Westend News

VEG LIFE – more than just tofu and salads

Are you a determined vegetarian or do you just like to take a break from meat once in a while? Do you care about the quality of your food? Then come and check out the Veg life restaurant with us!

Veg life, that is cooking healthy, quality, and, most of all, tasty food! You can choose from vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free dishes here. Everything is prepared from fresh ingredients and seasoned with herbs and spices without artificial additives. The people behind Veg life believe that the human body has the ability to heal itself, provided you nourish it with healthy diet, plenty of exercise, relaxation, and love. Lucia Juríková, the restaurant’s marketing manager, told us more about the family business.

What inspired you to start a restaurant of this type and when did Veg life become a thing?

Veg life came into existence five years ago. The idea came at a family celebration where two cousins decided to open a vegetarian restaurant in Bratislava that was missing it. The goal has been the same from the beginning: so that ordinary people have a chance to eat healthy, varied, and tasty food on a daily basis. Since we ourselves felt that there were not enough options to eat out when at work, we decided to try to change it.

How do you come up with the recipes for your vegetarian dishes?

It varies. Every cook has some favourite recipes, but trying out new stuff is a part of the profession. We take inspiration from various cook books, but also from travelling. We often start with a traditional Slovak or foreign recipe and then convert it into a healthier, non-meat version.

Where do you buy the ingredients you use?

That varies as well. It depends primarily on the season. From spring to early autumn, the vegetables come predominantly from the Central European region. As for the winter months, we use vegetables from Southern Europe. When it is asparagus season, we buy it in organic quality from a Slovak farmer. For Indian cuisine we have a special supplier who imports spices and rice directly from India.

Tell us a bit more about the special vegetarian ingredients or meat substitutes that we can try at Veg life.

Veg life is a vegetarian restaurant, so searching for anything with meat in it would be in vain. However, you can find many foods you don’t often see in traditional restaurants. Our customers often ask about tempeh, seitan, or robi. They want to know more about what they eat. Tempeh is soy cheese is produced by cultivation and fermentation of soy beans thanks to which it is considered to be the finest of soy products. It is popular in South-East Asia. It is a rich source of vitamin B12 and it also contains all the amino acids, just like a complete protein. We therefore recommend that vegans implement it into their diet. It is generally considered to be healthier than tofu, because it contains more protein and fiber. Seitan is a plant substitute for butter that can be prepared at home. All you need is some wheat flour, water, and patience, since washing out the starch from the flour takes some time. Seitan is easy to digest and contains no fat. Like tempeh, seitan has its roots in Asian cuisine. It was supposedly invented by Buddhist monks to increase their intake of protein in vegetarian diets. Robi is another ingredient we use. It is a heat-treated mixture of wheat and rice proteins, beetroot, spices, and water, which results in a consistency and taste reminiscent of meat. Vegetarians and vegans can use it to replace meat in classic dishes. But vegetarian cuisine is not just about substituting meat in traditional dishes. We offer a wide variety of foods, especially high-quality vegetables, cereals, and legumes. Our customers can help themselves to bulgur, quinoa, millet, seaweed, miso, edible yeast, or various herbs and sprouts.

Do you depend on seasonal availability of foods? What’s in season right now?

Of course, we respect seasonality when creating our menus. Autumns was the time of pumpkin, chestnuts, root vegetables, cabbages, mushrooms, grapes, pears, and apples. Towards winter, the selection of fresh vegetables and fruits narrows, so legumes, pickled cabbage, root vegetables, potatoes, and cereals prevail. We try to prepare them in as many ways as we can.

Do customers frequenting your Westend restaurant have special tastes and requirements?

Our Westend customers especially like beet balls and veggie burgers, lasagna and fresh salads.

Veg life is also known for its great initiative called Generous Monday (Štedrý pondelok).

How do you choose the organisations for which you collect the contributions?

Generous Mondays were launched in April 2016 with the motto “Little Christmas Every Week”. We find a foundation or civil association whose activities we like, and we give them 1 cent from every euro our customers spend in our restaurant that Monday. Financial contributions from Veg life’s staff are then added to the collected sum. The beneficiaries of our aid are entities which operate in different spheres. Their activities are mostly aimed at helping children and young people, people with different health problems, or environmental protection. We have also assisted people who had found themselves in unfavourable life situations. Our goal is to inspire people to regular charity and generosity. Generous Mondays were a very spontaneous decision. We said to ourselves that we could channel the money that others invest in advertising into something more meaningful and that we want to do it on a weekly basis.

This way we can support people who engage in meaningful activities for the benefit of all of us or of marginalised groups, often with no recompense. By bringing attention to these civil associations, foundations, or individuals via email, Facebook, or directly at our restaurants, we hope that some people will decide to provide direct support. When you start looking around yourself a bit more attentively, you’ll find out that there is quiet a lot of people who need out help. The existence of several portals that mediate financial assistance for individuals or civil associations is a proof of that. We usually choose whom we’ll support ourselves. Occasionally we receive recommendations. Approximately € 5,500 has been distributed among 80 subjects so far.