Lindsey Bennett goes plastic and meat free in this virtuously vegan community cafe

In words, which would have made no sense to anyone even three years ago, I now identify as an allergy and intolerance free omnivore vegan ally, with flexitarian leanings.

Affiliations and inflammations (or lack thereof) stated, it’s better to get the food at CAN out of the way before truly appreciating this cute labour of love and the good intentions within Crosby’s increasingly vibrant food and drink neighbourhood. 

I unwittingly picked the drink that had travelled the furthest, a ‘half bottle’ can of decent Sangiovese

Because in the few short months since opening, CAN - Liverpool’s only plastic-free, plant-based eatery - is shaping up to be a sort of club house/community bar/living room for locals, with a clear but understated environmental message.

The hot food on our visit is limited to one course, all plant-based and a mixture of cooked on the premises and bought in from lovely local suppliers. The menu and suppliers change regularly and entire kitchen take-overs may be a feature in the future.

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CAN, 32 St John’s Road CAN Facebook
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Pie with mash and peas CAN Facebook

Of course we both opted for pea and pies (£6), but were able to secure a taster of the jackfruit special, which was doing its normal duty of meat substitute doused in a thick sauce. 

Pies come from the Gluten Free Pie Company, and massive credit to them, because the pastry was incredible, despite the restricted ingredients. This was no ‘stew with a lid on’ (as one chef recently scoffed at my own efforts) but rather a tasty, pliant pastry dome completely encasing its filling – if a little pale and soft in places. 

I broke my vow to avoid vegan cheese like the plague and chose the ‘cauliflower cheez’ pie. I now wish I hadn't. Chasing any semblance of cheese flavour proved futile for this lactose lover and the whole pie with its mushy cauliflower was a disappointingly bland affair enjoyable only for its warming qualities.

Blind Scouse pie was more successful, a colourful mix of veg in sauce, slightly under seasoned. Sadly, the ‘gravy’ (£1) which came with both dishes could not compare to the real thing, being thin and unsatisfying (although absolutely necessary).

The pies were served with excellent mushy peas and a ‘rough mash’ (£1), so called because the skins are left on. The mash missed nothing of the creamy extravagances of regular restaurant varieties and actually tasted enjoyably of earthy potato. A tiny side of pickled red cabbage (50p) completed the meal.

Can Waterloo Cans
Vegan booze cans at CAN - used cans are recycled and upcycled CAN Facebook
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Plants are big at CAN, naturally CAN Facebook

Sweet stuff is not so much dessert as all-day offerings of baked goods to accompany a coffee from the excellent Crosby Coffee roastery or tea from Liverpool Tea Warehouse. We laid into a vegan, gluten free chocolate brownie (£3) - again a structural marvel - and a ridiculously moreish giant ‘jammy dodger’ (£3), both provided by Cakehole Vegan Bakery - I had to be restrained from ordering another.

Pricing feels a little haywire, although there’s no doubt this is a good value meal. But the important stuff here is the environmental ethos and the community, gathering for not just pies, but also tarot readings, jewellery making and sustainable ecobrick workshops - that's a new one.

We met co-owner Ryan, who served us before sitting down for a long chat about their naturally evolving and non-proselytising vegan practice and their hands on approach to a plastic free environment. 

I unwittingly picked the drink that had travelled the furthest, a ‘half bottle’ can of decent Sangiovese (£11), overlooking the canned beers from local breweries and canned soft drinks. There is no plastic here at all, just cans, recycled and upcycled to make furniture. Naturally.

CAN, 32 St John’s Road, Waterloo, Liverpool L22 9QG

The scores:

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.

  • Food 7/10

    Cauliflower chez pie and peas 6, blind scouse pie and peas 7, fries/rough mash/red cabbage 6, Jammy Dodger 9 Brownie 7

  • Service 4/5

    Welcoming owners who take the time to explain

  • Ambience 3.5/5

    Cool, friendly, community cafe