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Manna mystery: Owner says famous vegan restaurant will re-open

Business is listed on property websites but 'just for marketing purposes'

19 September, 2019 — By Tom Foot

ONE of the oldest “plant-based” restaurants in Europe, which shut down four months ago, has been put on the market – but its owners say they are determined to re-open the famous business soon.

Manna in Erskine Road, Primrose Hill, opened in 1966 and became a pioneer of vegan and vegetarian cuisine.

It set up shop long before the current boom in the meat-free scene. Agents have begun marketing the “charming” premises in the “cosmopolitan catchment area” and notices are up on the windows saying it had been “seized on the authority of the landlord”, and that a “forfeiture of the lease had been effected” on August 1.

But the restaurant’s owner Stella Mitchell said yesterday (Wednesday) “the longest established vegetarian, now vegan, gourmet restaurant in Europe” would “re-open in due course” with a revamped “dining area” and bar offering “extensive organic vegan drinks and cocktail menu”. Manna celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017 and was still winning rave reviews from experts up until earlier this year.

Pam White, who has lived in Primrose Hill since the mid-1960s, said: “In the 60s and 70s I ate there a lot. It was an innovation, when the only other competition was Crank’s in Soho. Manna was much more informal – people played guitars and sang. There was music and laughter each night. They grew their own produce on a farm – it was really organic, and extremely good food.”

Since 1996 the restaurant has been run by vegetarian pioneers Robin and Roger Swallow, alongside Stephen Hague – a prominent record producer for the Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, New Order, Peter Gabriel and Malcolm McLaren in the 1980s.

Ms Mitchell, who took over the business in April, said the lease being advertised online was most likely “just for marketing purposes”, adding: “Due to the length of time operating at the same popular premises in Primrose Hill it’s natural that occasionally refurbishment is required. “The restaurant closed in May for major refurbishment works… Manna was then approached by the landlords as they had to re-assess all their commercial properties with residential above in order to comply with latest council fireguard regulations. Unfortunately, this meant the landlord’s contractors occupying the premises to undertake these extensive structural works.”

She said fans of the restaurant should follow its website for updates.

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