Continuing her series of articles exploring small businesses and entrepreneurs in Cardiff, this month Sarah-Jane visits the only 100% vegan restaurant in Cardiff, Anna Loka, and meets the owner Adam, whose journey to entrepreneur is definitely not a traditional one!
Since I have been writing for the Cardiff Times I’ve been incredibly spoilt. So many local businesses have given me a warm welcome. They have taken the time to share with me what motivates them as well as revealing their hopes and dreams for the future. Their enthusiasm is a tribute, not only to an inspiring city, but to grass roots, to real people.
These people extend a hand to their neighbour and to their fellow citizens to make our city a better place. In a time where our high streets are full of chain stores, corporate companies and soulless shopping or eating experiences; this rise in local business is heart-warming to say the least. It is vital that we support our local businesses. It is our duty to champion our neighbours ventures in difficult times because the importance of keeping the heartbeat of our local community in good health is vital.
With this in mind, I paid visit to a local business this month that is placing the health of the local community high on the agenda. Anna Loka opened its doors 15 months ago as Cardiff’s first ever 100% Vegan restaurant, and although still in its infancy, it is fast becoming a favourite with the locals of Roath.
Adam El Tagoury did what so many of us do at some point in our lives – he took some time out to go traveling. Except Adams’ trip became much more than just seeing the world, it turned into a journey of self-discovery. He explained that after several signs on his travels, it was clear that his pathway had lead him to a new life, as a Buddhist Monk. On returning to Cardiff Adam chose to channel his own lifestyle choices through his business venture, it was then that Anna Loka was established. The venue itself is neighbourly, warm and inviting, whilst also being a bit of a Tardis. With additional seating to the rear of the restaurant it is a lot larger than I had pictured from the outside. There are plans underway for an additional outside seating area too, which will be great in the warmer months. The décor has an industrial feel, accomplished by recycled materials. There are wonderful murals carved into the walls by artist Scot Clark, they provide the restaurant with a unique look and really complete a great interior. So onto the menu…
I think it is worth pointing out that I am not a vegan, and although I often choose to eat vegetarian food because I like it, this was my first 100% vegan meal. The menu is full and varied, vegan burgers and chilli dogs seemed to be a popular choice. I could understand why, they looked huge, fresh and tasty. Salads, curry, breakfasts and wraps are also available. I decided to go for a wrap – The Arabian, with a side of triple cooked sweet potato fries. The Arabian wrap was filled with homemade kofte balls, made with beetroot and red lentils and was accompanied by nachos, homemade hummus and a fresh slaw. The restaurant source as much local and organic produce as possible and it is worth the effort because my meal was absolutely delicious. Hearty and filling I enjoyed every last morsel. The side of sweet potato fries were the best I have ever tasted; they arrived with homemade garlic mayo and complimented each other perfectly. The only downside is that I fear I will have to order a side of fries’ every time I visit in the future!
One huge advantage for me eating in a great place like Anna Loka is not having to worry about my dairy intolerance. It often gets in the way when ordering tea and coffee at other cafes and restaurants. It is usual for cow’s milk alone to be on offer, if you’re lucky soya milk (which I hate) might be an option. However, here I was offered a selection of alternative milks such as almond and coconut. It’s a simple thing but it made such a difference to me. I slurped away at my pot of Earl Grey tea care free.
Anna Loka is a fabulous local venue that is well worth taking advantage of. If you are vegan this is a haven, and if you are a meat lover, trust me, you won’t miss it! The food is flavoursome, it’s a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with some great staff. I will be a regular from now on, definitely one of my favourite finds of 2016.
For more menu info and bookings, go to www.anna-loka.com. You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.