I’ve always had a fondness for the Monument pub in St Dunstan’s as it was my local for many years.
Like many pubs it’s gone through good times and bad. On occasion it’s looked like it wouldn’t make it, yet every time it has managed to claw its way back.
A year ago, the business was taken over by Jo Brookman and Tom Boughton who relaunched it as Canterbury’s very own plant-based pub, being purely vegan.
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An all-vegan pub is a great soundbite, but it presents a challenge as a business model. Vegans and vegetarians are fairly well catered for around the city. Most eateries provide options to suit a range of diets. But where’s the meat option in a vegan restaurant? Unless your party is all-vegan, choosing the Monument as a place to eat might be a hard sell to red-blooded carnivores.
Cask ales are also off the menu as they contain isinglass finings, a product derived from fish used to improve the clarity of the beer.
Nevertheless the pub keeps going.
Helped by its position – it’s the first pub students heading down from the UKC campus arrive at – the bar is seldom completely empty. As it’s normally pretty quiet it has actually become a popular choice for social club meetings or political discussion gatherings.
There is a sizeable garden which is a real sun trap, although the grassed area could do with a little tender love and care.
A glance over the menu and you might forget you are in a vegan establishment as every product seems to contain beef, bacon or cheese. But of course, these are the vegan alternatives. Look carefully at the spelling of prawnz. There is even vegan biltong on offer which is surprisingly tasty, albeit something you may regret a bit later.
The pub has definitely moved on from its rather questionable past. Twenty years ago it had a reputation – deserved or not – for drugs. This isn’t something one can imagine rather humourless landlord Boughton tolerating for a minute.
Although Brookman and Boughton were reluctant to discuss their musical preferences, one would be forgiven for imagining there could be a heavy metal influence with the long hair, tattoos and Boughton’s biker beard.
Naturally they are both vegan, even though they don’t exactly fit the stereotype.
Brookman has been spied sporting a local pole dancing club branded hoodie around town but didn’t want to be drawn on it.
Talking to the Journal Brookman said: “As both of us are vegan ourselves, we have travelled extensively between us and were always on the hunt for somewhere to eat delicious vegan food.
“In Canterbury at the time, there were considerably fewer options than there are now and nowhere that was 100% free of animal products.
“One night whilst trawling the internet for commercial property listings we stumbled across The Monument. We quickly discovered that all Shepherd Neame bottled and keg beers are vegan friendly, so we got in touch with the brewery.
“With Tom’s background in bar work spanning almost ten years and Jo having grown up in pubs, it almost seemed like a no brainer.
“We believe the pub has an incredibly warm and welcoming atmosphere. All of our staff are incredibly helpful and chatty as well as eager to help. Not to mention with the addition of a couple of wonderful pub cats roaming around, the atmosphere at The Monument is very friendly and positive.”
Veganism has become more than just a diet. Veganism has become an entire lifestyle. Members of the club gang together, and this must be one the pubs strongest assets.
I hope the Monument survives. It certainly has its busy nights. But tenant landlords with a brewery tie can have their work cut out for them, especially after the first year.
Vegan burgers with vegan bacon and vegan blue cheese all round!