Our choice of cafes and restaurants that put ethics on the menu. This month we check out a vegetarian cafe with a Rudolf Steiner social ethos and a cafe helping the homeless by offering on-the-job training
The Engine Shed Cafe, Edinburgh
Review by Marie-Amélie Viatte
At the end of a quiet lane in the shadow of the mighty hill of Arthur’s Seat and within a stone’s throw from Edinburgh’s city centre is The Engine Shed, a vegetarian cafe with a Rudolf Steiner social ethos.
For 25 years, this social enterprise has been training adults with learning disabilities to provide them with the skills and confidence to move into mainstream employment. Around 30 trainees work in the cafe and in the other parts of the business – including the conference suite, organic bakery and the food-processing unit, where fabulous tofu and hummus are made.
Go past the humble entrance to the first floor and enter a bright space with wooden floorboards, exposed stone walls, and artwork by local artists. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, with a focus on local and organic food. The wholesome home-cooking is delicious, with light staples such as soups, quiches and salads, and a tempting selection of cakes. I went for a tasty roast vegetable main dish.
On Saturdays, you can buy the bakery produce, tofu and hummus from The Engine Shed stall in the Edinburgh farmers’ market at Castle Terrace.
Open Monday to Saturday, 10am-4pm.
The Engine Shed, 19 St Leonard’s Lane, Edinburgh, EH8 9SH
Tel: 0131 662 0040
Crisis Skylight Cafe, Oxford
Review by Danielle Anderson
Located at the Old Fire Station, the Crisis-run Skylight Cafe is a charity and social enterprise promoting community engagement through the arts. It also offers on-the-job training to homeless people and those lacking permanent accommodation, while providing patrons with a range of delicious cakes, meals and drinks.
Due to the mixed use of the space at the Old Fire Station, the cafe is a smorgasbord of cultural, ethnic and economic backgrounds, creating a true representation of the local community.
I had the pleasure of eating several meals at the Skylight Cafe over a three-day period in early April while at the social change event, Oxford Jam. I had cakes, sandwiches, a jacket potato with vegetarian chilli, a catered three-course dinner of soup, tender leg of lamb and the most amazing homemade tiramisu.
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Even during really busy periods with lots of conference guests, staff were very organised, helpful, and smiling. Light floods in through the windows, free Wi-Fi is available, and there are plenty of places to sit – sofas and small and larger communal tables. The space can also be hired in the evening and at weekends for private events and external catering is available. The national charity for homeless people, Crisis, run nine other Crisis Skylight centres around the country and have cafes in Newcastle and London.
Open Monday-Saturday, 8:30am-4pm (food until 3pm). The cafe has an alcohol licence, but alcohol is not served Monday-Friday between 9am-5pm during Crisis Skylight term times.
Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AQ
Tel: 01865 263900