The lovely story of Walthamstow Vegan Market E17

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Kim Watson meets the pair behind the extremely popular plant-based weekenders in E17

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It’s an exciting time to be vegan in London, from the arrival of the capital’s first vegan pub The Spread Eagle (with Club Mexicana at the helm) to Temple of Seitan and specialist events like Vevolution creating a social scene for the ‘plant-powered generation’.

Wild Card Brewery is riding the wave with their monthly vegan food market held out of their Lockwood Way site. A Walthamstow staple for six years, it started life at Ravenswood Industrial Estate, before expanding to Lockwood Way off Blackhorse Road Lane this year.

In late 2017 they held their first vegan food market, initiated by their co-founder Andrew Birkby, spotting a gap in the market and having the space to host it. This year they enlisted Nina Addams, long time vegan and soon-to-be ‘vegan butcher’ to take on the role of market operator to keep up with the demand.

Vegan market co-founder Andrew Birkby. Photo: own

What made you want to start the vegan food market?
Andrew: Wild Card Lockwood Way Brewery Tap, open every weekend, attracts a big footfall, and we’re always looking for ideas for events we can host. We have worked with locals on various ventures over the years, including vintage markets, music, and food – we just want to be a real hub for the community.

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Why did you choose Walthamstow?
Andrew: I’m originally from the Midlands, but I had been living in London a few years and I knew Walthamstow well. It was the first place in London I lived. A lot of people were moving out of Hackney and we saw an opportunity in Walthamstow to set up the brewery. We have stayed here ever since – the community is great, it’s so welcoming, and it’s a vibrant place with lots of interesting businesses.

What can people expect from the market?
Nina: So much delicious, different food. This isn’t just a market for vegans, it’s about showcasing the options for innovative and traditional plant-based foods, that both vegans and omnivores can enjoy together. Hopefully, people will try some food they haven’t had before.

What was on offer at the last market?
Nina: We had old favourites like bakery, Tastopia, which is a no-brainer, she’s just so good. We had the best vegan mac ‘n’ cheese by Young Vegans, fully-loaded bagels by Vegals and my personal favourites, Shakey Shakey, who do a great tofish and chips. She’s based in Essex, where her parents run a fish and chip shop and once a week she has a vegan night. We also had vegan cheese, organic candles and macarons as treats to take home.

Do you think there is a demand in Walthamstow?
Nina: Absolutely. The main thing with this market is that the food is such high quality.  There are some local businesses offering vegan options, such as Buhler & Co who do the best sweet potato gado gado, and I’m so excited to have another local vendor, Green Grill, at the next market who do a range of hot dogs, burgers and mac ‘n’ cheese in their Instagram-able brightly-coloured buns.

Shakey Shakey. Photo: own

Why should people pop over on a Sunday?
Andrew: It’s a great opportunity to try interesting vegan food right here in Walthamstow. There are plenty of places in Hackney or Camden, but it’s pretty restricted here. The most important thing for us is that it has a positive, upbeat feel to it. We want the event to be more than just a market and it is important to us that vegans and non-vegans alike can come and have a great time. We are also located next to the Lockwood Way entrance to the Walthamstow Wetlands. The market is a nice place to stop after a walk.

Andrew, which of your beers are vegan?
We have recently moved away from making cask beers and concentrated on keg and small pack beers, all of which are vegan. We’ve got our award-winning Queen of Diamonds, our quadruple-hopped NEIPA, and many others.

What’s next for you both?
Andrew: The amount of beer we have going out to trade continues to grow. We have better equipment and a bigger facility, meaning we can produce more beer. The plan is to get our core range into cans, which retains more hop aroma that the bottles, and keeps the product fresher. As the Blackhorse Lane area develops we’re keen to be a key part of the community here. And we’re open to ideas for events. For example, we have a series of film screenings coming up with Stow Film Lounge, which is going to be a lot fun.

Nina: I’m currently knee deep in renovation as I get the kitchen ready for my vegan butcher business – The Botanic Butcher. I’ll be offering a range of vegan artisan deli cuts starting with a seitan steak, that I have been perfecting over about 10 years, taking the craft that originates in China and innovating with natural ingredients. It tastes like a meat that you haven’t eaten before. We’ll be available through selected retailers and eateries in 2019. But first, I have the next vegan market to prepare for.

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The Walthamstow Vegan Market is on the first Sunday of every month from 11am – 4pm at Wild Card Brewery, 2 Lockwood Way, Walthamstow, E17 5RB. The next market is on Sunday 2nd December. Follow them at @WalthamstowVeganMarket

Main image: Nina Addams

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