“I go to Leicester market every morning and take my inspiration for that day’s menu from whatever catches my eye,” says Arti Chudasama.
Arti is founder of The Pantry, a vegan deli and coffee shop that opened earlier this year in The Lanes.
“I’m creating things as I go along,” she says, “I decide the protein – whether it’s falafel or chickpeas or roasted vegetables – then I go to the market and take it from there. So today it was the radishes that caught my eye, and the carrots looked really fresh and orange so I knew I wanted to incorporate them.”
This creative approach reflects Arti’s former career as a fashion designer. She worked in the fashion industry for 17 years in Manchester and London, even launching her own clothing line, before heading back to her home town of Leicester and deciding on a change of career. Her own experience of improving her health by eating healthy, nutritious food and her love of Thai and Indian flavours were the inspirations for her new enterprise.
“I walked around Leicester and I noticed that all the places I used to go out to when I was a teenager had started doing food,” she says, “but if I wanted to go out to eat, I didn’t know where to go for something healthy, tasty and fresh so I didn’t end up eating out, I’d eat at home instead.”
Arti set out to bring her own vision of nutritious and tasty vegan food to the people of Leicester. Less than six months later, The Pantry opened in The Lanes. Serving Buddha bowls, Thai summer rolls, salads and smoothies, it tapped in to a rapidly-growing trend for heathy, flavour-packed food.
The menu changes daily depending on the season and availability, but a few of the regulars include Indian cauliflower and chickpea curry, chapati wraps, paneer spring rolls and baked sweet potatoes. There is no shortage of sweet accompaniments either. Alongside the homemade chocolate and raspberry cake, you’ll find cacao truffles and chai seed energy balls.
Coffee aficionado Arti also wanted to make sure the house brew was something to write home about.
“I’m a coffee drinker so I had to make sure I had the best coffee beans,” she says, “my coffee is made from Peruvian beans and it’s incredibly chocolatey and smooth. People come in every day just for the coffee and some of them have stopped having milk in it because it’s so tasty.”
I can see why the coffee is getting such great feedback – it really is something special. It’s powerful and flavoursome but without any bitter aftertaste, and it makes me even more excited about one of Arti’s other signature drinks – espresso martini. Yes, as well as having all the healthy food you can shake a stick at, The Pantry also has an alcohol license. The spirits, wines and beers on offer are all vegan of course, and they look set to play a starring role in the monthly events that Arti has planned for her venue.
“My royal wedding set menu event was really popular so every month I’m going to do some sort of event,” she says. “It might be a supper club or a tasting event with paired wines. I’d like to get a DJ in and do espresso martinis with my Peruvian coffee. In the summer, when I’ve got my outdoor seating I want to do a vegan barbecue. I’ve got lots of ideas up my sleeve.”
Pop in to The Pantry at 29 Loseby Lane.