The Carrot’s Tail is still in a raw state, says co-founder Yeniree Valero.
A builder is due tomorrow to install shelves for seeds, nuts, beans, and reusable lunchboxes in their zero-waste shop.
The new glass deli counter, which Valero and her husband Sebastian Stenshøj plan to fill with homemade vegan sausages and artisan vegan cheese, sits in its box on the floor.
Their business venture has been more than a year in the making. But by 26 March, they say, the Carrot’s Tail vegan café and zero-waste shop should be open for business.
It’s in the spot where Café Moda used to be, on Rathmines Road Lower, near the old fire station with its big red doors.
Valero, a graphic designer who also trained as a chef, has the menu planned out. They’ll offer plant-based versions of comfort food like meatball subs and mac and cheese.
They want to show people that vegan food is tasty and it’s not just carrots, says Valero.
“We don’t only eat grass,” she says.
Valero and Stenshøj spent Paddy’s Day weekend, and every other day for the past three weeks, 15 hours a day, covered in paint.
They’ve been working on the plans for their new business for well over a year. Valero left her job at Reads Design and Print last April to focus full time on the project.
Stenshøj says he left his job at a software company on a Thursday, picked up the keys to the café on the Friday, and has pretty much been there ever since.
They’re a bit stretched financially, so they’re doing most of the prep work themselves, Stenshøj says. They’re in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign and so far have raised about 30 percent of their €10,000 goal.
The couple met online in 2015 and got married two years ago. Valero is originally from Venezuela, and Stenshøj, whose family is Danish, has lived in Dublin since he was five. They’re both from entrepreneurial families, they say.
Valero says she’d toyed with becoming vegetarian for years and didn’t eat much meat anyway. She says that, in their early days together, the only time she’d actually eat meat was when she went over to Stenshøj’s house.
“I used to be like, ‘Give me some chicken, and wrap it in bacon,’” Stenshøj says.
That changed over the course of one night when they watched a documentary about meat production. That persuaded him to go vegan, Stenshøj says.
While they made the decision together, it took Valero a few extra days to finish off the cheese in the fridge. She didn’t want to get rid of perfectly good food.
“We want [the café] to be inclusive,” says Valero. The “veganised comfort foods” will include varieties, for example, of sausages. So it’s accessible to meat eaters too.
“A lot of people ask us why we eat pretend meatballs. I didn’t stop eating cheese because I didn’t like the taste,” Valero says.
They don’t expect everyone to be vegan, says Stenshøj. “If one out of every 100 meals is vegan, that’s better than nothing,” he says.
Valero says she loves cake, and after she went vegan, her options for a treat in a café were limited. So she decided to bake her own treats – she started with vegan scones and protein balls.
Stenshøj took some of them to work, and his co-workers were enthusiastic about them. Some of them asked for more. Then Valero expanded to scones, and those were a hit too.
They started thinking that Dublin could use a cool coffee shop with vegan options, Valero says.
Valero will be the head chef at The Carrot’s Tail and she plans on making most things from scratch, from the plant-based milks they’ll serve in their coffee, to the “zalmon” in their mock salmon and cream cheese bagel.
“I’ll have help, but I’ll be busy,” she says.
The couple sits at one of the tables they plan on refinishing. It’s part of their zero-waste philosophy.
They’ve also kept the old café’s chairs. They’ve sanded and painted most of them, with a few more to go. The table is right behind the glass shopfront that’s been covered with paper and a poster promising that The Carrot’s Tail plant-based café and zero-waste shop is coming soon.
Every now and then, Valero says, she’ll spot people peeking through the gap at the bottom, where the glass is uncovered – as they try to work out what’s going on inside.
They’ve found some of their staff that way. They didn’t have to advertise because people approached them, Valero says. Vegans have been knocking on the door too, to ask when they’re opening.
Stenshøj says they’ve gotten a lot of people offering help – to clean and paint. “Those things have gotten us through the last few weeks,” he says.
“The vegan community is usually pretty supportive,” Valero says.
The café space is vast, and Valero and Stenshøj have plans for different corners.
Inside the front door, in the main part of the café, is where the zero-waste shop and café counter will be, they say.
Up the stairs, they have plans for a dog-friendly area, a chill-out room, and a mini art gallery, where they intend to display pieces for sale by local freelance artists.
They plan on choosing a different charity each month to donate 15 percent of the proceeds from the art sales to.
There will be no single-use plastic in the shop, they say, and all packaging will be compostable.
They plan on offering a discount for customers who bring their own travel mugs, and they’ll encourage customers to bring their own takeaway containers.
They say they’re trying to support as many small Irish businesses as they can. The artisan cheese selection, from blue to Camembert, comes from a vegan cheesemaker in Cork called Little Green Leaf cheeses.
“We’re close to Lidl, Aldi, and Tesco, and their prices will always be lower,” says Stenshøj. But they plan to keeping their prices competitive with other cafes.
“If you want a €1 burger, this is not the place to come,” he says. But a lot of their ingredients aren’t expensive, like tofu, chia seeds, and chickpeas. They think those things should be cheaper than a steak anyway.
“Our goal isn’t to be multi-millionaires. We want a space we’re happy with,” Valero says.
They have future plans for selling dinner kits and holding talks and cooking demonstrations.
In the future, he says, maybe they’ll do a dinner service on Thursdays and Fridays, with pub grub and a bit of live music.
They plan to serve breakfast and lunch most days during the week and brunch at weekends.
For now, they’re focused on getting the shop open.