Vegetarians set to flock to The Black Sheep

September 25 2015

HOPING to enlighten the local community about the vegetarian way of life is The Black Sheep – a new, meat-free restaurant in Gloucester Road.

HOPING to enlighten the local community about the vegetarian way of life is The Black Sheep – a new, meat-free restaurant in Gloucester Road.

The café, on the stretch of road opposite the Promenade, is the brainchild of Mayte Gracia, 34, and Andy Jessep, 28, who fell in love through their passion for vegetarian cooking.

Mayte came to Bristol from Spain a year and a half ago because of poor job opportunities in her own country. A friend offered her a temporary room to rent at their house, where Andy also lived.

“I came to Bristol one and half years ago, because the socio-economic situation in Spain was absolutely horrible – there just wasn’t enough opportunities,” said Mayte, who worked as a dental hygienist. “The first day I arrived, I met Andy. We fell in love in the kitchen, where we would cook together and share our recipes with one another. We realised that we both had the same dreams, expecting exactly the same from life, and we wanted to share the flavours we had created together with everybody else.”

The opportunity to establish their own vegetarian eatery arose when the property, which was previously a Turkish café, came on the market earlier on in the year. The pair chose the name ‘The Black Sheep’ to reflect how they have sometimes felt, being vegetarians.

A vegetarian for over 17 years, Mayte said: “In Spain, you get laughed at in restaurants for being a vegetarian, so I always felt like a black sheep. I used to have to read all the labels in supermarkets to make sure they didn’t contain meat. It was practically impossible trying to find vegetarian food.

“But when I came to Bristol, it was like a dream. I once spent three hours in a supermarket, discovering new flavours and ingredients.”

Andy, who hasn’t eaten meat for over 10 years, added: “My parents could never understand why I wanted to become a vegetarian – they thought I was crazy. They would even try to sneak meat into my dinners.”

Mediterranean flavours are heavily prevalent in the café’s tapas menu, from traditional patatas bravas and a trio of dips with Sevillian picos, to Mediterranean inspired onigiri (Japanese rice balls) and marinated chupadeos olives.

There is also a selection of burgers, including a quinoa, avocado and beetroot burger, as well as salads, soups and puddings.

Vegan and gluten-free options are aplenty, with ingredients – all locally sourced – including vegan parmesan, homemade vegan garlic mayonnaise and raw fruit ice cream.

The Black Sheep has also recently drafted in the help of Isabel Bryant from the Mighty Food Fight – a vegan food van – who will be assisting Mayte in the kitchen.

Mayte’s love of cooking was inspired by her mother. “My mum taught me everything I know – I practically grew up in her kitchen. She is an amazing cook.

“Before I came to Bristol, I found her a small place in a market, where she could sell her flavours – that is all she wanted to do.
“When I was sure that her business was stable, I decided to move to Bristol.”

Andy, who worked as a software tester for a technology firm, had always dreamed of setting up his own business. “I had started a few little ventures, but they never quite got off the ground. Then Mayta came along and she said she really wanted to do this café idea, so I thought, ‘why don’t we give it a go?’ and within a couple of weeks, we had found this place. I think we can be quite dangerous when we get an idea.”

Andy added: “We hope to open people’s eyes, and show die-hard meat-eaters that there is another way. We hope to make people more conscious about their food choices, and to experiment more in the kitchen.

“We would like to say a huge thank you to all of our friends who have given us a hand, our new neighbours, and all of the customers who have given us such great feedback so far.”

The Black Sheep