010 Spotlight: Backyard
A green backyard in vibrant, urban Rotterdam
We are back with a new place to shine a light on! For the fourth installment of our 010 Spotlight series, we had the pleasure to talk to Wiwi from Backyard.
Somewhat hidden in the city centre of Rotterdam, Backyard is exactly that: The backyard of Rotterdam. With its sustainably designed building, it offers you a place to relax between a sea of plants, vintage furniture, a 7-metres long velvet couch (!) and a tree inside (!!), to come together and enjoy food - good food.
Whilst today, we are happy to see more and more vegan spaces finding its way to Rotterdam, Backyard was founded at a time where Rotterdam’s landscape was lacking such spaces. Wiwi and Yunlai, the brains behind Rotterdam’s Backyard, noticed the absence of a restaurant where vegans could just enter without explicitly asking the chefs for plant-based options. Few places, especially in the city centre, existed where the foundation itself was plant-based. Rotterdam was missing a low-threshold, international place where vegan food is in the spotlight, all day long. This observation planted the seed for Backyard. At the same time, Wiwi and Yunlai’s concerns for the environment and global warming led to their urge for an accessible, sustainable lifestyle. So, a place where sustainability, good food and a relaxing, cosmopolitan atmosphere comes together was needed. At this point, Wiwi’s marketing background and Yunlai’s experience in the foodservice industry came in handy. Backyard was born.
What makes Backyard a special place is its inclusionary character. Everyone is welcome, not solely vegans. Especially considering that this group is already convinced: we know plant-based food is the future and we support concepts like Backyard. However, there is still a large segment of society who doesn’t - those who think vegan food is boring, scary or consists of nothing more than a dash of salad. Backyard is here to prove them wrong. The vegan kitchen is rich, tasty, creative, varied, healthy and can also be a guilty pleasure, (think three layer oreo chocolate cake or vegan bitterballen). So, by calling themselves plant-based rather than vegan, Backyard tries to access those people who might be scared and hesitant by reading the word vegan. Ultimately, once you are creative enough and work with fresh vegetables, everything can be “veganized”. In that sense, the non-vegan audience might enter Backyard not necessarily knowing or caring the menu is plant-based to later find themselves surprised after realizing the burger they just ate was not only a-m-azing, but also free from animal products. Backyard introduces the vegan lifestyle in a low-barrier, easily accessible manner. And, by doing so, helps to de-stigmatize the movement. Wiwi explained how an elderly gentleman took a seat at Backyard for the first time, not knowing its plant-based foundation, and ordered a glass of milk. By not forcing the man to step away from his habits, a glass of milk was served. Yet, the man left with a full stomach, having enjoyed a sandwich pulled-no-chicken, while his idea of what it means to eat vegan, reconsidered. Mission accomplished.
As they opened their restaurant a few years ago in a Rotterdam that was not on pace compared to the international urban landscape, they contributed to Rotterdam not only as the “capital of cool”, but also as the capital of innovation and sustainability. In other words, Backyard is where the Rotterdammer, the conscious consumer and the global citizen find common ground. Parents and their children, young professionals, friends catching up, students, couples enjoying their retirement: everyone is welcome at Backyard.
THE BREAKING-BARRIERS MENU
As I already mentioned, the basis of the menu is plant-based. Apart from cow milk and an egg as an add-on on the menu, everything else on their menu is plant-based. Yet, it is this milk and egg that functions as a step. How? Well, Wiwi explained: “With every guest ordering coffee, we ask them if they want cow milk or plant-based milk. What we notice is that then people wonder “Cow milk? I just want normal milk”. The fact that we named “normal” milk, cow milk was experienced as something weird. However from this point we are able to challenge their conception of “normal” as a conversation about what normal milk is then follows.” So, the menu and approach to food is there to let people think and playfully challenge their ideas. “If people want to stick to their “normal”, that’s fine. We’ll take it step by step.”
Other than that, the ingredients that form the menu are locally sourced, in order to be sustainable and support local initiatives like Vet & Lazy brewery and Giraffe Coffee. Vegetables are bought locally. The main focus is fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, loads of herbs and spices. And with just this, an entire new world can be created. Like I said, everything can be veganized, if done well. From mayonnaise to pie to saté. It is often about the perception of what we think meat should taste like. With the right spices, the experience of eating meat is matched, while not losing the idea of its plant-based basis. It is often about what we do not know that makes us hesitant to explore food from a vegan point of view. People who have never eaten tempeh before, might be surprised by its meaty texture. Backyard is there to facilitate this. Their goal is accomplished if they have convinced a meat-eater that non-meat food is as good (if not better…). All of this without lecturing, but by proving them through their food.
So, an urban space where green, industrial, vintage, Rotterdam and veganism come together? Backyard has it all. And we are here for it.
Of course, like everywhere, Covid-19 made its impact. Luckily the terraces are opening again as of today! Backyard is there to provide you with all day breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks and a safe place to enjoy the first taste of “normal” again. And if you are not ready to take place at the terraces again, or if the weather is just mweh, no worries: you can still order via Deliveroo or Ubereats. (though make sure to check out their amazing interior once everything is safe for us to do so again!)
We hope you are enjoying this series, as we shine the spotlight on the many vegan establishments in Rotterdam and beyond! Check out the previous editions in which we discover the Rotterdamse Oogstmarkt, the Vegan Pizza Bar, Main Cookies and Jack Bean. Keep your eyes peeled for the next edition, soon to be up on our blog! And if you haven’t already, follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our newsletter down below.