By Tobias Hudson and Daniel Connolly
The second episode of CCC had us make our way to Picnic, situated off the corner of Ingram Street. The place is a haven of local, organic and vegan food, in the perfect spot for busy students and those on their way to work.
We arrived early in the afternoon, heading straight down from the centre of town to the homely cafe. Speaking to staff members Rachel and Florence, we got their insight into what it was like to run an all-vegan cafe…
Do you get a lot of customers who like the climate-based, sustainability angle?
We always have a steady flow of customers, especially when it’s raining. People love our interior dining experience! We don’t advertise as a fully vegan cafe, as it encourages new people to come in who would not have before! And they’re often surprised by how good everything is and just how lovely a lot of the food can be without meat or processed goods. Being on Ingram street means the protests and processions often come here, and you get to meet a real mix of eclectic people. It gives the place a bit of charm and really adds to how we want to portray the cafe. You get a reputation for being the alternative place to go.
How do you keep the menu fresh and exciting?
We’re six years in, and the menu we use now is a lot more condensed than what we had before COVID, which is a shame. But [Michelle] always has a load of new ideas for food, using different vegetables and products. It’s really not too difficult as there is a lot available now. She also takes inspiration from places in Europe that were vegan before it hit the mainstream, so there’s things on offer here that are maybe a bit different from those at your average vegan cafe.
Do you have any advice for those looking to establish an all-vegan lifestyle?
It really isn’t hard nowadays to be vegan and live a healthier lifestyle. People are finding that normal household ingredients are already vegan without meaning to be, so it’s a great way to draw attention to how anyone can easily make the switch! We don’t actually advertise as vegan, as we think it can put some people off. We think that it’s easier to establish yourself as all-vegan than switching over. Sometimes this can push away your clientele. Hopefully, if you do it right, they want to make the switch along with you! A lot of people don’t like change, but it’s definitely needed these days.
Now, let’s get to the food! We’ve broken it down into four sections, offering a dual perspective on each area.
Daniel – I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of the food and drink I had at Picnic. I tried the tuno melt baguette and sampled a blueberry kale smoothie that was both delightful and light to consume. Despite being a person who enjoys meat and would miss it in a sandwich or meal, I was surprised to find that the taste of the tuno melt baguette, whilst different to regular tuna, was very tasty and provided a strong alternative. Utilising the ingredients of Heart of Palm and Sheese cheddar, a homemade vegan ‘tuna’ mayo mixture that resembled and offered an appropriate alternative to its non-vegan counterpart was achieved. The smoothie was very balanced in taste, with the sweetness of vanilla, almonds and dates intertwined with the bitterness of the kale.
Toby – I went for the peanut butter and vanilla smoothie. Peanut butter can be very hit or miss, so I’m always interested to see what vegan places will do with it. I wasn’t disappointed. They managed to hit the amount of PB just right, so it didn’t overpower the drink and created a lovely, nutty concoction. It was thick and creamy and very refreshing for the warm afternoon. My only complaint was that it wasn’t bigger. The range of items on the menu was great inspiration for those who want to taste just how wide-ranging vegan food can be.
Daniel – Picnic’s best quality lies in the experience one receives as a customer. The friendly waitresses, Rachel and Florence, were extremely accommodating, allowing us to ask questions, record footage of the café and being exceptionally pleasant in their service. In addition, the warm and cosy interior of the café provides a stark and needed contrast to the bustling and restless Ingram Street, on which it is situated.
Toby – The staff were very kind, and the place was warm and friendly. The tables and decor were quite dull though and reminded me of a fast-food chain. When the place is busier, I could see how it would have a rustic appeal thanks to touches like the hanging lights, but the early afternoon was quite a slow and drowsy atmosphere. Sitting outside also meant that the traffic was very loud, and it was hard to hear myself think.
Daniel – Whilst I enjoyed the service, food and the whole experience in Picnic, I did think that the price was a bit much for what I got. The tuno melt baguette and blueberry kale smoothie cost £12, with the baguette being £6.50 and the smoothie being £5.50. With the understanding that Picnic is situated on Ingram Street, where rent and footfall will be high, and that vegan ingredients are generally more expensive, it is not hard to see why the café’s products are not cheap. However, with price being the only criticism of Picnic, it remains a brilliant location for food, service and a great dining experience overall.
Toby – It was an expensive place to visit, and somewhere that I definitely couldn’t afford every day as a student. I do wonder if the place is meant for me or if it is for professionals who are looking to grab something quickly. As the staff said, many of their customers are those looking to get on a flight or train from Glasgow, so it would make sense to keep the place going at a profit. Their ingredients are also very high-quality, so the price reflects the effort that they have gone to source healthy alternatives. There are, however, many ways that a student can live a vegan lifestyle and spend far less money. t would make a great alternative to a Spoons lunch or takeaway every so often.
Daniel – With Picnic’s focus on vegan, fresh, organic and cruelty-free ingredients, its mission of being an ally to the earth and its animals is clear. Additionally, Picnic looks as green as possible through their recycled or fully biodegradable packaging, which allows the café to be responsible for their waste management.
Toby – While the food is all vegan, I did wonder how sustainable their plastic chairs and tables were and whether there should be a push to go beyond what we perceive as “eco-friendly.” A cafe that promotes a certain lifestyle should also be. Not to say Picnic didn’t do this, but maybe it’s time our view of sustainability is widened.
There are also pros and cons to not advertising themselves as vegan. It’s hard to create an environment that encourages sustainable living by not advertising it, but at the same time, I can understand that some would be turned off by a big flashing sign that screams VEGAN! It raises the question again of awareness vs activism and whether their work would have a wider impact if more emphasis was put on it. Their choice to only stock snacks that are both sustainably packaged and vegan is great for those looking to get an alternative to a meal deal, so they offer a lot of choice to the consumer.
Click below to see our experiences in the café and a review of the food.
Is there a Glasgow café you want us to review? Let us know in the comments!