The Retreat Kitchen: Plant-based brunch with a story to tell.
We had a chance to sit down with The Retreat Kitchen (a few months back we won’t lie – sorry!) and get to know more about their experience on the TV show – The Retreat (now on Netflix btw guys) which eventually led to them opening up their plant based cafe together!
For all the juicy photos, read in magazine format!
For anyone who hasn’t heard of The Retreat, could you give us a quick overview of the experience, why you went on it and what it feels like to be going through that journey with a group of strangers?
Maggie: For me I was running various companies and I had been made redundant and it hit me pretty hard and I found that I took it personally and it affected my confidence. I happened to know the guy who thought about the idea of the retreat through the industry we worked in and he phoned me and say ‘Look Maggie I think that this would really help you, do you fancy spending a month in Thailand?’ And I said ‘What’s the catch?’ I knew I needed to do something and I thought maybe trying something like this, something different might give me some new avenues to look down so I decided to go it’s a completely open mind.
Claire: I was off sick from being a policewoman and just looking for something to get better, so I tried everything at home for stress and depression and nothing was helping me.
So my auntie knew one of the yoga teachers that would be working over there and she put us in touch so it was just basically some time away from the UK to try and get healthier and recover properly from work and I don’t know what I would’ve done without it because nothing else was working.
On the show, We thought that the show would just be some yoga, a few treatments and juicing really but when we got there they said there was a 7 day fast, our first real treatment was having our stats taking at the hospital the day after we arrived just to make sure we were all safe to take part and also so we could track the difference. C: Don’t forget the chlonic irrigation M: I wasn’t going to bring that up but yes we had to do that twice a day and self-administered! We also had this massage it felt like she was rearranging my organs and I was bruised. After the fast, we were eased in by eating raw vegan food before eating more adventurous vegan dishes.
Funny enough, we had papaya with bee pollen and I threw it away I thought it was so horrid and Nick was like “you can’t complain because it’s the first thing you’ve eaten” It was a detox and body cleanse of things we were doing before like smoking or drinking. Claire had loads of headaches from lack of caffeine and sugar. We also watched loads of videos on veganism like cowspiracy, we had some trips whilst we were there, Thai boxing, treks, the gym.
It was good that we got to go away and do this and really focus because it’s also a very expensive experience to do had we paid for it and we did everything together and everyone had their own thing they were going through and over coming and we could never have done it on our own.
We both went on the retreat Claire and I discovered that the food and the health benefits for changing to a vegan diet and on discussion we said what it would be like to open a vegan cafe. We were so interested in the way the food was cooked on the show and between us just thought that this was worth sharing. Meeting Maggie and finding someone as interested in food as I am who had also been on the programme and going through the retreat together was just a once in a lifetime opportunity because you can never really explain that journey to anyone, you would really have to live through it.
Why did you decide to open the restaurant together?
We’re not trying to convert people to veganism, we just want people to try good food and service and meet us. Also maybe to help not eat meat for every meal or maybe just cut down there but no, we are very relaxed. We would like to inspire people to eat healthily and maybe you will feel a bit better like we did!
What inspires you when you cook or create dishes?
We try and cater to people who have difficult food allergies like gluten free, sugar free, nut allergies. But because we have the power to design our products it makes it so much easier to cater to their needs and keep everyone happy! Maggie and I do all the food and Hannah does the amazing smoothies we sell. We get inspiration from things we read or see on Instagram, we obviously want our food to look really good as well as be really good for you. I think the funnest part is making things that aren’t typically vegan and putting our own spin on it and getting creative with it.
What made you pick these particular dishes in your brunch menu?
Well Maggie wanted the English muffin and I love omelettes so they’re both on there but I think we initially had three things; brunch plate, smashed avocado and pancakes. But as we got better at space management we added more dishes. The Brunch Plate is the most popular but I think in summer, the muffins might become more popular. The spicy sauce on the mushroom give it a bit of kick and it’s made from blended cashews which are just a vegans dream when creating creamy sauces.
If we get to open more kitchens, we would really like to experiment Indian and Thai cuisine. British food is tough as there is only so much you can do with meat and veg. Whereas with Asian foods it’s all about the flavours and what you can combine – saying this we will always do a mix of cuisines.
Are you a fan of bottomless brunches and do you think the Retreat Kitchen will have its own soon?
We were talking about it! The only thing I question is if drinking large amounts of alcohol sits with our ethos. We will see how it goes when we open in the evening and what the demand is – maybe we will start with bloody Marys or something!
I would recommend our wine however and the prosecco is fantastic!
Apart from being plant based, what makes your brunch different from every other brunch out there?
More personable, right?
Yes, I mean as well as our love and passion, we are serving similar food but different way. It is very visual, everything is displayed, and a lot of effort goes into the presentation. Being wholly vegan is actually quite unique.
We don’t even use meat alternatives like quorn or soy apart from the sausage! It’s a good tasting one though, good replacement. We will go into take away too at some point we hope!
If you had to pick 5 famous people dead or alive to brunch with who would you pick?
5 that’s a lot, right, we want Ferne Cotton to come don’t we? She even lives round here! And we love Gordon Ramsey.
We would like to invite Lucy Watson back, we had a meltdown the first time she came and we’d love to see her here again as we are massive fans of Made in Chelsea. It was when it first opened and they said they heard of us through Happy Cow, this app for vegan restaurants. Obviously she is proudly vegan and has her pancake cookbook – she actually asked for our pancakes!
Maybe someone non vegan to convert – like my husband!
How important to do you think having a plant based diet is in the modern day –how would you convert us to a plant-based lifestyle in 3 points?
For me it changes your complexion completely – which you guys don’t need
It gives you more energy too!
Ok…. We do need that
How long does it take to feel the effects?
After the fast I felt so much better. The comments were on how bright the whites of your eyes become! Jeff said to me “WOW Maggie I can see your cheek bones!” Weight loss is part of it if you struggle with your weight it is a balanced way of controlling it. My skin used to be awful I had always struggled with acne and I was never willing to give up a food group or wouldn’t have even considered the effect if could have had on my skin. It is impressive what food can do. Even one of the guys on the show for example, he was a type 2 diabetic and within 7 days he didn’t have to take any of his tablets. Such a success story, all the benefits of a plant based diet!
What would you say to the non-believers?
Unfortunately some vegans are very let’s say…. Militant. Even when they come in here they get upset that we serve milk for example. They need to know this is a business as well; this is not a vegan restaurant for vegan people. This is a plant based café which is here to encourage people to try our food. We want to draw them in with our good coffee and cakes first, and onto the main meals second! When we first started, a man came in who was obviously used to the old restaurant and asked for a meatball sub! It was certainly an entertaining convo explaining we are a vegan café! But he stayed, had an Asian curry and really enjoyed it.
….He’s never come back though hahaha
How do you see the future of vegan cuisine?
It has expanded massively in all the mainstream restaurants, if you don’t give the option you are cutting out some of the market. It is going to increase, but it is funny none of the chefs want to do it. It is very time consuming – lots of veg chopping, so what you find is the vegan/veg options are usually lazy. If they aren’t interested it is hard to do an inspiring vegan dishes. We went down this route because we believe the market is going to increase. We aren’t here to convert you all but we want to say “try this food, it is good for you!” Even just a couple of times a week.
Now for the quick fire!
Coffee or tea?
Fave brunch dish?
Favourite Cook book?
Fave Vegan restaurant?
Which meat do you miss the most?
Best smoothie for a hangover?
Weirdest ingredient you use?
Nutritional Yeast – looks like fish food but tastes like nutty cheese….
What country would you most like to eat brunch in?
LA, Santa Monica
Which famous chef would you partner with?
Jamie Oliver or Marco Pierre White
Avocado or Tofu?
Summarise your café in one sentence:
Earth Friendly food
So that’s it!
We loved meeting Maggie and Claire and we hope you loved meeting them too!
Remember to pay them a visit in Richmond! Deets below:
The Retreat Kitchen
16 Hill Rise
About a 10min walk from Richmond Station
Check out our last post on the retreat kitchen here.
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