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The Veganer Rhymer

I just blogged about a vegan eatery, as is my norm,

Now, as is usual too, here’s the review in poetic form.

The vegan restaurant, Veganer,

Opens up in downtown Anna Nagar.

And last week, I was there,

To check out their fare.

And here’s what I found,

On my IrfindingVegan round.

The décor and food are all vegan, innovative, and nice,

Right from non-fine-bone-china plates to non-dairy curd rice.

The welcome drink, musk-melon/pineapple, is awesome too,

And won’t let you stop at one, or even two.

The price too is easy on the wallet,

Leaving the perfect after-taste on the palate.

At all this, my vegan heart grows fonder,

But soon, begins to ponder…

Will all this do to turn many a thayir-lapping Deepa or Deepan

Into an animal-conscious and non-dairy-slurping vegan?

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IrfindingVegan: The VeganeR ConfirmeR

It’s the first… It’s not… It’s 100% vegan… It’s not…

Ever since I visited and blogged about “Chennai’s first and only 100% vegan eatery”, Café Kripa, there has been some debate about that qualification. The owner of Café Kripa herself said she was the second, and so did one of my Facebook friends. Now, I’ve been to the other restaurant they were referring to, right when it opened, had checked the menu, confirmed with the manager, and thus could say with 100% surety, Kripa was actually the first. But just to settle any niggling doubts, I decided to return to the other.

BeginneR…

Veganer opened sometime around November last year, at the cusp of Shafee Mohammed Road and Khader Nawaz Khan Road, in the heart of Chennai, the latter locality being the city’s poshest, with high-end brands having upscale stores there. I went for lunch there just once, remarked that the place was really huge, though in the basement (or maybe that’s why), but also a bit dark (again, due to the basement), and remember wondering how they’d manage with such high rentals and such niche cuisine. I also remember remarking, and sharing with the manager, that the menu didn’t seem entirely vegan. He admitted to it and said that’s why they’ve named themselves such, as in “veganish”.

Entrance of the earlier Veganer

LateR…

When I passed by there recently, I noticed the place had given way to a pure seafood restaurant. There, I knew it couldn’t last there. And then, got to know a few days later, that it’s opening up shop not very far from my house. (Is Veganer following me, as some sort of karma?)

AdvertiseR

To step aside just a bit, ad-and-creative-consultant me likes their name and logo. Will write about this separately, but for now, am playing around with it in this piece. RevelleR?

Cafe Veganer logo

ReturneR

So, late last week, to settle the debate, I decided to make my way to Veganer again. The glow-board did proclaim: 100% vegetarian/vegan. As I made it up to the first floor, saw posters explaining the vegan lifestyle and its benefits. So, had Veganer actually turned 100% vegan?

BrighteR

I stepped in, and was pleasantly surprised at how bright this version was. It had a full-size glass window that looked outside to the busy road, light/white-coloured interiors, and a smaller size than the earlier avatar, thus reflecting light around. (In fact, the only thing dark here seemed the black outfit of the serving staff.) It was growing on me.

ManageR

I was the only one that early on a week night. So, everyone focused their eager attention on me. (Felt like a king.) The manager, Karthi, came over, and he seemed the same manager as at the earlier location, which I confirmed within a minute.

Time to settle the debate.

ConfirmeR

Veganer. Is. And. Was. 100%. Vegan.

However, when they started, perhaps due to the fact that veganism is in its early days in India, they had made some “inadvertent errors” in writing and communication. They had written ‘paneer’ (cottage cheese) in the menu in some places, and when asked, had reaffirmed that it is dairy paneer and not plant (soy) paneer. Now, they seem to have tightened the loose ends. The menu doesn’t bear mention of, nor actually have, any animal ingredients. The paneer is definitely tofu. In fact, the only mention of a non-vegan ingredient is honeymoon sauce, but that’s just the fun name; it doesn’t contain honey.

MonickeR?

In fact, Veganer has gone the whole-hog (maybe I should use non-animal ingredients in my text too; so, whole-log?) vegan. Even the plates are melamine, not the usual fine-bone-china ones you find in almost all restaurants. And I’m fairly sure the chairs were made of faux leather too. If so, well done. Think I figured out the real meaning behind the name. It’s more than vegan: it’s veganer.

WelcomeR

While I took my interrogation with Karthi further, they served me a welcome drink. Made of musk melon and pineapple, it was conversation-stopping. I asked for another, and they gladly obliged. I decided not to appear greedy, so stopped before my tongue called for a third. Also, I wanted to save space for the other items.

SnackeR

As they have just started off here (you can consider this its relaunch), like most new restaurants, they have a limited menu, of some snacks and a few meal combos, though will go full-up in two weeks or so. Not in the heart for a meal, I asked him to make a recommendation. His suggestion, falafel and hummus, seemed a safe bet.

ComplimenteR

In the meantime, we continued chatting – about the scope, owners, plans, response – though he excused himself from time to time to supervise my order… and also to get me another complimentary item: nachos with some tomato/salsa sauce. Quite tongue-teasing. Didn’t get ingredient-hunting here as this wasn’t on my menu. Also, I was wondering if they were thinking I’m a food reviewer. (Now felt even more autocratic.)

OrdeR

My order arrived. The falafels were nice and crunchy, and the hummus – light and soft – served as the perfect antidotal dip. There was some other sauce and a couple of julienned vegetables, but I was already getting a bit full, with the three complimentary items.

The falafel-and-hummus dish at Veganer

It Gets BetteR…

Meal complete, and deciding to come there again soon, though with a more pliant stomach, I asked for the bill. And then, they unleashed their final complimentary item. Thayir saadham (curd rice), a South-India staple, made of peanut curd. Seriously, veganers (hey, I’d started adopting their coinage) and even some non-veganers would not be able to tell the difference. I then realised that all their complimentary items were more satisfying than the one I ordered. Or was it just because I had to pay for that one?

BloggeR, RevieweR

Impressed, I departed but not without pulling out my phone and showing my blog and the vegan reviews therein, adding that while I’d of course be coming back soon, I’d be reviewing them sooner. (That way, I guess I’m also secretly hoping for more free treats next time.)

Er…

Veganer is still getting not just its restaurant into place, but also its digital presence. So, while it has a website, it seems to be revamping it due to the several changes it’s had since its inception, and so has only a screen announcing the new location. Also, no Facebook or Twitter page. (Gasp.) But they are working on it, Karthi shared. Here, for what it’s worth, is their renovation-in-progress website: http://www.veganer.co.in/

FindeR?

Finally, they are located in Shanthi Colony, Anna Nagar (West), opposite Gangotree Sweets. You can note the address and contact details on the splash screen on their site or the image here.

Splash screen on the Veganer website displaying the new location

Final ConfirmeR

As for the nomenclature, let’s just put it this way. Café Kripa is the “city’s first and only 100% vegan café”, and Veganer is the “first and only 100% vegan restaurant”. And now, I can really state both with 100% authority.

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Irfanvertising: Vegan… Err…

Yesterday, I blogged about my maiden visit to ‘Chennai’s first and only 100% vegan café/restaurant’, Café Kripa. When I was speaking with its owner during my visit, she told me she believed they were the second such eatery. Later, when one of my Facebook friends saw my post, he too said the same. The first eatery in both cases was believed to be Veganer.

Cafe Veganer logo

Now, I’ve been vegetarian for 19 years (completed that milestone exactly yesterday), vegan for five months (completed that number today), and took one and a quarter years to go vegan (after finding alternatives for all the things I used to eat and utilize and to break away slowly so that I wouldn’t get cold turkey and give up). To put it simply, I know my vegan.

I also state the first line of this post with double authority as I’ve been to Veganer soon after it launched: with the same wide eyes of eating at the “city’s first vegan restaurant”. However, on going through the menu, I was both surprised and disappointed. There were several items that were non-vegan. I asked for the manager of the moment. He admitted to it, and added that that’s why they’ve called themselves “Veganer” – as in “veganish”, ”veganesque”, or to give them credit as they are very vegan, well, “vegan very”. That’s why, I guess, they say they are ‘the city’s first vegan restaurant’, and not ‘its first fully vegan restaurant’.

Cafe Veganer shout-out

Which brings me to the point of this post. From an advertising perspective, this speaks of two things. The power of branding. And the penury when the truth is revealed. (Maggi-gate, anyone?) Anyway, I think I finally figured out how the restaurant chose its name: “We are vegan!… Err…”

And if there’s still any doubt, there’s just one thing to do: visit Veganer again. After all, it’s now opened up very close to my house.

P.S. In India, the concept of ‘vegan’, though catching on, is still quite new. As India is a substantially vegetarian country, and I guess not fully accomplished with English despite using it to a good extent (many people use “revert” for “reply” just because, well, both words have “re” in them), many folk think “vegan” is another word for “vegetarian”. Hopefully, this will get sorted out in the days to cum, er, come.

Vegan meme