The co-operatively run Black Cat opened in 2013, taking over from Pogo Cafe, a volunteer-led vegan hangout. Since then, Black Cat has firmly laid down roots in the community, offering a menu of simple, flavoursome dishes and hosting fundraising nights for various causes and rights groups close to its heart.
Outside, the cafe’s colourful stripes call for attention, but inside the atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious. You’ll find the menu, which changes daily, on a chalkboard behind the counter where you place your order.
There are three or four hearty mains, vegan versions of British ‘favourites’ that often include a tofu burger with chips; a curry; and a hearty, traditional meal such as shepherd’s pie with lentils, ‘chicken’ pot pie or fishless and chips.
There are also tasty pizzas, layered with vegan cheese and topped with soya, that you can buy whole or by the slice. The salad is a fancy, expertly dressed mix of vegetables, slaw and grains. It comes in two sizes and is served with bread (available gluten-free). There are also stacks of vegan sausage rolls and samosas to tempt you at the counter, if you’re after a snack, and a range of decadent desserts (cakes, brownies, meringue, ice cream) if you’re in the mood for something sweet.
Of a weekend, the cafe services brunch. Vegan croissants, pain au chocolat, and a big cooked breakfast of vegan sausage, tofu scramble, mushrooms, tomatoes, homemade beans and toast.
Drinks include delicious, flavoured soya milkshakes and a good selection of hot and soft drinks. Alcohol isn’t served, but you can bring your own for a small corkage fee.
As well as the food from the menu, you can also buy lots of vegan snacks and chocolates, tofu, tempeh, vegan cheese and other fresh food to take home.
Following rapid change in Hackney and an explosion of new bars and restaurants nearby, Black Cat’s popularity is growing. There may be fewer punks and more prams at the tables, but it’s a sign of the cafe’s success that it’s equally loved by both vegans and others alike. With such a range of appetising options, it’s no surprise.