The YMCA Newcastle has embarked on a social enterprise venture in a bid to becoming more self-sustaining. One of these ventures – Urban Mushrooms – particularly interested me with its environmental and social agenda. Collecting the used coffee waste from city centre coffee shop partners, the grounds are pasteurised and then mixed with recycled cardboard and mushroom spawn. Within 6 weeks a speciality oyster mushroom has been grown in sustainable conditions.
With tonnes of coffee grounds going to landfill every year the project is helping coffee shops to recycle their coffee, as well as promoting the agenda to reduce our food miles by using ingredients that have been grown locally. Oyster mushrooms are usually imported from Europe, which means that transportation add to its environmental footprint. Of course, one of the most important benefits of this social enterprise is that all of the profits go directly into delivering services to young people.
Urban Mushrooms supply a number of restaurants and cafes in Newcastle and I was keen to try out the finished product after hearing about the project. Collecting grounds from the likes of Camber Coffee and The Journey, and supplying one of our favourites, Harissa Kitchen, I was pleased to hear that there is local independent support too. It transpired that Tyneside Bar Cafe were working on adapting one of their mushroom dishes to make it vegan on request, and once the new recipe was ‘live’ I popped along to sample the finished product.
While not a veggie-vegan establishment, Tyneside Bar Cafe has been somewhere that was offered at least one vegan option for a while. They are also a restaurant that have labelled their menus well – even the beers and wine – which was something we remarked on when we first visited after the vegan transition.
The Mushroom Katsu Curry was a great dish and showcased the meaty texture of the Urban Mushrooms incredibly well. The mild curry sauce and the panko crumbed funghi are the perfect pairing and I will definitely return for seconds. The vegan option isn’t marked as available on the menu yet, but hopefully this will be updated soon. If you fancy giving it a try, remember to request the vegan version. There is also an Asian Salad with Tofu available that is SFV, as well as sorbet for dessert. You can browse their options here.
One of the reasons I became vegan related to the damage animal agriculture does to the environment. Cutting down or eliminating animal products will certainly benefit the planet, but we also have to consider the impact the alternatives on our plate also have. To find locally produced, low food mile additions such as these mushrooms proves that we don’t have to import speciality ingredients to enliven our dishes. With the added bonus of supporting a local community initiative, I hope more cafes and restaurants will be using Urban Mushrooms in the upcoming months.
Thanks for reading,