Not long after my arrival to Bournemouth, when enquiring about alternative dining options for vegetarians, vegans and those just looking for a warm enclave to while away the hours, I kept on hearing mention of a certain green gourd of questionable sanity. I was thankfully relieved to find that it was in fact one of the town’s most frequented and beloved all-Vegan café/bistro; The Mad Cucumber.
Owned and run by Ewelina and Kamial Obrebska/Obreski, the couple have been steadily developing a loyal clientele for their home-style vegan cuisine for the past five years. The interior to the MC exists somewhere between Scandinavian forest and your intellectual aunt’s living room, the one who bought poetry collections and actually read them and knew about quinoa before the rest of the masses caught onto it. An abundance of cushions lines the walls underneath lighting reminiscent of paper suns. It’s the sort of place that you want to disappear into, soothed against the less embracing fixtures of the exterior world. Without being too verbose, it’s inviting.
When developing the menu, Ewelina and her husband look for inspiration in the modern vegan world and then add their own personal home-cooked feel. “Cooking from scratch” is a big part of their ethos, as it ensures that all the ingredients are 100% vegan and also allows the kitchen to play around with new ideas. For first timers to the café, Ewelina suggested the enchiladas filled with black beans and topped with vegan cheese (£8.30) while another customer favourite being the mushroom stroganoff (£6.50). The café also boasts an impressive line of teas, which under Ewelina’s own admission has “probably grown too extensive.” Especially interesting is the Enceladu green tea, flavoured with elements of apple, jasmine and raspberries, a drink that seems a blissful moment of idyllic escapism in what is otherwise a beak and rather wet mid-autumn.
Across the walls are graphic prints from Poland, globetrotting photography, as well as an ‘artist of the month’ showcase. There’s a protector screen tucked neatly up below the ceiling where in the past, the Cucumber have run films screenings (a recent example being the 2012 documentary Hungry for Change). There’s a library of various books and board games, as well as a rather active corkboard displaying yoga, mindfulness groups and all sorts of consciousness-building goodness that can accompany an aubergine & green bean stew with the enticing addition of peanut butter.
As the looming prospect of winter threatens what little hope there is of 2017 being one of the warmest Indian summers on record, the Cucumber is looking to warm our collective hearts, minds and most importantly stomachs with a new winter menu, currently under construction via collaboration between Adam, the new chef, and the couple at helm. Vegan or not, Ewelina says, the most important thing for her is that people feel comfortable. And there is, it has to be said, a very familial atmosphere. I felt something sincerely heart-warming about families and friends sitting together, lifting up bowls from the table, immersed and soothed by the surroundings, as if in the living room of close friends. There are restaurants and there are bistros, but fewer on the map are the places that make you feel instantly reunited with the floorboards of childhood and previous good times. I’m glad to say that The Mad Cucumber is one of them.