Two Suffolk business partners, who set up their first restaurant in Cambridge have now taken their brand of vegan street food to Central London.
Justin Bone and Natalie Pace are the people behind plant-based restaurant VetoMeato, which was in Market Passage in Cambridge city centre.
They bonded over a shared love of food after they first met at the gym.
At the time, Justin trained every morning at 6am, as he was living in a garage and didn’t want the landlord to find out that he was living there.
Five and a half years later, they have opened a new branch VetoMeato in Holborn, reports MyLondon.
The Holborn branch follows the success of their Cambridge restaurant.
It is focused around the idea that “food from the earth shouldn’t cost the earth” – and every dish on the menu costs less than £8.
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‘I call the garage days the best days of my life’
Opening a restaurant was far from alien to Justin, now 51, who worked in the catering industry for 25 years.
But that same industry left him on the streets six years ago.
Justin traces his story back to his teenage years when he was a successful 100m athlete – he holds the record in Suffolk to this day.
When he quit running at 19 and went to university, Justin “discovered a large void in life”, which he filled with drink and drugs.
He went on to work for 15 years in bars and nightclubs, followed by 10 years in restaurants.
“I managed to cleverly position myself in an atmosphere where it was acceptable to be a party animal,” said Justin, a recovering alcoholic.
“I led a very hedonistic lifestyle for those 25 years.”
Despite being very successful in what he did, it all caught up with Justin and he found himself on the streets, unable to work.
He realised he was going to be homeless and rented a garage, which was all he could afford.
Every morning he left at 6am so the owner wouldn’t see him living there, and the only place open was the gym – which was where a few months later he met Natalie.
Today, he calls the garage days “the best of my life”.
He thinks of his six months there as his rehab and it was during that time that he realised he was done with alcohol for good.
“When you realise that the relief is off the scale,” he said.
“Every morning I would jump out of bed – I say bed but it was sleeping bag and cardboard – but my passion for life was completely reignited.”
Food is the ‘glue’ in their relationship
Natalie, who has a background in the art world, says she had “issues around food” for around a decade.
Her eating disorder was at its worst when she was at university, but after that it was a very long journey to where she is now at 36.
“When I was hitting 30 I thought ‘this needs to be something I properly address’,” she said. “This needs to change.”
So she educated herself about nutrition and holistic approaches to health.
Now, with VetoMeato, Natalie wants the message to be positive, not about deprivation or what you can’t eat – but celebrating all you can.
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When Natalie and Justin met five and a half years ago, food became the “glue” in their relationship.
This progressed to conversations about being healthy and living lightly on the planet, and after a stint of putting on fitness events, the idea for VetoMeato formed.
Justin thought he would never return to the catering industry after it brought him to rock bottom.
“When I ended up living on the street I swore blind I would never get back into the industry,” he said.
But meeting Natalie changed that.
“After meeting Natalie we felt it was necessary for me to come back. I’m here for a reason. I’ve got the skill set,” he added.
Plant-based food for less than £8
VetoMeato launched last year during lockdown in Cambridge.
Natalie explained: “The pandemic shone a light on how planetary, environmental, and physical health are so interlinked.”
The Cambridge branch proved a hit despite all the complications with lockdowns, but eventually, the couple, who live in Bury St Edmunds, decided to open a new branch in London.
VetoMeato is located within The Old Crown pub in Holborn.
A low carbon approach is central to the business, so Justin and Natalie collaborate with existing bars and pubs rather than building something new.
The menu takes on classic street and comfort foods from around the world – burgers, kebabs, curries and bowls – and nothing on the menu costs more than £8.
It’s aimed to be accessible to all diners, whether they are vegan or not.
The name of the restaurant comes from their core message – asking people to veto meat for at least one day.
But, VetoMeato isn’t just a restaurant and bar, said the couple.
Justin and Natalie hope to develop it into a vegan hub where they can host industry events and meet-ups.
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