Words: Leah Hamer
This world of ours can seem a little small and grey at times. When you are stuck in a rut seeing the same old faces in the same dull places, you can feel a little lost and in need of a wander…
If this is you, look no further than Wanderlust Cafe, the new haven for all those seeking solace, love and a soya coffee on the side. Due to open in Congleton in September, Wanderlust Cafe is the brainchild of Kayleigh Marie Parsons, whose lightbulb alit during a ten week trip to India at the end of last year, along with her boyfriend, John Brindley (you might know him better with the second name Dhali or as Jonty).
Sat in a hidden café in the mountains, surrounded by the smell of incense and stomachs filled with simple, backpacker grub, Kayleigh turned to Jonty and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be ace to run something like this at home?’, to which John replied, ‘Why don’t you?’. Despite initial self-doubt, Kayleigh ran with the idea- creating a Facebook page whilst still abroad, and launching her first event to raise awareness just a couple of months later.
Wanderlust Cafe will be a vegan heaven, filled with homemade dahls, curries, pastas, sandwiches, soups, smoothies, teas, coffees and a selection of food-to-go. The recipes are an accumulation of dishes from the cook books of both Jonty and Kayleigh, and their friend Shane. Despite this keen interest in both cooking and veganism, both principles are fairly new to Kayleigh, ‘I’ve been a vegetarian for a year and a half, but I went vegan whilst in India. Jonty had been one for a year before that but I was always making excuses- cheese was my weakness! The transition was easy though, once I said I’d start, I did.’
Vegetarianism and veganism are two ways of life that are growing faster than ever before, yet there is still a slight stigma surrounding both concepts. As someone who has been a vegetarian for the best part of my life, I’m used to the question- ‘Well what do you eat? Salad?’. Kayleigh is keen to break those barriers and show that this isn’t strictly a vegan-only-zone, ‘I think vegan is a word that scares people but it’s important to know anyone can eat here, it’s for anyone interested in trying something different. For one, it’s going to be amazingly healthy eating- so if you’re into your fitness, we’re going to do protein shakes and it will be great for those people.’
Originally, food was not the focus of the cafe but it is an element that has grown as the business has. Kayleigh’s first priority was to make it a community space that would feature regular workshops, ‘A big creative hub for anything and everything- food, music, art’. Already a mass of people have shown interest with individuals looking to arrange workshops on everything from creating your own raw skincare products, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, to six week intensive language courses.
As a visitor of the cafe you have the potential to spend an entire afternoon and evening there as the building has three floors that you can lose yourself in. The top floor will be the therapy and workshop rooms, below it will be a community shop where local distributors will sell their products, outside there is a garden that will have decking in order to feature outside live music and yoga sessions, then finally the ground floor will be the cafe.
Kayleigh is full of sunshine. She sits across from me at a little café in Congleton with a glowing smile, an empty shop space behind her- the blank canvas of Wanderlust Cafe. At the moment with its fallen in ceiling and plain white walls, sandwiched in between corporate chains, it is far from the oasis that Kayleigh describes, but her vision captivates me.
‘On the back wall there will be a big mural of a map, then there will be the counter space and open kitchen, so you can see us cook. There will be a comfy area with floor cushions, low tables and sky lights, next to that will be a bookshelf with loads of books, games, art therapy packs. Then outside we will have tables and chairs too and instead of using numbers to mark each table- we will use names of countries.’
All of this will be splattered with dashes of pink, turquoise, orange and white, ‘happy colours’. After spending the evening at Kayleigh’s previous event Bohemian Nights at Pilgrims Pit, I can picture the fairy lights and smell the dahl already. On that night there was a warm, happy atmosphere that Kayleigh induced on the room and it is clear that she wishes to replicate that on a larger scale.
‘Our cafe is just going to be full of love. A place in the community to bind everyone together, something for people of all ages. When we were younger- we’d just go to the park and drink alcohol and it was rubbish, there was nowhere for us to go. I want young people to come and sit on our floor cushions and enjoy a soya coffee and listen to live music, alongside the older generation. It doesn’t matter who you are, no one needs to be scared by it…’
Half way through her joyful speech, she laughs ‘I don’t want to sound too hippy dippy!’ She sounds far from it, in fact, she sounds inspirational. Too many people fail to open up to new ideas and opportunities. Wanderlust Cafe is a space for people to try some different food, listen to some different music, and talk to some different people, all in one happy and welcoming home.
Wanderlust Cafe will be welcomed to Congleton High Street in September.