While her travels have taken her to India, South America, Europe, the US and Southeast Asia, it was in the Lake District that globe-trotting Queenslander Kat Hale truly found her paradise. A lover of the outdoors and climbing, the mountains and lakes of Cumbria called to Kat in 2002. It was love at first hike and she never left. On seeing the trend for veganism early, Kat was ahead of the curve and alongside her husband Nigel, a former pub landlord, she knew they had the skills to take advantage of the opportunity.
“I was vegetarian at the time, but a family member was vegan and I was always amazed at how little choice there was for her when we ate out. It was pretty much jacket potato and beans and that was it. I could see interest in plant-based foods starting to grow and felt there was an opportunity to create something unique in the Lakes,” explains Kat.
After finding a location for the restaurant, Kat worked tirelessly to create and test the home-cooked menu and Plant by Kat launched in August 2016. “Being ahead of the trend was good in one way as the word-of-mouth promotion was incredible, but it was also very challenging as there were still not that many vegan products available. It meant I was spending 18 hours a day in the kitchen just testing recipes and trying to find solutions. I was making my own seitan, ice cream, cakes, falafels and wraps to name a few.
I’m very proud of the food we offer and the reputation we have built as it all comes from the heart and soul. While we first and foremost pay homage to the seasonal veggies, the arrival of the fake meats definitely helped to drive more creativity. We were one of the first to launch the Moving Mountain burger in the Lakes and we’re regularly told ours is the best burger in town.
We’re definitely known for our roast dinners and we don’t do things by halves. We offer butternut squash stuffed with ragu, vegan haggis, nut roast or mock roast beef slices and they all come with our famous roasties, veggies and my special Yorkshire puddings, which took about 100 attempts to perfect.”
Kat’s enthusiasm for the future is bountiful and she has big plans for the restaurant and brand. “We ran some events for the first time this summer at Keswick Brewery’s Fox Tap, we’re getting our alcohol licence, planning to launch an outdoor catering business and we’re also going to develop our outside area so it’s an exciting time to join our family. Maybe a recipe book would be nice as well.”
When it comes to Country Range products, Kat says, “We regularly use Country Range staple ingredients, tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, dried herbs and spices as they’re pretty much unbeatable when it comes to quality and value. The Vegan Mayo is another great product with fantastic flavour and a lovely creamy consistency.”