Eating out when you have allergies or intolerances can prove difficult at times.
Whether it’s confusing menus or even just a lack of choice available, for those who consume free-from products, knowing what is their food is vitally important.
Due to the rise in demand for her free-from items, more than half of the dishes and products on Broughty Ferry cafe owner Zoe Lawson’s menus are now part of the range.
Dundee woman Zoe opened Sweetpea Cafe in September 2018 and has always offered free-from items in her venue.
Starting her career as a chef working in restaurants in St Andrews as well as catering for weddings at Forbes of Kingennie, she decided to leave busy kitchens behind her and started her own business as a result of the “rubbish work ethic”.
Taking over the former Empire Sate Coffee and investing £20k into the space, Zoe, 27, opened her café within just two weeks and decked it out with foliage and flowers to create a homely space that was calming and comforting.
She now employs four individuals who help run her 24-seater venue.
She said: “I always knew I wanted my own place and I wanted to try something different that would have with lots of floral and foliage décor incorporated into it.
“I did a lot of baking in my chef job and I have always been interested in food.”
Dairy-free herself, Zoe was determined to ensure she offered a menu that everyone could enjoy, including her vegetarian sister.
She recalls the awkwardness of eating out and trying to find somewhere they could both have a meal without worrying.
From meat and fish dishes to gluten-free and dairy-free items, plus vegetarian and vegan options, every customer can find something to tuck into.
“I know all too well about going out in a big group and everyone having different dietary requirements. I myself feel awkward because I don’t want to seem fussy or be labelled as the ‘annoying one’,” Zoe explained.
“We do it so that everyone can have something and it (the menu) is labelled clearly so that you don’t have to make a fuss over it. Our customers can pick something knowing it is vegan or gluten-free, making their lives a bit easier.”
“We want to include everyone. We don’t want to be vegan only, gluten-free only or meat only. We want anyone and everyone to be able to eat in the café.”
And to ensure no one misses out, the venue is also dog-friendly and has plenty of additional space for buggies and pushchairs so that everyone can feel at home.
Zoe can usually be seen with her six-month-old baby, Lily, in tow at the cafe, and Zoe’s mum can also be found working alongside her daughter.
She says it can be a “family affair” at times, with even her dad lending a hand working the occasional shift and doing the dishes.
What is available at Sweetpea Cafe?
The bistro-style menu is packed with an array of delicious items.
Serving up breakfast, lunches, salads, cakes, hot drinks, homemade soups, sandwiches, tarts, quiches, cakes and tray bakes, the options and nearly endless at the Brook Street eatery.
With flowers and foliage the venue’s theme, Zoe incorporates flowers and plants into her baking with flavours including elderflower and lavender, as well as serving salads with decorative edible flowers on top.
Since Zoe is the only chef, she prepares everything herself at home fresh for the day and changes the menu daily.
“For regulars there is something different every day and they don’t get bored of the food.
“And for me, it means I can be more experimental with the menu.”
Sweetpea cafe is open Thursday to Monday from 10am to 4:30pm and customers can only book reservations on the day they wish to visit.
All the food served in the cafe is available for takeaway, both hot and cold. Zoe also caters for events and makes private cakes for both delivery and collection.
In the future she hopes to expand and open her second premises with a kitchen on-site, and to grow her team allowing more scope for catering and baking.