So filling that if you are ordering this you need not order anything else, but nevertheless I soldiered on.
How I managed what came next is actually testament to sheer woman-power and team work. I would go back to that place alone just for their Pancakes (€9.95) – an abundance of sugary or savoury delights on a plate. The sautéed pineapple mixed with fresh berries and banana went blissfully well with a fruit pot and coconut cream, of which there was an extra portion ordered. This dish, like the potato pancakes, is massive in portion size. I would recommend ordering it as a Sunday brunch treat, or as a dessert, but you might just roll out the door after eating starters, mains and then this.
The false notion, and possible fear, of leaving a vegan restaurant ‘still hungry’, after eating ‘rabbit food’, is well and truly put to bed here at SFVB’s. I wanted to try more on the menu but it wasn’t physically possible. I shall simply have to go back for more. Especially after glancing over at the other tables and eyeing up their Vegan King Scallops with Dill Potato Cakes, marinated Purple Cauliflower, Black Pudding Crisps & Olive Oil Kelp Caviar and their Seitan Steak with Pepper Sauce, Thyme Potato Gratin, Watercress Salad & Roasted Cherry Tomatoes. Isn’t it mouth watering even reading it? Welcome to my struggle.
Their three course menu from Wednesday to Saturday is currently at €22.90 per head and includes a starter, main and dessert. The Sunday Brunch menu ranges from €6.95 to €9.95. We also tried out some drinks from their new juice bar (€5) and they pack a nutrient punch; full on flavour and well thought out healthy veg and fruit concoctions to get the body and head straight. I hear they tend to give free shots to those suffering from a hangover of a Sunday – there you go, you heard it from TheTaste.
All in all, Barto Sova is the host with the most. He arrived in Ireland, from Poland, 13 years ago and has shared with us his own personal journey of transitioning from a long-time vegetarian to full on vegan three years ago, and wants to show you how easy it can be. Barto serves healthy, affordable and delicious food in an aesthetically pleasing environment, where you’ll surely meet and bump into Ireland’s leading health enthusiasts, nutritionists, well known media faces, burgeoning actors, and a few curious meat eaters that stray daily in through their doors for a venture over to the ‘Green Side’.
Fast becoming Dublin’s ‘must try that vegan place’ to eat, word of mouth endorsement is sometimes the best kind but food to mouth endorsement seems to be making a return to the capital. And take it from us, you simply must try Sova Vegan Butcher! Leave all preconceptions behind and enjoy a plant based alternative to meat for your next day or evening meal out.
Sova Vegan Butcher also operates on a BYOB basis with a small corkage fee for diners.
Sova Vegan Butcher,
51 Pleasants St,
Tel: 085 727 7509
Delighted to be the official vegan writer for TheTaste, bringing you all the best vegan friendly restaurant experiences and recipes. I’m an entertainment publicist, illustrator and writer. Besides the obvious love for music, art and words, I hold great passion for film, psychology, theatre, travel, health & fitness. I also have a diploma in nutrition and I am a vegan and coeliac.