Brothers Matt and Nick Burgess have seem their dream of opening a meat-free restaurant in Sheffield become a reality.
No strangers to the local hospitality scene, Matt and Nick, who managed bars like West Street’s Varsity and Champs, on Ecclesall Road, became disillusioned with their careers and lifestyles after spending time travelling and working in Melbourne – long-known as one of the foodie capitals of the globe and a recognised pioneer in plant-based restaurants.
After months of work, their eagerly-awaited vegan and vegetarian restaurant – V or V – is now open in the historic Wharncliffe Works, on Cornish Place, in the Kelham Island area of Sheffield.
Matt and Nick have designed and managed the entire refurbishment and design process of the Victorian building with breathtaking results.
But it has not been without its problems.
Planning permission took seven months to obtain and then the building had to be reroofed, pushing the brothers’ November opening date back more than a month.
Matt said: “The building hadn’t been used in 20 years, so there was an awful lot of work that needed to be done.
“It has been a difficult and frustrating time.
“We just wanted to get the business open and things kept conspiring against us.”
But three weeks ago – just in time for Christmas and the all-important Veganuary – V or V opened its doors and they have been packed out ever since.
Matt says: “It has been our dream for the last couple of years to launch a venue that is a breed apart from the many vegan and vegetarian cafes around Sheffield. We wanted to create something with an intimate, restaurant feel at night and, by day, more of a coffee bar and meeting place.
“People did say we were risking alienating people who eat meat, but nothing could be further from our ethos.”
“We’re very much about accessibility –we’re a quality restaurant, with quality locally-sourced food and quality service, that just happens to be veggie and vegan,” adds Nick who turned his back on meat seven years ago before eventually becoming vegan.
“You won’t even notice the fact meat is not on the menu when you taste the outstanding flavours in our food.”
Former Great Gatsby head chef Danny Lynn has joined the brothers.
“It was vital that we got the right person,” says Matt. “It was a really difficult process but then we came across Dan, who shared our vision.”
He has spent the past few months working on the extensive menus that include sharing platters and tapas, evening menu, brunch & lunch, kids’ menu and more.
But it isn’t just the food that’s vegan. The extensive wine list only has vegan wine on it and V or V also features a range of beers from local brewers such as Abbeydale brewery, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options available.
V or V prioritises re-usable items – its uniforms are recycled and their suppliers have been chosen to fit in with their eco-credentials, even down to the water that is sold in recycling cans rather than plastic.
The brothers had always had a dream of running a business together. Both travelled extensively before Matt started work in venues across Sheffield.
He eventually got brother Nick to work with him and they discussed their eventual aim of going into business together.
“We had both travelled in Australia and were both really impressed but the dining out scene, especially in places like Melbourne,” says Matt.
“They just seemed to be ahead of us in so many ways when it came not only what they were offering customers, but also the work-life balance for the staff.”
Nick, who did a degree in zoology, was always a supporter of animal welfare and conservation, and was keen that any business should reflect that.
“We knew that vegan was becoming a really big thing which we believe is not just a trend or fad and is here to stay and so we were determined that our business would reflect that, but also a healthier was of living,” says Matt.
“Also we both have young families and so we wanted a way of working that would give us a good work life balance.”
They tested their ideas with a pop-up bar Kristmas Island which was situated in the Wharncliffe Works building.
“The location is key to any successful business which we believe we have in Kelham Island and the other thing is to offer something different to everyone else, and we believe we are doing that,” says Matt.
“But one thing we do not do is preach to people. It is about giving people a choice, and also making it accessible.”
Although it has been a stressful time getting their dream become a reality, it is clear Matt and Nick have a great partnership.
“Of course we have our disagreements, but no argument lasts long,” says Matt who has himself given up meat although he says he struggles when it come to giving up dairy especially eggs.
“We both bring something different to the business and so we work well together. The last few weeks since we opened have been incredible, although we haven’t had a moment to sit down together to even reflect on our success so far.”