Stirling’s first fully vegan café Nooch Bar & Kitchen has opened in the city centre.
Based in Upper Craigs, the café serves delicious locally sourced plant-based dishes, freshly ground coffee, sandwiches and baked goods plus a small selection of alcoholic drinks. There is a warm and welcoming atmosphere and customers can eat in or take- away.
The bar & kitchen is run by James Leask, with help from his his partner Chloe Davidson, and opened on Wednesday December 7.
Stirling University graduate James has worked in the hospitality industry for many years and was delighted to have the chance to open his own business.
He and Chloe are both vegan and keen to share their passion for a plant-based lifestyle and tasty vegan dishes with their customers. James studied Politics and Law at Stirling and worked briefly in project management after graduating before travelling and taking up hospitality jobs.
He says: “I’ve been working in various hospitality roles over the last ten years although that’s not something I originally set out to do when I began my degree at Stirling. During my student years, I worked at Beanscene and Ground House Coffee in King Street and after graduating in 2014, I worked in an office job doing project management until l figured out what I really wanted to do.”
James then spent some time travelling before securing a job in France working in catering and hospitality in ski chalets.
He met Chloe, then a vegetarian, during that trip and his interest in a meat- free diet began with the couple eventually becoming fully vegan.
He says: “She was vegetarian and I wasn’t and it was from there that my
interest in and passion for vegan food started and it all just snowballed from there.
“We began to move away from dairy produce as well as meat and fish before going fully vegan and that’s where the idea for a vegan café initially began. We spent time looking at different bars, cafes and restaurants – seeing what we like and creating a vision of the kind of place we’d like to have and own.
We settled on the idea of somewhere with a friendly bar and kitchen vibe – where people can come and have a drink and a plate of food and where they can share plates. It’s a casual vibe with a real focus on locally sourced seasonal produce and somewhere everyone is welcome.”
James left his most recent job at a Glasgow restaurant a few months ago as he worked to make his dream of running his own vegan café a reality.
He found the perfect spot for Nooch – whose name comes from the vegan slang for nutritional yeast – at the former home of The Hemp Room café in Upper Craigs.
He says: “My goal was always to return to Stirling and we found the ideal place sooner than expected and it all developed quickly from there. We gave the premises a full revamp with a new kitchen, painted the walls and improved the interior before finalising menus and getting ready to go.”
James is Nooch’s cook and is helped out in the café by his mum Morna and Chloe, who is a paramedic student, as well as two front-of-house staff members.
The menu includes crispy mushroom tacos, beet burgers, soup with sourdough bread from Crieff’s Wild Hearth Bakery, artisanal vegan cheese, macaroni and cheese, sandwiches and bar snacks.
James says: “Students are a big focus for us and of course vegans who are pleased to see a fully-vegan menu – but we are also very inclusive and open to everyone and we’ve had meat-eaters coming in who have really enjoyed our food.
“We’ve had good feedback across the board and since opening have seen a steady stream of customers coming in. It’s been great to get up and running after all the preparatory work and I’m pleased with the positive response and enjoying having my own business – it’s everything I’ve wanted for a long time.”
The café at 44 Upper Craigs is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11.30am until 10pm or 11pm – depending on demand – and is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
It is also available for private functions with bespoke catering and James plans to host live music nights and open mic type events. He is also keen to support local artists by showcasing their work on the café walls and urges anyone who would like to display their creations to get in touch.