The new kid on the Goan vegan block, Slaughter House Vegan is not only busting the vegan clichés of boring salads and smoothie bowls, it is also dishing a 100 percent animal ingredient-free take on all-time favourite meat dishes.
Much before walking into an oxymoron — Slaughter House Vegan — I munched on vegan epigrams emblazoned on the cafe’s Instagram handle:
- Bacon is not a thing. It’s the remains of a living being.
- Peas, not war.
- You’re not lactose intolerant, you’re just not a baby cow.
Slaughter House Vegan makes no bones about the café being “for people who love meat but prefer life” and that “the only flavour our food is missing is cruelty”. Thus spoke Clinton Fernandes and Elwina Menezes, founders of the 20-cover café in Calangute. Elwina runs the kitchen, Clinton is the photographer, interior designer, gardener and the ‘pun man’.
“I love puns. I am the pun-y man. No pun intended,” the heavily tattooed Clinton sporting a silver Viking bead to hold together his long beard confessed as soon as I sat on a black chair by a black table covered with a black tablecloth. In the narrow ground floor space, four stout varnished tree stumps double up as bar stools (alcohol is not served) and a step away is a wooden church pulpit on which stand more potted plants. On the off-white wall, a neon light blinks Slaughter House Vegan and on the wooden plank is another Vegan sign painted in green. Beyond a small partition wall sits a day bed with teal upholstery and a few chintz cushions. The bookshelf is topped with mirrors; plants hang in slim test tubes and Pepper, the dog, sleeps by the back door that leads into a small garden stacked on shelves.
A mini menu lay tidily on the table (there are only two tables inside) but food had to wait; I was piqued by the name. Why call a vegan eatery a Slaughter House? “Ah, I can never escape this question,” Clinton uttered with a tedium that probably comes from repetition. I bet he has been asked this a million times since the Slaughter House rolled up its shutters six months ago.
“We brainstormed a lot; several names popped into our heads but this one stuck. The idea was to make people aware of slaughterhouses, the misery of animals and then of a place that serves scrumptious food without the savagery that goes behind the closed doors of a slaughterhouse. This name is just a reminder,” said Clinton who was a meat eater by birth, then stayed vegan-ish for a while before embracing veganism forever. So did Elwina, a recent vegan-convert.
No pun intended but the menu is pun-loaded. There’s Cutless Pao (a twist to the famed Goan cutlet pao, Rs 200) described as ‘non-bloody Goan street food’. Bruschetta drops the ‘b’ and begins with a V — Vruschetta Rs 200). Guessed it? V for Vegan. Dodo Wings (Rs 150). The bird Dodo has been extinct for centuries, but Dodo wings have no Dodo, being a vegan version of Buffalo Wings. Kheema Mama has no kheema but NoBeef Croquettes (Rs 150) speak for themselves. There’s also bacon that looks like bacon but is created out of rice paper. And, then, of course, the Porquito Mas (Rs 350), just like pulled pork. Pay heed to Porquito Mas because much before Clinton turned vegan, he was chomping on the idea of a sandwich house named Porquito Mas. The rest, as not many know, is history that was never written. Or pulled pork that was not cooked and served as sandwich.
For nearly two decades, Elwina walked the corporate corridors but when the pandemic hit and her college mate Clinton Fernandes mooted the Slaughter House Vegan idea, she donned the apron and started turning soya chunks and seitan (a plant-based meat substitute made of washed wheat flour) into dishes that, if not told, even a hardcore meat eater might not be able to tell as meat-free.
“We have had guests eating in disbelief that something that tastes and looks so much like meat is not really meat,” says Elwina who is not formally trained in culinary science/art although it kinda runs in her veins. Her maternal family has been in the hotel/hospitality business for three generations and Panjim’s Hotel Venite is named after her mother.
Not only appreciative disbelief, humour too walks in occasionally in the non-air-conditioned Slaughter House Vegan. “I have had families walk in and ask for Maggi. That’s all they want. The next big in-demand is coffee. But the moment I tell them there is no regular coffee with cow milk, they wonder why. A slow-brewed coconut milk coffee is certainly not their cup of tea (read: coffee),” adds Elwina.
Though there are a handful of vegan cafés in Goa, Clinton dreams of a day when people will become more aware of the cruelty prevalent in the meat industry. “It is a long road ahead but….” adds Clinton, who for several years worked in a cruiseliner and then returned home to start Photo Booth, an instant click/print photography business.
To add a hint of sustainability and freshness, Slaughter House Vegan has turned a garbage dump into a kitchen garden barely a few steps from the cafe’s back door. A gigantic elephant apple tree lords over the green patch that has all-spice herb, Ceylon spinach, Scotch bonnet chilli, an avocado plant, and a bamboo trellis on which cucumbers and beans will curl up soon. Basil, garlic and onion are growing in pots on the shelves and store-bought pineapple and celery are gathering roots for their next life. The Scotch bonnet chillies named for their resemblance to a tam o’ shanter hat is turned into bottled hot sauce (Rs 300 for 250 ml).
From my garden, I had taken along fish mint, fennel, bay leaf and wasabi lettuce for Clinton and Elwina. I returned home with Scotch bonnet chilli and bell pepper saplings that Clinton graciously gifted in a clay pot. That vegan kindness is now flourishing in my garden. As the puny-man said: Peas, not war. Or, chillies, not war.
Overall rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Food: 8/10. For the non-bloody Goan take on all things vegan.
Interiors/Décor: 7.5/10. Recycled mish-mash is charming.
Vibe: Activism mixed with food.
One dish we loved: Cutless Pao is the crowd favourite
One thing that didn’t work for us: Space constraint.
Good to know:
Slaughter House Vegan, Dr Afonso Rd, Naika Vaddo, Calangute, Goa 403516
Call or Whatsapp: 093561 13297
Timings: Tuesday through Sunday: 11am to 3pm, 6pm to 11pm
Service options: Dine-in. Curbside pickup. Order through Zomato.
Pet friendly: Yes.
Vagator Hill Top Market (Goa Collective Bazaar) every Friday: 5 pm to midnight.