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Bristols favourite vegetarian restaurant has a new name, a fresh, rustic menu and is tapping into the creativity

of one of the citys most vibrant residential areas to create a cosy hang-out for the local community, by day and night.
WORDS: LINDSEY HARRAD

Maitreya Social
Opening your own restaurant, especially in this tough economic climate, is a monumental challenge, but when youve always dreamed of owning a vegetarian place, the risks mount up even further. So Barney McGrath couldnt believe his good luck when his boss at the well-established Caf Maitreya in Bristol said hed be willing to sell up and let Barney take over the reins. We were having a few idle beers one night and Mark suggested I buy the place from him, says Barney. I couldnt believe it really, to be able to take on an established restaurant with a great reputation in the heart of Easton, my favourite part of Bristol, it was a fantastic opportunity. Mark Evans had been chef-proprietor of Caf Maitreya since 2007, previous to which the caf had already been open for around five years. Under Marks guidance, the food started to push in a completely different direction, and became more focused on a high quality evening service. Eventually, the daytime caf closed completely, and Evanss fine vegetarian dining and polished presentation soon acquired accolades from The Observer, Which? Good Food Guide and the Vegetarian Society, to name just a few of the most high-profile awards. Barney had started working for Mark at Maitreya in October 2010. I had been living and working in Bristol for many years and as a veggie myself, was obviously very aware of what Mark was achieving here, he says. With no formal training as a chef he read theology and religious studies at Bristol University and only a love of cooking for a crowd at his student house, Barney worked his way up through the ranks at various Bristol establishments, starting out as a pot washer and kitchen porter, before enjoying stints as a chef at The Better Food Company and St Werburghs City Farm Caf. But he says the training path for a vegetarian chef is not well defined and you often have to set aside your personal beliefs to progress in your career. Ive had to cook meat and fish in previous jobs, he explains. There are limited opportunities for a vegetarian chef and you have to cook meat otherwise youd have no job. I was fortunate to be able to work at places like St Werburghs and The Better Food Company, where the meat is at least ethically farmed, but it was always a huge incentive for me to eventually have my own place.

A new social hub


Now happily established as chef-proprietor at Maitreya Social the first exclusively vegetarian kitchen he has ever worked in along with his business partners Tom and Rosie, Barney admits that he never intended to be head chef. But the challenges of finding a capable, reliable and vegetarian-sympathetic chef have meant hes been running the business and the kitchen for several months now, often working a 90-hour week. Its tough to be the chef and owner, he admits, because you end up running everything from the kitchen and theres a danger that you lose perspective of the bigger picture. You arrive in the morning, you have your prep list for the day and you get your head down. It gives you a blinkered view of the business.

Tom, Rosie and Barney are relishing the challenge of taking over

Happily for Barney (and his wife!), a new chef has started at the restaurant, which will hopefully leave the new owners with more time to focus on the bigger picture. As the new name Maitreya Social suggests, they have already started to take the restaurant in a different direction, moving away from expensive fine dining and placing the venue at the heart of the community. Easton is a residential area with a lively, multicultural vibe during the day, but at night it goes a little quiet. Were really keen to tap into local creativity and weve introduced some popular new social elements live music, poetry evenings, art exhibitions, open mic night and weve even got an improvisation theatre group performing here regularly. We aim to make Maitreya a social hub for Easton. Now open during the daytime again, the coffee and cake crowd is back, and theres also an opportunity to stop off for breakfast, or for an early evening glass of wine and a dish of olives on the way home. We are very thankful that weve inherited a very good, loyal customer base were so grateful for that. But getting new customers in these economic times is challenging, so weve decided to reintroduce veggie breakfasts, light lunches, daytime coffee and bar snacks to build more of a local following during the day, he says. We recognise that people cant always afford to spend 3040 on a three-course lunch with wine, Easton is not that sort of area, were not in the centre of Bristol. However, in the evening, weve found that people are prepared to travel a bit further to have a fully vegetarian meal, and we dont have much competition locally on that front. It seems surprising that Bristol, which has a bit of a reputation for a larger than average number of wholefood-loving, ethically minded residents with a history of embracing alternative ideals, should only have one proper vegetarian restaurant offering food of this standard, but Barney believes interest in vegetarianism is growing steadily and hes seeing a greater diversity of customers booking at Maitreya, including plenty of carnivores. I think theres definitely a bit more national awareness of the environmental consequences of producing meat and we may see more people becoming veggie as part of this desire to reduce their carbon footprint, in the way weve seen people switching to locally produced food, he says. Its great to see celebrity chefs like Hugh FearnleyWhittingstall supporting vegetarianism as an ethical choice. He has a great deal of power to influence change and his recipes are fantastic.

Rustic and homely


But while we may hope for more people to start going meat-free, in the meantime Barney is committed to providing a great experience for vegetarians who may be short-changed, or even compromised, elsewhere. Ive been vegetarian for over 20 years and Im very passionate about my beliefs. I want to go to restaurants where I can be confident the wine, the cheese, the beer, absolutely everything is vegetarian, because there are still lots of misconceptions in professional kitchens about what is veggie. I want to give that kind of confidence to my customers. However, Maitreya Social is not a place for preaching about ethics, but challenging preconceptions about what constitutes a vegetarian meal. We just aim to deliver great food to everyone, not just veggies, he says. We find that once people are in the door weve pretty much won the battle, as were confident that our menu can convince carnivores they can have a great meal without meat. I have no problem with macrobiotic diets and so on, but I like a steaming plate of hearty comfort food, so we serve generous portions here. Im just not a brown rice and tofu sort of person! The ethos of Maitreyas menu has undoubtedly changed substantially since Mark Evans departed; his style of cooking was known for being precise, elegant and clean in both the ingredients and presentation, and Barney readily admits that hes deliberately taking the food in a different direction. Were more rustic and homely in our style of cooking, but most of our regulars have been really

We re really keen to tap into local creativity live music, poetry evenings, art exhibitions, open mic night and weve even got an improvisation theatre group

Cafculture

positive about the changes as they can see theres a new energy about the place; theyre happy weve kept it veggie, and weve made it more affordable. The new menu fuses fresh local ingredients with some of the ethnic influences found on their doorstep in Easton theres a wealth of exotic ingredients from Turkish to Indian, Thai to Chinese in specialist shops around the area but Barney is happy to dabble with these influences and give them a twist. Youll never find a standard Thai green curry or a Moroccan tagine on the menu, but well certainly play with these flavours to offer something a bit different.

Spreading universal love


But while there may be a taste of the exotic on offer, Barney is focused on celebrating good quality homegrown food and using produce found on the doorstep in Bristol. Were not completely organic although all our eggs and milk are organic we tend to favour small-scale local producers, many of which cant afford organic certification, although they may use organic methods. The reality is that we cant buy certified organic fruit and vegetables as much of it has to be imported and its just too expensive. Wed have to charge our customers a lot more if we went exclusively organic, and I dont think most people can afford those kinds of prices I know I cant! I do believe organic farming is far better, but it has to be sustainable and affordable for everyone,

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PHOTOGRAPHY: TERRY ROOK, GLANCE IMAGE

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Cafculture
says Barney. Until that happens, we are supporting local suppliers, using Fairtrade products and will be changing our menus regularly to make the best use of seasonal ingredients. So what can customers expect to find on the menu now? In early spring we like to use produce such as cauliflower, carrots, leeks, Jersey Royals these are all tasting great at this time of year. We have to be much more creative and ambitious with ingredient pairings to achieve great flavours in our dishes, because we cant just rely on getting a good piece of meat like most chefs. I generally start developing a new dish by choosing a seasonal ingredient and making it the star, then building other flavours around it by deciding which herbs and spices to use, or introducing a fantastic local cheese Ive discovered at a farmers market, for example. It can take a few attempts to get a recipe right, but the process of playing around with the ingredients opens up lots of possibilities. The name Maitreya comes from the Sanskrit for universal love or loving kindness and despite its recent reinvention, Maitreya Social still represents everything that is positive, ethical and life-enhancing about vegetarian cooking. But Barneys down-toearth approach means that Maitreya is also all about real food that real people want to eat, without a hint of hippie. He admits that despite his passionate ideals now, his route to vegetarianism started rather more flippantly. I was a pretty self-righteous child when I was around 11, he laughs. I probably just found out that Kurt Kobain was possibly vegetarian and decided it was wrong to eat meat. Ive become a lot better informed and much more militant about it in the years since, though. Barneys aura of calm inspires confidence in the kitchen and helps establish the welcoming, relaxed vibe of the restaurant. One disadvantage here is that theres an open kitchen, so everything is on view for public scrutiny. Theres certainly a very intense atmosphere in the kitchen. Anyone who has done even one shift as a chef will know its not glamorous; its really hard work and long hours, he says. But I dont mind people seeing us cooking youll never find me shouting and swearing when things go wrong, Im a calm person, really.

Sun-dried tomato, butterbean and pistachio pt

remaining 400g of pistachios as finely as possible. 7 Combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly. You should be left with a very stiff mixture. If it seems too wet, add some more ground almonds, although be aware the pt will set a little more when chilled. 8 Finally, press the mixture into a pt or terrine mould, cover and leave to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. If you dont have a mould, you can set the pt in a bowl or jar, or simply wrapped up in cling film. Serve with a good chutney and sourdough toast. n PER SERVING 730 cals, fat 58.5g, sat fat 7.5g, protein 25.5g, carbs 27g, sugars 11g, fibre 5.5g, salt 2g

Treacle tart
Serves 10 Prep 40 mins + chilling Cook 45 mins
Spiced halloumi spring roll with roasted cauliflower and orange dressing

Spiced halloumi spring roll with roasted cauliflower and orange dressing
Serves 4 Prep 1 hr 20 mins Cook 50 mins 1 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped zest and juice of 1 lemon olive oil For the spring rolls: 1 onion, finely shredded hard white cabbage, finely shredded rapeseed oil, for frying 1 tsp cayenne pepper 1 dsp paprika 1 dsp cumin powder 300g vegetarian halloumi cheese, grated handful of fresh chopped coriander 8 sheets filo pastry butter, melted For the dressing: zest and juice of 2 oranges 1 tsp Dijon mustard 1 tsp sugar 100ml rapeseed oil rocket or watercress, to serve 1 Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Toss the cauliflower florets with the garlic, lemon zest and juice, a good pinch of sea salt, ground black pepper and enough olive oil to generously coat. Place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes, turning regularly until the cauliflower is lightly golden and can be pierced easily with a fork. 2 Meanwhile, fry the onion and cabbage in a hot wok or frying pan with a little rapeseed oil, turning constantly. After about 2 minutes, when they are beginning to colour, add the cayenne, paprika and

FIND OUT MORE


Maitreya Social 89 St Marks Road Easton Bristol BS5 6HY 0117 951 0100 To see the latest menus, visit: www.maitreyasocial.co.uk Join the Maitreya Social Facebook page or follow on Twitter @MaitreyaSocial.

cumin and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely. 3 Toss the halloumi together with the onion mix and the coriander. 4 Lay out a sheet of filo pastry and lightly brush with melted butter. Place another sheet on top and brush again with butter. Place a quarter of the halloumi mix on the filo in a sausage shape, leaving a 3cm gap from the bottom edge. Starting from the bottom, roll the filo over the halloumi mix, folding in the edges, then continue to roll up entirely into a spring roll shape. Repeat with the rest of the halloumi mix. 5 Brush the spring rolls with a little more butter then bake for 1012 minutes, turning once, until crisp and golden. 6 Meanwhile, place the zest and juice of the oranges in a saucepan and heat until reduced by half. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Add the mustard and sugar. Slowly add the rapeseed oil while blitzing continually with a hand blender, until you get a thick emulsion. Add a splash of water to loosen the dressing and more sugar if it seems too sharp. 7 Serve the spring rolls hot from the oven with the warm cauliflower, the orange dressing and some peppery leaves like rocket or watercress. n PER SERVING 721 cals, fat 58g, sat fat 19.5g, protein 26g, carbs 25g, sugars 13.5g, fibre 4.5g, salt 2.3g

5 cloves garlic, crushed 2 large sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped 4 large sprigs of thyme, finely chopped 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar 400g cooked butterbeans handful of fresh basil leaves 100g ground almonds 1 Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Sprinkle the pistachios with enough olive oil and smoked paprika to lightly coat, then season with a pinch of salt. Lay the pistachios on a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 7 minutes, until they are lightly toasted. 2 Pour enough boiling water over the sun-dried tomatoes to cover, then set them aside to soak for 30 minutes.

3 Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a heavybased pan over a moderate heat, then add the onion. Allow it to cook slowly over a low heat, not colouring too much. Add the garlic along with the fresh rosemary and thyme. Season with a little salt and pepper. 4 When the onion mix is well caramelised and is catching in the pan, add the balsamic vinegar. Stir the mix on the heat for a minute or so and allow the vinegar to absorb, then remove from the heat. 5 Strain the sun-dried tomatoes. Now place the tomatoes, butterbeans, basil leaves and the onion mixture in a food processor and blitz to a rough pure. Remove this mix from the food processor and set aside. 6 In the food processor again, roughly blitz 100g of the pistachio nuts and set aside. Next blitz the

For the pastry: 300g plain white flour pinch of salt 150g butter 100ml cold water For the filling: 750g golden syrup 200g fresh white breadcrumbs 2 free-range eggs zest of 1 lemon, finely grated cream and fresh berries, to serve 1 Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl and add the salt. Cube the butter and rub into the flour with your fingertips until you get a texture like fine breadcrumbs. Add the water and cut it into the flour and butter with a knife until it starts to come together. Bring it together with your hands and knead very lightly into a dough, working it as little as possible. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. 2 Roll the pastry out so it is approximately 3mm thick, then use it to line a deep 18cm tart case. Line the pastry with baking parchment and fill with dry beans or rice then bake for about 20 minutes, until the pastry is no longer translucent but not yet starting to colour in the middle. Remove the parchment and beans or rice and set aside. 3 Place all the ingredients for the filling in a mixing bowl and whisk together vigorously. Pour the mixture into the pastry case and bake in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes, until the filling is an even golden colour on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before attempting to slice into the tart. 4 When completely cooled, slice and reheat gently in the oven. Serve with cream and fresh berries. n PER SERVING 543 cals, fat 18g, sat fat 11g, protein 7g, carbs 94g, sugars 62g, fibre 3g, salt 1.3g
All recipes from Maitreya Social.

Sun-dried tomato, butterbean and pistachio pt


Serves 4 Prep 40 mins + soaking and chilling Cook 15 mins 500g pistachio kernels olive oil, for cooking smoked paprika 200g sun-dried tomatoes 1 red onion, finely chopped

Treacle tart

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