Some three years ago, Dubai resident Sky Sommers was taking large doses of medication to manage type 2 diabetes. She started to cut out and adjust food groups to see if they affected her wellbeing, and felt that every time she followed a plant-based diet her body would detox, allowing her to better absorb minerals, vitamins and fibre.
After just four weeks, Sky’s insulin levels were under control and she was able to ditch her medication completely.
The trained chef decided to launch Veganity – Dubai’s first gourmet plant-based meal service – in February 2018, but today Grazia meets the inspirational millennial to discuss the bigger fish (not literally, of course) she’s been frying for the past 12 months: opening a Dubai restaurant boasting the world’s largest vegan menu, and the launch of what will be the world’s largest vegan restaurant, in Abu Dhabi. Keeping up?
Chicken drumsticks with BBQ sauce, Dhs38
The name is inspired by the idea of being reborn and finding a new lease on life through a plant-based lifestyle, and arriving at the City Walk location, we’re met with a shock of pink glaring from the walls, plus a large ‘V’ sign with the word ‘Veganity’ written underneath.
Just days ago, the team launched Veganity’s breakfast club, featuring a set menu of chia granola pudding, pancakes, fruit and coffee for Dhs85. But it’s the opening of the Abu Dhabi branch in 2020 that is really getting Sky hot under the collar. “On the final menu we will have 250 dishes and cuisines from around the world,” she says gleefully. Wow.
And the hotspot isn’t just for proud vegans. Sky tells us she purposely used the words ‘fish’, ‘chicken’ and ‘meat’ on the menu to attract non-vegans. And it’s working. “People are curious about eating mainstream meals that are vegan-friendly. We’ve had diners fly in from all over the world to try our new venture, and the local community has been very welcoming and accepting,” she acknowledges.
Chia puddin cup with crunchy granola, topped with maple cashew dream, Dhs35
Has the founder – who is also head chef – noticed an increased number of subscribers to the meal-plan service following the restaurant launch? “Yes,” she nods. “The opening has made it easier for customers to try the food, and then led them to opt for the meal plan.” Vegan restaurants can often find striking the balance between serving super healthy or junk food difficult.
Sky comments, “There is definitely a demand for both, but our ‘junk food’ options are healthier than traditional fast food. Everything is made on site and is preservative-free.”
She adds, “There is a misconception that vegan food is expensive. We are showing that it’s possible to cater not only to all taste buds, but also to all budgets. The most expensive dish is Dhs60 and that’s for gourmet dishes like vegan duck confit.” Fair enough.
Lotus cheesecake made from ground almonds and coconut flower, Dhs30
Of course, Grazia is particularly enthused that Veganity is the brainchild of a strong female force – and that female, who has called Dubai home for last 10 years, is determined her restaurant will practice exactly what it preaches. That means using straws and cutlery made from biodegradable materials, and plans to eliminate single-use plastic in the near future.
Sky leaves us with this: “[Teen climate activist] Greta Thunberg inspires me. She embodies the idea that one person really can make a difference to the world – and is a reminder that all change starts with ourselves.” As we tuck in to layers of mouth-watering vegan goodness served by Sky, it feels a very small ask to start over, or at least slightly alter, our eating habits when munching meat-free can taste so good.
We think Greta would like it here.