It was on holiday in Rome last year that Donna Paterson finally had the space to think about her vegan vision for Chester. She’d worked for the NHS for a number of years but more recently felt drawn to a different sort of life. Thoughts and talks formed her plans and she came back ready to start an adventure. Vegan Deva, her new café and shop opened its doors to customers on the 15th of June and should definitely be your next lunch out in Chester.
Perched on one of the most impressive sections of Chester’s city walls, Vegan Deva joins an ever-expanding community of independent businesses around Northgate Street. She’d viewed a number of premises before falling in love with this one; despite soaring high over the canal, it has disabled access from Frodsham Street and was the perfect size for her unfolding dream.
Donna has spent almost a year getting ready for the opening. In January she attended a vegan cookery course in Bath, which helped to inspire many of the recipes. Donna is now joined at Vegan Deva by Heather, also a vegan, who previously worked for Satsuma: a vegan pop-up dining experience in Chester. Although they’ve only worked together for a few weeks, they’re already great friends, creating an atmosphere of enthusiasm and a genuine warmth for customers.
The space has been thoughtfully maximised. The feel is bright and fresh, with the large original windows letting in the welcome sunshine. Old wooden beams sit happily next to the curvy modern light fittings. One corner is a wall of green, with plants hanging vertically upwards. A real highlight is the original fireplace, iron cast with beautiful tiling. The open kitchen space feels right – what better way to show the honesty of freshly prepared vegan food? Even the artwork on the wall is vegan, designed by Cheryl Day, a friend of Donna’s who lives near Brighton. The all-vegan artwork certainly merits closer inspection, and if you like it, you can buy it!
Donna was keen to make Vegan Deva as environmentally friendly as possible. Takeaway items are available in bamboo and paper containers, avoiding plastic wherever possible. To encourage customers to bring their own reusable cups, they offer a 30p reduction on hot drinks. They also a sell very affordable range of their own, the sales of which benefit a local charity, with 50p going to White Gate Animal Sanctuary on the Wirral. Waste is composted, staff aprons are fair-trade cotton, and they source as many of their ingredients locally as possible. They’re particularly excited about their vegan cupcakes, created by Chester vegan baker Mamma Mouse, who supplies many local businesses with her 100% vegan bakes. Being environmentally friendly is a really important part of their vision. Animals need a healthy world to live in just as much as humans and it is part of the same solution.
Foodwise, Vegan Deva caters for daytime; freshly made food which can be eaten in or taken away. At the moment they have four great varieties of paninis, including vegan ham and cheese and Mediterranean vegetable. Their ‘buddha bowls’ are certainly impressive; healthy and colourful servings of grains, vegetables and sauces. If you get the chance to hand around and eat in, do; the bowls they’re served in are so beautiful they’d make even the most Instagram-phobic eaters want to take a picture to share.
For those wanting something sweet, there’s a large range of tempting choices. Cupcakes and brownies line the counter. Vegan ice-cream is a great option for the hopefully warmer weather. The vegan protein balls are made by Donna herself, for those looking for a tasty protein boost.
Vegan Deva is licensed, so you can enjoy an ‘accidentally vegan’ beer such as Peroni or Hoegaarden. They also have a range of hot drinks (the frothed oat milk is particularly delicious), soft drinks and an exciting array of smoothies. Donna, who often had to pass on the little biscuits served with coffee in non-vegan establishments, is particularly pleased with the homemade vegan and gluten free versions she is now able to offer everyone.
What makes Vegan Deva an even more enticing destination for vegans is the little emporium of products available to buy. A fridge offers a wealth of chilled produce, some specifically, some accidentally vegan: cream, butter, milk, cheese, juice, soft drinks and beer. In another section, packed shelves rise to the ceiling: an array of vegan wines (part of the sale of these goes to a conservation charity), chocolate, biscuits, sauces and soups sit alongside a select range of cookbooks. Wicker baskets rest next to the fireplace for browsing and there’s also a selection of cosmetics. Donna has plans to expand with some purses, small bags and gift items. A request box will let customers share what they would like to see on the shelves. Vegans are well used to scrutinising labels in stores but here they won’t have to. Everything is for everyone.
The stunning logo, a vibrant array of leaves in the shape of a heart, was designed by Donna and speaks volumes about Vegan Deva’s message. Compassion, inclusivity, and positivity are apparent as soon as you come through the door. She wants everyone to feel welcome, vegan or non-vegan. ‘If a non-vegan comes in and has one meat-free meal, that’s a positive thing. If it tastes great and encourages them to try vegan food again, that’s even better!”.
They’ve found themselves welcomed by other vegan establishments in Chester, such as Jaunty Goat café. Vegan restaurant Hypha, owned by Nicholas Friar, and located very close by, had been particularly welcoming, and they’ve already built a great relationship. Vegan Deva, like Hypha, look forward to more vegan businesses joining them and helping to make their quarter of Chester a real destination for vegans and non-vegans alike.
Vegan Deva is located on The City Walls, up the stairs by the bridge off Northgate street. Opening hours are 10am – 2.30pm Tues/Wed, 10am – 5pm Thurs – Sat, closed Sun/Mon. You can find them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @DevaVegan