Local Portrait: Michelle and Davina Pascal-O'Mahoney Owners of Cafe SoVegan

Written by: Shanna F. Jones

When Michelle and Davina Pascal-O’Mahoney first met six years ago they weren’t vegans and they hadn’t got a clue what the hell vegan cheese was, let alone entertained the possibility that it could be anything other than utterly vom-inducing.

Four wedding anniversaries, a campervan, a vegan dog, and a lot of kitchen experiments later, the couple, both aged 33, have set up their own successful vegan café despite never having worked in a professional kitchen before. Their Stoke Newington based business venture, Café SoVegan, boasts mac’n’no cheese, cheeseless cheesecake and cheese toasties – hold the cheese please – and, believe it or not, are not revolting.

Seven months ago Michelle and Davina decided to throw caution to the wind by ditching the greasy meat slabs for a month. They’re now so over animal products that apparently even a really tasty looking burger wouldn’t sway them. That is some pure dedication – enough to rival an Olympic sprinter’s faithfulness to anabolic steroids. Davina explains:

Watching the Cowspiracy documentary cemented our veganism, opening our eyes to the damage large scale animal agriculture causes to the planet and people, not just the animals involved.

Before the café Davina was an electrician, which she loathed, and Michelle was making a living selling artistic cakes.

Despite having next to no capital they took the risk and left their current work to follow their vegan dreams. Because if you don’t eat cheese before bed, you can’t have nightmares, am-I-right?

The idea behind the café was to provide comfort food to both scarily enthusiastic vegans and terrified, sceptical non-vegans (who think they’re doing something daringly healthy) alike. No one wants to be Awkward Arnold when out to dinner with hot company, but what’s an animal welfare-conscious girl to do when there’s only a few peas and a handful of broccoli on the menu?

We wanted to give vegans another place to eat out at without having to scour the menu figuring out what you can eat, and to show non-vegans how tasty vegan food could be, and maybe convert a few!
Vegan food at Cafe So Vegan, Stoke Newington, North London, North Four Magazine

Michelle and Davina are women after our own hearts: they’re convinced that vegan food, alcohol and all day parties go hand-in-hand. They created quite a ruckus among the locals on their grand opening party in February; “The first day in the kitchen serving over 100 people was hectic and exhilarating! I did almost crumble but it showed us what we were capable of” exclaims Davina.

The café is a pop-up located within the Royal Sovereign on Northwold Road – a legendary pub in itself. The Sov is adored by locals, punk bands, techno DJs and bar staff and has often been the underground haunt of the odd wayfaring rock star’s daughter or 80’s punk superstars on their Sunday family outing. “The Royal Sovereign has been our local for the best part of a decade and we love the atmosphere, staff and regulars,” said Davina.

The couple keep their menu frisky by changing it up on the regular. Some favourites to date are the vegan breakfast burrito, Oreo ‘cheese’ cake, crispy kale and their newly developed seitan burger. The London Vegan Society has clocked the Café’s dedication to the cruelty-free lifestyle and has just had their first vegan meet-up there.

In the kitchen at Cafe So Vegan in Stoke Newington, North London, for North Four Magazine

Michelle and Davina are hosting yet another all-dayer party (read: WOOOOOO!) on 30th April with Reel Reebel DJs and live music. They also have plans for a sausage-less sausage fest in the summer, we could do with a bitta’ that.

Despite Michelle suffering with fibromyalgia and often being in invisible agony, the pair both work hard around the clock and keep a smile on their faces. They reckon despite the challenges it’s all worth it. “Everyone who has eaten our food, vegan or non-vegan has gone away happy and that is the best feeling in the world. Both Michelle and I are the happiest we’ve ever been and cannot imagine doing anything else.”

Keep up with Cafe SoVegan’s wild parties here.


Photos: Michael Barry

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