Bhavani Baumann of Green Lion fame talks exclusively with The Sentinel about her exciting new food offering, set to open next month in Sydney’s Inner West. By vegan editor Elizabeth Usher.
A groundbreaking new vegan enterprise is gearing up to open next month at the south end of King Street in Sydney’s Inner West. The Sentinel has secured an exclusive interview to bring you all the details of this exciting development, which will no doubt further cement that particular stretch of roadway through Newtown and St Peters as our country’s premier vegan destination!
Local vegans will surely start salivating straight away upon learning that the driving force behind this new venture is none other than Bhavani Baumann, already widely known for her work in co-founding the pioneering 100 per cent plant-based pub bistro The Green Lion with Sacha Joannou – who is now solo at the Green Lion helm, and focused on wholesale distribution of the ‘Take Me Home I’m Vegan’ range, as The Sentinel reported in July.
Baumann explains, “I loved my time at the Green Lion and we had amazing customers and an amazing team but I just felt ready to go out on my own and I’ve had this concept burning in my mind for a few years … I wanted to do something new and fresh.”
This “new and fresh” idea is ‘Sanga’ – Aussie slang for sandwich, and the basis for a unique food offering that Baumann hopes will expand into an entire chain nationwide. Could we be seeing the beginnings of a vegan empire to rival the likes of Subway?
Although the underlying basic concept of ‘vegan subs’ draws obvious parallels to that chain, there are some significant differences too. For example, in comparison to a typical fast food space which is all about high turnover of clientele, where those who eat in are not exactly encouraged to linger over their meal, Baumann aims to be “creating a really nice sit-down area where people can hang out. For me, my spaces have to be very inviting and warm and all-inclusive. That’s really important for me, that people feel safe and comfortable in my environment.”
In addition, Sanga will be licensed to serve alcohol and the menu will include pies, quiches and five types of lamingtons on top of eight-inch subs, salads and cookies. And yes, there will be gluten-free options available for some menu items – including gluten-free subs, on specially sourced rolls that Baumann praises as being “amazing and soft. They’re not cheap but I think it’s worth it!”
I am impressed that Baumann has been forging ahead with opening a brand new business during this period of lockdown and uncertainty, and she admits, “Yeah, I’ve had some fears and doubts along the way that I’m doing the wrong thing … opening when so many hospitality places are struggling, but I’d already committed to it before this lockdown.”
She goes on to explain that a large part of her business philosophy is knowing “failure is a part of success as well, so you do what you feel is right and if there’s some failure involved that’s a natural part of it. Being an entrepreneur, you’re living on the edge all the time, but that’s who I am! I’m not comfortable not being on the edge, I’m not comfortable living a safe life. It isn’t what I like, so I have to accept the roller-coaster of what comes with that, with being an entrepreneur and doing something that’s new and risky.”
The interview takes an even deeper personal turn when we start discussing the history of The Green Lion giving food away to Oz Harvest, a food pantry in Leichhardt, and also directly to individual people in need. Baumann intends to set up some kind of food-related charity program through Sanga, although the details are still to be finalised. She says, “My personal thing, because I like to feed people, I really like helping people with food who can’t afford food. I’ve had no money plenty of times growing up, I know how tough it is, so the fact that I’m able to do that is something that’s really important to me.”
Eager Sentinel readers won’t have to wait long to sample Baumann’s new menu, or purchase items from the Sanga retail space – with the bake-at-home range including frozen pies, quiches, and cookie dough balls! She is planning to operate from 7am to 9pm, seven days a week, with a soft opening on Monday, 15 November and an official launch party on Wednesday, 1 December.
Sanga will be conveniently located at 655 King Street, offering easy access from the train line – Baumann laughs as she says “Walk out of St Peters Station and you smack into my shop basically!” – and with Sydney Park just across the road for those who want to get an easy, no-fuss takeaway picnic spread to enjoy outside.
There’s certainly a reason that King Street features heavily in responses when I ask interviewees about their favourite part of our city for vegans. Baumann herself exclaims, “You can’t go past King Street really, can you? I mean, nowhere’s like that!”
She then gives a wry chuckle as she admits “I don’t go out a lot because I’m always working, so, you know what I mean, it’s not like I hang in King Street and go to all of the vegan places! But I would definitely say that would be the best spot for vegans.”
That impressive accolade will surely apply even more strongly once Sanga is open for business!
Elizabeth Usher is the vegan editor of the Sydney Sentinel.
This article was amended on 19th October 2021 to add a new photograph.
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