“Erpingham House was born from a desire to bring healthy, plant-based dining into the mainstream, and to make vegan food more readily available in Norwich,” says vegan influencer and Erpingham House managing director Loui Blake.
Founded by Blake and footballers Declan Rudd and Russell Martin a little over a year ago, the vegan and plastic-free restaurant in Norwich has already been named in The Times’ top 20 vegan restaurants list and has recently set its sights on opening a second restaurant in Brighton.
The restaurant has a cafe which serves beverages such as CBD infused coffee and a rose latte and also has a menu put together by award-winning head chef Dan Jobey, which includes superfruit cocktails, cashew jackfruit korma and a Sunday brunch menu that is sponsored by Veuve Clicquot.
Blake came up with the idea for the restaurant after taking some time to travel extensively and while doing so discovered “incredible vegan food from across the world” that he wanted to bring back to his hometown.
“In the past, I’d found it difficult living as a vegan in Norwich, a city in which all of the company’s partners have all lived and worked. When developing Erpingham House, we essentially created our version of a perfect venue to eat, drink and socialise,” he explains. “I got the keys back in March 2018, and opened the doors late-May that same year.”
Interestingly enough, the business success of the first Erpingham House restaurant is simply one of, but not the main driving force behind the planned expansion. Blake recognises that the planet is in a “climate emergency”, and a move towards a plant-based diet is an attainable solution to help ease the strain on the planet. By opening a second site Blake sees it as playing an active role in furthering the access of and popularising vegan food and drink options, helping to change attitudes and bring about this change. Saving the planet one plant-based meal at a time if you will.
Blake has sensed a shift in the number of people recognising the “direct correlation between meat-heavy, western diets and a negative impact on the environment” thanks to general awareness built through documentaries on platforms such as Netflix, social media, and celebrities and sports stars openly talking about the benefits of vegan diets.
“We’re beginning to recognise we do make a difference on an individual level, as part of the collective, and restaurants like ours help to demonstrate just how delicious plant-based foods are.”
To help reach this goal Erpingham House has set it sights on having four active sites within the next five years. The ultimate goal by this time is to be feeding plant-based food to over 5,000 people per week and maximising the positive impact the restaurant brand can have on the planet.
However it seems Blake is conscious of the possible negative effects of seemingly pushing a vegan agenda and instead describes the restaurant as a “healthy, sustainable restaurant that happens to be vegan”.
“We have consciously created an inspiring, beautiful space that goes against the negative stereotypes of what may be expected when eating in a vegan restaurant. This is important when you want to be able to make veganism mainstream and accessible to a wider group of people.
“It was never my intention to create an exclusive vegan restaurant. It’s my mission to bust all myths around plant-based living with Erpingham House. And with 90% of diners being non-vegans it seems we have cracked this already.”
Erpingham House has begun its Crowdfunding venture, with the aim of raising £250,000, or 15% of the overall funds needed to launch the new project. The funds will also be used to make improvements to the existing Norwich site.
The Crowdfunding initially opened to private investors on 1 August, before opening to the public on 1 September 2019 until the end of the month, via Crowdcube. Once the funds have been raised, building work on the new Erpingham House Brighton will begin, with the aim of continuing its plant-based mission on the south coast in early 2020.