A brief discussion with Louise Abel, from The Spotless Leopard.
What’s your hometown? York
What brought you to Bristol? The fact that Bristol is quite a political, alternative city and I’d heard it was the place to be for vegans in the UK… (And it was the right decision!)
What’s the story behind The Spotless Leopard? Where did the idea come from? I knew I needed to create a job for myself which would encompass all my ethics in one (being vegan among other things), so starting my own business was an obvious solution. I was very close to buying a cafe but it fell through at the last minute (not literally) so I had to rethink – mobile catering seemed to be an affordable way to get into the industry and start my business from the ground up, and it gives me the freedom to experiment and try different venues and audiences, which is amazing!
We love the name! Where did that come from? It was all very scientific… I played around with a few variations on a theme and settled on this one. Unfortunately there is no deeper meaning to it, although I get asked almost every day! Since then I’ve discovered there is a children’s book called The Spotless Leopard which was written nearby, so it must be fate.
Were you involved in any similar projects before The Spotless Leopard or is this a whole new venture? I started the business as soon as I finished my degree so it’s completely new. It’s great to be able to learn the ropes on a small-ish scale before hopefully one day opening a cafe or restaurant, and I figured there’s no point wasting time doing something else – this is the best way to learn!
The menu is super hearty, healthy and fresh – where do you draw your inspiration from? I grew up in a pretty health-conscious family, eating organically and locally, and all our meals were made from scratch at home so I’m sure that helped. Actually since becoming vegan 5 years ago I’ve been far more excited about food than ever before, and have discovered that it’s absolutely incredible what can be done with what many people consider “limited options”. Vegan blogs are all over the internet and they’re seriously addictive; recipe books are inspiring of course, learning from friends and family, trying to “veganise” more traditional dishes… Since a lot of this sort of food is undiscovered or at least undocumented, vegan cooks tend to experiment with all kinds of weird and wonderful combinations – and for me, it’s extra-inspiring that it can all be done in a cruelty-free way.
We also see you host a few events, such as a Vegan Brunch earlier in June that completely sold out! Could you tell us a bit more about these? Yes, I’ve been hosting pop-up restaurants in a small venue in Clifton roughly once a month for a while now, and they do tend to sell out, which is fantastic. Two vegan brunch pop-ups have just been announced, Sunday 27th July and Sunday 17th August, full menu and booking details here. Everyone sits together at a couple of big tables so it’s a great way to meet people and there’s no need to worry about coming along on your own, either!
When you’re not busy baking, cooking & making, where do you like to spend your time? Favourites near me are Brandon Hill, the Downs, Be In Bristol and Falafel King – oh and if business is going well, the Relaxation Centre is the perfect day off! Still searching for the perfect pub like the ones in Yorkshire… Other than that, I’m a bit of a homebody so films, food and board games with friends are all winners!
Any wild plans for The Spotless Leopard in the future? My long-term dream is to open a restaurant/late-night-cafe, but right now I’m really enjoying doing this and intend to keep at it for the next couple of years; not ready to say goodbye to my van yet!