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EXCLUSIVE: Earthling Ed’s New London Vegan Restaurant

EXCLUSIVE: Earthling Ed’s New London Vegan Restaurant


So my name is Ed Winters, and I go by the social media name Earthling Ed, and I am a vegan activist and vegan educator, and I just try and do as much as I can to spread the vegan lifestyle and hopefully encourage people to adopt the vegan lifestyle in their own lives as well. We started Unity Diner as hopefully a means of being able to provide some sort of financial income for Surge, which is an animal rights group that I direct here in London with Luna, and we have 101 different things that we want to do, and we had all these ideas of things we want to achieve as an organisation, but it just wasn’t possible for us to do it in this situation that we were in. And so we were approached by a guy who said that he liked what we wanted to do and he wants to support us and get us to a point where we could financially be able to do these things, so things like tube campaigns, billboard campaigns in London and hopefully outside of London as well, employing people to work full-time to Surge, improve on the animal rights march that we host every single year, but also building an animal rescue centre as well, and producing more documentaries about veganism and animal rights. And so we had these ideas and this guy came up to us and said, “Look, why don’t we come up with this concept, something that generates revenue but also provides back to the community?” because the vegan community, in London especially, but globally, has done so much for me and has done so much for Surge, and we want to provide an area or a space where we could give back and say thank you, but in doing so, the people who came to support us and were patrons, they could also provide money to help us do the things that we wanted to do. And so we kind of grew Unity Diner out of that kind of wanting to give back but also wanting to push forward and do more than we’ve been able to do so far. And so that was about 40 months going. It’s been a long road and a long journey, and it’s been trials and tribulations and things to consider and things to do, but we finally reached that point, and hopefully in the very near future we’ll be able to do all these different things that for so long we’ve only be able to talk about, but hopefully soon will be tangible and things that we can actually be proud of and say that we’ve accomplished and done. The whole idea behind it was that it was kind of a plant-based vegan take on like an American-style diner, so we have things like, you know, mac and cheese. We have tofish bites. We have seitan chicken-style wings. We have burgers. We have like this seitan and chickpea steak. So we’ve got all these different plant-based, very imitative dishes that are supposed to mimic but also improve and enhance some of the things that you’d find in a traditional diner. So we’ve actually just launched our breakfast menu today. So we now do a breakfast menu on Saturday and Sunday. So we’ve got waffles. We’ve got pancakes. And we’ve got a full English breakfast. We’ve got porridge. We’ve got a whole range of different foods. So we hope that there’s something there for everyone. We’ve got gluten-free options. We’ve got raw options. We’ve got salads. Something for everyone but staying true to that kind of core message of just providing people with comfort, delicious vegan food. There’s been many challenges, and I think a lot of them are kind of obvious challenges, things like having to find a location, having to make sure this is something that was viable and something that we could actually achieve and could accomplish, you know, employing staff, chefs, waiters and waitresses, people that could actually make this thing a reality and could make it happen. But I think the biggest challenge that we faced was we had this idea for so long and we were sat on it, but we couldn’t tell anyone about it, and we thought it was a good idea, but we’d had no validation that it was a good idea. And so we put so much work and so much effort into this behind the scenes, so we haven’t been able to tell anyone. And it came to announcing it and we were like, “What if people don’t think this is a good idea?” And thankfully, kind of the biggest fear became the biggest kind of point of happiness because when we told people about it and we announced it, people were really receptive, and they did like the idea, and they thought it was a good idea. And we’ve had people come in every single day since we’ve opened and telling us that they really like it, and that it’s got a good vibe to it, and the food’s good. It’s got a good community spirit. Somewhere where you can come hang out your vegan friends and your non-vegan friends and show them how delicious vegan food is. So the biggest fear of not knowing how people were going to react has actually turned into our biggest source of happiness because people have been really happy and really receptive and really supportive with their feedback as well. To be honest, so far it’s been exceeding our expectations. And when we opened, we literally had people, you know, were people going to book? Were people going to turn up? Were people going to get walk-ins? Were people gonna come who want to eat here? And we’ve been open now less than two weeks, but we’ve had pretty much fully booked-out evenings. We’ve had, you know, just good people, you know, really enjoying themselves coming in. And so we’ve been really, really pleased with how it’s been going so far. And we’re really happy with the progresses we’re making and the direction we’re going in, the feedback we’ve been receiving. And what I really like about this is it– within the staff, you know, we’ve kind of built this kind of like family dynamic, and these are people that I’d never met before but now they’re my close friends, and I see them nearly every day at the moment. And we’re just forming such a really cohesive unit, and it feels so wonderful to be able to provide people with the vegan jobs that they’ve wanted but haven’t been able to have in normal society, but also feel that they’re really happy in their jobs and they’re providing back and doing something good. So I think it’s just been– it’s been a real joy. My favorite thing is when, like, say the full English breakfast or whatever it is, you watch the customer as the food comes to the table, and there’s that moment when they see it and then their eyes light up like, “Oh, wow!” And that’s the thing that really makes me happy when you see that initial reaction from people like, “Oh, wow! This is great!” you know, because you always think maybe a non-profit place, like it could be a bit, you know, might not be that well polished. It might not be that great. The food might not be so good. But when you see people’s reactions like, “Oh, this looks amazing,” that is so heartwarming. So for me, it’s exceeded my expectations. It’s been very difficult. It’s had lots of challenges, but I’m so happy and grateful to be here. We are located physically at 5 Hoxton Market. The postcode N1 6HG, which is in the thriving area of East London, which has got such a great community anyway, but such a wonderful vegan community. So we’re just around the corner from Old Street Station. We’re not far walking distance from Liverpool Street and Shoreditch and all these places around in East London. And you can find us online at www.unitydiner.co.uk. We have a Facebook, which is Unity Diner. We have an Instagram, which is Unity Diner. And if you’d like to make a reservation, you can do so on our website through the reservation form. And that’s really where you can find us. We have outdoor seating. We’ve got inside seating. We’re going to have some heaters and some canopies for winter. So we just want to make sure there’s always a good time for people to come and enjoy themselves here.

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