“Everything I serve is vegan, from our mango lassi to our cakes, curries and dhal,” explains Nish, 27. “For me, being plant-based is about health but in this industry you can’t ignore learning about the environmental, sustainability and ethical stances as well.”
A growing business
En Root has evolved through several formats: street food, café, food truck and restaurant. It began in 2016, after Nish graduated from University of Leeds with a degree in French and Economics. “I did my year abroad in French Guiana, South America. There was an overwhelming variety of fruit and vegetables I’d never seen before. I was also becoming more aware of the realities of the meat and dairy industry. When I finished university, I came back to London,” he says.
Together with his cousin Harshil and his friend Thomas, he started selling smoothies and energy balls outside Herne Hill in South London. “We were there at 6am for four days in January 2016.”
On day four, they had a conversation that transformed their business. “A lady offered us her café. She told us she had a place round the corner that had been closed for two months because she didn’t have the energy to run it. She asked us if we’d like to take it on.”
They ran the En Root café in Herne Hill for the next four months. “It was all self-funded. We put in £1,200 each to start the journey and developed a way to make money, use money, make money,” he says.
Complications with rent increases led to the closing down of the Herne Hill café. A year later Nish decided to rebuild En Root, this time as a food truck. Since the summer of 2017, he’s travelled up and down the country to festivals and events.
In 2019, he secured a premises in Clapham to open a new En Root restaurant. Nish is the only co-founder who works full-time in the business. Harshil works one day a week, as his primary passion is working as a secondary school maths teacher. Thomas contributes to the daily running of En Root as well as running other entrepreneurial projects, one for bicycle restoration and another for alternative energy sources. There are two more full-time staff for the restaurant.
A passion for food
Many of Nish’s recipes are inspired by the food from his childhood. “My mother was born in Zimbabwe and has Indian heritage but would consider herself English - she moved here when she was 17. I try to coordinate food with my Indian history. I like to call myself the original dhal boy. Lentils are life: they’re affordable, available and sustainable,” he says.