Music collectives, plant-based cooking and accessible Buddhism: eighteen months of renovations bring Mandala Café to life.
Mandala Café, the newest addition to the London Buddhist Centre, has opened on Globe Road; a vegan café and community hub making Buddhism accessible and relevant to our modern lives.
Eighteen months in the making, the sunny yellow café had its official launch party on Saturday 16 September, featuring a live jazz performance by a collective of musicians from the Buddhist Centre.
The café’s exterior is appropriately painted bright yellow, and entering the light, airy space is akin to witnessing the sun’s rays finally break through the clouds after a muted colourless day.
Mismatching vases of flowers sit on each of the freshly painted matcha-green tables, and large open doors blur the boundary between the outdoor courtyard and the airy indoor seating area.
If you’re familiar with Globe Town you might remember when the café was called the Cherry Orchard, its name for nearly 25 years under the Buddhist Centre’s management before being leased out to the café chain, the Larder.
Located next to Jambala Book Shop on Globe Road, the café is an extension of the Buddhist Centre’s majestic red-brick building, a Victorian Grade II listed building and a former fire station on the Roman.
Under the Larder’s management, the café fell into disrepair during Covid, and Buddhist Centre employees, Satyamanas and Abhayanandi, decided it was time to bring it under their management once more.
With the support of Suryagupta, the Buddhist centre’s first black and female chair, the pair launched a crowdfunding campaign raising £78,000 largely from the Buddhist community, which was enough to get their dreams off the ground.
According to Satyamanas, the moment that Suryagupta cut the red ribbon to officially open the café was a surreal experience: ‘It’s very emotional when you’ve been dreaming of something and suddenly it manifests as a reality,’ he says: ‘Everyone was spilling out onto Globe Road and it felt like a lively street party.’
Satyamanas and Abhayanandi are both ordained Triratna Buddhists, a movement of Buddhism that was founded in the UK and is dedicated to sharing Buddhist truths in ways that are compatible with modern life.
Mandala, after which the café is named, is a circle symbolising community, gathering and inclusion. It is also a harmonious image where the most important element is at the centre, supported by the outer patterns.
As such, friendship and acceptance are at the core of the café’s values, starting with the staff and extending to everyone who uses the community space.
The small team of five staff are all practising Triratna Buddhists, bringing key Buddhist principles of patience, energy and skillfulness of speech to their work.
Unlike most workplaces, salaries are based on need, and staff members can take up to eight weeks off per year for holidays and Buddhist retreats.
‘We’re trying to make Buddhism more accessible,’ says Satyamanas: ‘People might not wander into the Buddhist Centre but they might just walk in here off the street and pick up on the atmosphere and get a sense of what it’s like to be in touch with a rich and full life.’
Chef Simon Williams has 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry, working for the likes of Gordon Ramsay and other Michelin-star chefs.
But you won’t hear any swearing or shouting in his kitchen, where he is training the other team members and producing bountiful vegan meals using seasonal produce sourced from Spitalfields Market.
Satyamanas describes the café’s food as ‘stealth vegan,’ where the emphasis is on producing creative, nutritional and flavoursome meals that also happen to be plant-based.
The menu, which varies based on seasonal produce, features fusion food from a variety of cultures. Think miso aubergine focaccia, vegetable moussaka, and dhal with paratha and slaw.
Before opening, staff members spent a week learning from their friends at the Gallery Café just down the road, a like-minded community hub and plant-based eatery in Globe Town’s wellbeing mecca.
Though there’s no shortage of coffee shops along Roman Road, Mandala has received a warm welcome from locals who are happy to have the space back in community hands.
Eager to make the most of its large open space, the team is planning monthly music, poetry and dance events, as well as hosting supper clubs in the future.
It’s also a popular spot for visitors to the Buddhist Centre to have a bite to eat before attending one of its evening meditation or yoga classes.
But if all you really need is a good dose of community, a large portion of comfort and a bit of a recharge, look for the bright yellow shop front on Globe Road. It’s door will always be open.
Mandala Cafe is located at 241 Globe Rd, E2 0JD. It is open from 12 – 7 pm Monday – Friday and 9.30 am – 3 pm on Saturdays.
For more plant-based goodness, find our piece about Globe Town’s ‘Cari-vegan’ eatery.
Please support local journalism.
As a not-for-profit media organisation using constructive journalism to strengthen communities, we have not put our digital content behind a paywall or subscription fee as we think the benefits of an independent, local publication should be available to everyone living in our area.
We are powered by members. Hundreds of members have already joined. Become a member to donate as little as £3 per month to support constructive journalism and the local community.