From Soil To Plate

The Garden Café Interview with Nikki and Bryan

From Soil To Plate

We are participating in the #MuseumCarbonStories campaign, as part of the Roots and Branches project to support museums to become Carbon Literate and take action against climate change.

The campaign is taking place in the run-up to the UK hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021. HOME – UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) at the SEC – Glasgow 2021 (

For this week’s theme of ‘From Soil to Plate’, we are interviewing Nikki and Bryan from The Garden Café and Takeway, here at the Quaker Tapestry Museum. They tell us about what made them want to start a vegan café, why what we eat is so important in terms of climate change and how we make a difference with just £1.

What made you want to start a sustainable café?

Nikki: In 2015 we lost our house in Storm Desmond [during the floods]. We were completely out of the house for a year. We both, once we’d gathered our bodies, brains and souls back together, decided that we needed to do something. Something that we could achieve ourselves to make a difference, you know? So we looked into opening a fully vegan eatery in the form of a trailer outside our house.

From Soil To Plate

Why was going carbon-free important to you?

Carbon-Free Dining is a scheme which plants trees in the developing world. At participating restaurants, customers can ask to add a £1 donation to their order. At the end of the month the donations go to Carbon-Free Dining, who plant a fruit tree on their behalf.

Bryan: We signed up with carbon-free dining and we’re making a contribution monthly. So, that’s been a new thing that we need to roll out to customers and because we’ve been closed a lot [over lockdown], we need some time to get that rolling properly.

Francesca: So how is that scheme meant to work?

Nikki: A pound is added as a donation to the customer’s order. So then we transfer the donations to Carbon-Free Dining at the end of every month.

People don’t always seem to pick up on it, at the till, in terms of actually adding that extra money. So we are working on making people more aware of that – that they have the option to add £1. It was something we felt was important alongside everything else that we made a decision to do.

From Soil To Plate

Why did you decide to go for fully Vegan recipes?

Bryan: We’d been to a climate emergency protest a couple of weeks before we were flooded. Then, while we were out of our home, Nikki decided to go vegan. From eating meat…

Nikki: (laughs) …to not! Overnight.

Bryan: …and then we soon followed, didn’t we? I was vegetarian for most of my life, but realised that that wasn’t enough. Quite a few people advised us that it would be better to be vegetarian with some vegan options, but we felt we had to just grasp the nettle and we went for it.

Nikki: We have had a few customers ask if we have ‘normal’ milk, who are generally customers that don’t know we are a vegan café, but we felt that, no we’ve got to go fully vegan.

Francesca: We actually had a customer come and tell us at the museum that your coffee was “the best cup of coffee I have ever had”. He was very surprised to find that it was made with oat milk. He really loved it!

From Soil To Plate

How important is what we eat when it comes to tackling climate change?

Nikki: Vastly. Absolutely essential. With the effect of animal agriculture…I think people just assume that we are doing something because it’s solely based on animals and that’s just not the case at all. It’s based on everything in the circle – it’s our health, the health of the planet and obviously, the protection of animals and general wellbeing.

Francesca: So it’s the bigger picture, not just the animal objection side – it’s sort of a holistic view of things?

Nikki: Yes. Yes very much so.

From Soil To Plate

Where are your ingredients sourced from?

Nikki: Our fresh ingredients are from a local wholesalers. I mean, we’d love to be able to go to a market farm garden and buy our vegetables, Bryan and I have actually discussed coming together with a group of people and actually setting that up ourselves at some point in the future. So that there is locally sustainable, year-round, seasonal food.

We are conscious of what we have on the menu, for instance I love asparagus and avocado, but we can’t justify having them on the menu, just because of the climate miles and also the ethical sourcing of some of these food items.

From Soil To Plate

Tell us about the café’s refill scheme – how does that work?

Bryan: People can just come in. We have a sign in our front garden and people just bring their bottles in and ask for a refill. Topping up their water bottles is easy enough to do and it goes towards solving a problem.

What are the café’s plans for the future?

Bryan: Ideally, we’d use a local supplier. We haven’t got to that yet, but because we have different ingredients regularly, it’s something that we are looking at and we’re also looking at starting a market garden business, but that’s a little while down the road, yet. That would be – would need to be – with other people and we know several other people who are interested in the idea. They are willing to put some money in, as are we. That’s just on the horizon at the minute, but something that we are looking at.

From Soil To Plate

Further Information

If you enjoyed reading this interview, check out some of our other blog posts:

Discover the story behind Kendal’s Flood Tapestry in our Changing Landscapes blog

Find out about ‘Ecology and Nature’ at the museum in our #MuseumCarbonStories blog

Learn about how Stramongate School helped the First World War effort through gardening and land work

Supporting the Quaker Tapestry

We couldn’t accept and care for our tapestries and other wonderful artefacts without our dedicated Care and Conservation team. However we need your help to…

– Create an improved database of the extensive Quaker Tapestry collection of supplementary items

– Develop best practice of the Care and Conservation volunteers through further training

Your donation will help us achieve our goals and ensure the longevity of the exhibition and collection. Please consider making a donation

Quaker Tapestry Facts

The colourful tapestry panels measure 63.5cm x 53.3cm and are made using a mix of five ancient stiches and a new one, invented for the project. Embroiderers around the world now use the ‘Quaker Stitch’.

World traveller and writer Alexander McCall Smith, says they’re one of the ‘six best tapestries’ to see in the world.
The panels help you find out about famous scientists, engineers, bankers, botanists and non-conformists who pioneered industrial welfare, fair trade, prison reform, peace work and anti-slavery initiatives. Many were Cumbrians.

Begun in 1981 and completed in 1996, they’re the work of 4,000 men, women and children from around the world. Some of the panels made journeys of thousands of miles as they passed from one group of people to another.

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