The Hub Cafe is known as the sunlit watering hole in the heart of Victoria Park. But how good is their vegan offering? Vegan food reviewer Gem Stokes and photographer Kata Szabó try their selection of pastries, smoothies and savoury treats.
Two years ago, Victoria Park’s Hub Café reopened with a brand-new vision, to the delight of locals. This vision was realised by local residents Draga Millahn and Sandra Arvidsson, whose pitch for the cafe was selected by Tower Hamlets Council.
Millahn explains that the idea of The Hub Cafe was to provide a space that ticks all the boxes for the local patrons – ‘a space for everybody; we’ve got our east-enders, our hipsters in the corner, you have young people, you have mummies with their new-borns, toddlers, school-kids, young couples, skaters, and [we’re] dog-friendly’. They have an inclusive, vegan-friendly menu, boasting a ginormous selection of inventive plant based options, which Kata and I got to enjoy.
The Hub is rooted in the heart of Victoria Park, adjacent to the popular Raemers skatepark. Millahn’s ethos is simple; where there is good food and good coffee, people will follow.
After experiencing said ‘good coffee’ first-hand, I admit that I’d definitely travel to the ends of the East to enjoy a cup of Joe of this quality. Indulging in my usual – an oat decaf latte – I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet and tangy oat milk uniting with the woody, caramelised flavour of the rich coffee, all served in an adorable crimson-red mug.
This beverage was perfectly paired with The Hub special; their home-made vegan chocolate cookie. Notes of peanut butter and brown sugar prevented the cookie from being overly sweet, but nevertheless the treat remained crispy and addictive, with an abundance of decadent chocolate.
As I dunked the cookie into my coffee, I reflected on my surroundings, and why I felt so at home. Overall, The Hub feels clean, tranquil, and open – aided by its huge glass windows, and a plethora of plants that breathe life into the space.
A tantalising aroma of warm baked goods fills the café, due to the fresh food being made all day, every day.
Averaging 650 visitors per weekend, the cafe makes all their food on demand seven days a week, especially since Millahn confirms that ‘you can sense when food is frozen’.
The café utilises a revolving set menu that always includes creative specials, and their signature, mouth-watering, hand-made cakes and pastries. I opted for a simple vegan croissant. The croissant’s shiny glaze, nice puff, and sweetness made it feel closer to an Italian cornetto – but whatever the name – it was one of the best pastries I have ever had.
Also on the menu is a selection of fruit smoothies that are made in-house. Kata and I shared a mango and rosehip smoothie, and a spinach and kiwi green smoothie.
In the bright green smoothie, the citrus hit back, cutting between creamy banana and cool freshness; in the mango/rosehip, the mango packed a punch. The sweet tartness hit the roof of my mouth pleasantly.
In her two years of business at The Hub, Millahn’s eyes have been opened to the close knit sense of community in this area, describing her patrons as a beautiful selection of people, providing constant love, support, and patronage. The pandemic, in particular, has allowed people to build connections in their local community, to appreciate what is already in their back garden.
The Hub already champions its locality, as everything in the café is made locally, including their beautiful logo, which is created by Hackney-based design practice Adventure Stories.
This logo depicts The Hub’s ethos, which Millahn describes as a place ‘where you can sit down and you feel at home, with the good music, and the greenery inside blending with the park outside, and be happy’.
The Hub’s Hummus Brioche Burger certainly made me happy; the burger gleamed, miles high and alternated with soft salad, creamy hummus and crispy falafel, all encased in a delectable brioche bun. It’s clear that the hub cares about flavour and texture proportionately.
Because of this, it’s hard for Millahn to pin down the café’s most popular dish – but a definite favourite is the completely handmade fish finger sandwich. The fish is sourced from a local fishmonger, breaded, and then cooked on-site. Not a Birdseye in sight. The Hub also sell lots of soups and salads and find their falafel dishes popular with kids.
Millahn’s go-to is stew or soups to compliment the cold weather, but Kata’s favourite dish of the day was The Hub’s quinoa salad. Vibrant cauliflower, wild couscous, and pungent beets are married to create an actually healthy and actually tasty salad, that mixes textures and flavours for a truly enjoyable, and filling meal.
The Hub’s amazing service and food rivals that of a five-star hotel (and without the luxurious prices). There really is something for absolutely everyone, and we see a bright and happy future for The Hub.
If you like this article, you might also enjoy reading about the possibilities of vegan pizza at The Pizza Room in Mile End.
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