Routemaster number 2690 retired March 2004 after putting in a good thirty-seven years of reliable passenger-carting service. But this routemaster’s career wasn’t quite over. Three years later during the month of March, Routemaster 2690 was back in action.
Its new occupation would grant the old 1967 red double-decker’s engine a break by summoning the bus to be stationary, but it would still have its place serving London customers, this time emerging as a hip restaurant with an all-vegan menu, planted in the back of Shoreditch’s Old Truman Brewery.
“I’ve always loved routemasters,” says Sylvia Garcia, 28, the woman who hired one of London’s iconic routemasters and created the Rootmaster restaurant. “A friend of mine suggested buying a bus and selling items like umbrellas or Wellies at music festivals, but I knew I’d get bored of that because I’m not really passionate about those things. I’ve been vegan for a long time so I decided to get a bus and turn it into a restaurant.”
Being the first one to go vegetarian in her family at the age of 12 and then shifting into becoming entirely meat-free, dairy-free by age 16, Garcia is highly passionate about veganism. Although, the concept behind the Rootmaster is less about pushing veganism and more about introducing people to quality food.
“I love food and I love eating,” remarks Garcia. “People assume vegan food means the food doesn’t taste good. We don’t try to push the whole ‘we are vegan’ thing on our menu. We just want to show people good food.”
That is exactly what the menu consists of: Delicious food. Garcia designs the menu seasonally based around what she would like to eat if she dined out for dinner, meaning that she genuinely enjoys every menu option offered at Rootmaster.
“The vibe there is good, the staff are happy, and all of that really shows and comes through in the food,” says 26-year old regular customer Michael Skelton, who is currently not a vegan nor vegetarian but just really digs the food at Rootmaster.
Both the lunch and dinner menu are sourced primarily from organic ingredients, including all of the Rootmaster’s brews and wine.
“It’s a restaurant, so the food costs are quite high with all the organics and seasonal produces,” voices Garcia, who gets all of the produce from a LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming) Marque assured supplier, assuring that the produce is farmed in an environmentally responsible way and allows the Rootmaster to track how many miles the produce has traveled before landing in their kitchen. “But I don’t do it for the money. I do it because I love what we’ve done and I believe in the concept. That’s what motivates me.”
The Rootmaster also collects all of its oils and sends them over to a cab company who turns them into biodiesel fuel. All of the other wastes are recycled, and all takeaway products are biodegradable.
“I’m on a mission to save the world, but I still have quite a lot of work left to do,” says smiling Garcia.