Crumbs, creativity and cooking
If you’re ever in Newcastle, make sure to visit The Magic Hat Café By Laura Gaga
I spent a couple of nights in Newcastle recently, so, of course, I shared the sights and my antics on Instagram stories; have you even been away if it’s not on the ‘gram?! One advantage of showcasing your life on social media is that you have lovely ladies like Gill (@gillh1) slide into your DM’s: “Do you know about The Magic Hat Café… Central Newcastle? Always have a vegan option; it’s a zerowaste café.” I don’t know what type of DMs you guys are receiving, but mine do not get any more suggestive than what to do with a wonky cucumber!
Gill’s recommendation was warmly welcomed; a few friends and I were nursing a hangover and in need of food. I think they were too weak to argue when I frogmarched them in search of The Magic Hat — I kid you not when I tell you I used the words ‘clench those glutes.’ One of the girls did insist that food needed to be cheap — we had spent a fair bit on prosecco the night before, the other two claimed not to be hungry. Regardless, I channelled my inner white rabbit and led the way.
I was so excited to reach The Magic Hat, as it’s not every day that you find yourself in a zero-food-waste café. The indoor plants were doing the trick in connecting me with nature and restoring my well being, AKA easing the hangover. The menu was equally as exciting and Gill was right, no shortage of vegan options; the rest of the menu is vegetarian.
I shared the vegetable hash, which was veganised by not adding the sriracha mayo, and the waiter offered me chilli jam as a substitute, which was delicious. I had the roast pumpkin za’atar with pearl barley to myself and enjoyed the refreshing pineapple and passion fruit fizz to drink.
All the food was delicious; even the two who ‘weren’t hungry’ cleaned their plates. And, at £5 for the main dishes, it met the cheap food requirement, too. I was the only vegan in our group; the rest of the girls eat meat, yet there were cries of ‘This has been the best food we’ve had during our stay…’ and ‘With dishes like this, we should all be vegan.’
What wasn’t really spoken about was that the food would otherwise have been wasted; all the ingredients were surplus food. It seemed secondary to the dishes being tasty, affordable and all so fresh. I wasn’t prepared to let the food waste element go unmentioned though, I’m like a dog with a rubber bone!
I fired questions at the waitress who pointed to their five-star food hygiene rating displayed in the window and explained that they accept surplus food from local supermarkets, farms and restaurants, to quote: “If people are giving away good food, we’ll take it.”
She explained that they do not take food past its use-by date, but will accept food beyond its best-before date, given that the latter is not a legal requirement, nor does it relate food safety. The website outlines that their ‘mission is to show you that this food should never have been wasted, and with a little love it can instead be transformed into fresh, colourful and delicious meals and drinks’. (themagichatcafe.co.uk)
You can also buy groceries from their website, and outside the shop were bags of coffee grounds free for the taking, which can be used for compost. True to their name, The Magic Hut are making magic with food which would otherwise end up in landfill. They are testament to what you can do when you mix crumbs, creativity and cooking!
The Magic Hat Café is a non-profit organisation run by BIND, Newcastle’s food waste hub, who are challenging attitudes, and policies, on food waste, across public, privat, and third sector organisations. (projectbind.com)
Without hesitation, I would recommend a visit to The Magic Hat Café if you happen to be in the North East. Likewise, if like Gill you have any zero-waste recommendations for me, please slide into my DM’s!