I visited Conscious108, a vegan restaurant where everything was absolutely delicious and beautiful. The menu has familiar favourites for meat eaters that are plant based. Whether it’s burgers or an empanada you’re craving, you’ll find a cruelty free option to hit the spot here. I even got to try my first ‘bowl’ after seeing them all over the internet, it was so good I can’t wait to make my own! I chatted to co-owner Misha Dhupeila to find out what it’s all about
The idea behind Conscious108 is a harm-free restaurant that promotes the concept of veganism. Veganism is about being unselfish in your choices but we wanted to make relatable food for non-vegans so they could see that it can be delicious, comforting food that’s also harm-free. You can be really healthy by eating vegan, but our focus is to change people’s opinions about vegan food and to make people more aware. So much around South African culture is about food that making familiar dishes is very important to us.
What’s the story?
I’ve been vegan for five years now when I started I lived with one of my colleagues at my previous job. So every night we’d make dinner and lunch to take in and people always wanted to try out what we eating. They always thought it looked or smelled amazing, or it was interesting. This ended up with us having a lunch club that had me cooking for 10 people every night. Then a friend saw this location and told me to have a look because he knew I dreamed of opening a place up.
But I thought this was just a pipe dream, and I didn’t have the money for it. I mean who does? When I got back to him he said he was fully behind me which was great because he’s an entrepreneur. Three months later I’d opened up with my two business partners and it’s been just over a year now!
Most popular dishes?
For starters the Beer Batter Tofu and the Potato Quinoa Croquettes.
Lentil Shepard’s Pie is a top seller- it’s like a blanket on a couch on a Sunday afternoon. The Butter Bean Bunny Chow and the Chickpea Bunny Chow which are Durban style curries but served on slider buns and topped with sambals. The Chimichanga is absolutely my most favourite wrap. Our signature salad is the Seriously Good, it’s so wholesome and sells really well.
You grew up vegetarian, what made you decide to become vegan?
I grew up until the age of 29 not knowing that the dairy industry linked back to the meat industry. I had zero idea. I thought that I was doing my bit like a vegetarian. It didn’t even cross my mind to give up dairy, that it was the next step to help until someone bought it to my attention. I thought I was an animal activist but I was actually supporting the meat industry. And that made me a hypocrite. And I thought “Hello no! I am most certainly not a hypocrite”. So when I started researching and within days I’d gone vegan. I make it sound flippant but even as a veterinarian it was a process for me. Cutting out diary and cheese was easy but the comfort food was difficult. It also extends into what products you use, are they vegan or have they been tested on animals? It’s a lifestyle.
Do you find it’s easy to order vegan at other restaurants?
You know, people don’t what to be a vehicle of change, or stick out like a sore thumb to make a change. When I go to restaurants with my friends they always wait for me to order, because it’s become a bit of a show. They’ll say “I’ll have a rare sirloin with a spinach side” and I’ll say “I want this, but without that and can you substitute that for this, and add that and please don’t use that bread, but could you use a different pan, and please don’t make it next to the meat and can you please make sure this is right.”. And everyone just looks at me like they’re watching theatre. But I don’t mind being that spectacle if I know it’s for a good cause. I even take my cheese to certain places and they know me now, I used to explain why I couldn’t eat their cheese but now they just remember. My Chinese, Indian and Greek food is great, but more and more restaurants are starting to accommodate veganism.