When Varinder Sood got a food order through from the French Consulate it’s safe to say that he was rather taken aback.
Instead of it being a wind up though, it turned out that the these top level government officials had heard all about the homemade cakes, handcrafted sarnies and quality coffee that Varinder serves up at Cafe Society.
Located on the corner of Rose Street and Union Street, the cafe has set tongues positively wagging, especially with its excellent array of vegan and gluten free options.
Keen to find out what all the fuss is about – and with the best namesake ever (just saying) – Society caught up with the 38-year-old father-two to get the lowdown.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m originally from Punjab in India but I’ve been over here just under 17 years now. I do miss India but I feel very settled in Aberdeen. I came first came over to the UK to study at Robert Gordon University. I completed a Masters in computing information engineering and after I graduated I worked in lots of different industries, hospitality was one of them.
Has food always a big part of your life?
Yes, we always had nice food prepared at home. My dad was and still is a very good cook. I was never into cooking until I opened the cafe and since then I have learned a lot. I have to give a lot of credit to my employees and also my wife Agata who is a very good baker. She has her own business Dream Cakes Aberdeen as well so she helps me a lot with the baking in the cafe.
When did you open Cafe Society?
I opened Cafe Society in 2017. It was previously a cafe called Quality Treats. I felt that the one thing missing in Aberdeen was a cosy cafe with homemade food. I had to go through a lot of ideas before I decided how Cafe Society should look like and what kind of food we would serve here.
How would you describe Cafe Society?
We are a local independent cafe, serving freshly prepared food on a daily basis. Everything is homemade and prepared on order, nothing is sitting on the shelf to be picked up. A big part of what we do is connecting with the local customers to find out what they like.
How did Covid impact your cafe?
Our customers were amazing and really helped up to survive through Covid so that’s the reason we want to cater for all their requirements. During the second lockdown we started doing deliveries which worked really well. When everything started opening up and the cafe got busy again we stopped the deliveries but I’ve recently started them again and we’re getting a good response.
Tell us about your delicious cakes?
The cakes are prepared by my wife Agata. She makes huge varieties of vegan cakes. Some of her popular vegan cakes include the vegan oreo cake, the biscoff cakes and the Victoria sponge which always sells out fast. She also makes vegan cupcakes as well. All the cakes can also be made in a non vegan version and we also have gluten free cakes too such as gluten free cheesecakes. Also popular is the black forest cake and the coffee cake.
What about breakfast?
We have our traditional breakfast but our French toast with fruit is very popular. We also have smoothie bowls which are very healthy and they look nice as well. We do have quite a few other options for breakfast. We also do vegan and vegetarian options of the full breakfast.
What’s on the menu for lunch?
We’re usually very busy during lunch, between 12pm and 2pm. We do sandwiches, paninis, toasties, wraps and salads. They can be prepared according to your requirements or we do have some recommendations like our buffalo burrito is very popular. It has a Mexican style of rice, buffalo flavoured chicken, onion, lettuce, Monterey Jack cheese as well as picadillo which is a mix of potatoes and corriander. It’s a good size burrito so probably won’t need anything else for your lunch. We also have a different homemade soup on the menu every day.
What about afternoon tea?
We don’t do afternoon tea at the moment but that is something I’m planning to start working on in the near future. At present we’re getting lots of enquiries for outside catering. At the moment we cater for Shell across the road from us and also a company called Orega.
You also catered for the French Consulate?
Yes, that was a surprise for me as all of a sudden I got a call from the French Consulate. They had some event at The Albyn School in Aberdeen and they ordered food from us. The event was over four weeks and every fortnight on a Sunday they placed a nice big order with us. They must’ve heard very good things about our café.
Coffee is also an important part of your menu too isn’t it?
I’m very passionate about coffee. I’m actually really fussy about my coffee so the whole step-by-step process is important to me. I’m very much into the presentation of the coffee as well. For the past five years I’ve been delivering very good quality coffee to my customers. Our customers always praise the quality and the presentation of the coffee which is great.
You’re a people person aren’t you?
Yes, some of my customers know me so well that on my birthday or anyone from my family’s birthday we get cards and treats from our customers. It makes me feel so proud and happy. I think money can be earned anytime throughout your life but the love and the affection you earn means more than anything else. I’m more proud of building those relations with our customers than earning money.
You’re also a taxi driver too?
Yes, it’s funny because sometimes I talk about the cafe to my taxi customers and they’ll tell me that they’ve visited and they really enjoyed it and that makes me very happy as well. That work has given me the chance to meet different people. Sometimes the people I’ve met in the taxi then come into the café which is lovely.
Have any famous faces visited?
Yes, on a few occasions. I’m not very up on the celebrities so the only way I know is when a member of staff tells me. Recently Gorka Marquez from Strictly Come Dancing popped in and had a full breakfast. I only found out afterwards. It’s lovely to think that he had probably researched where to go for breakfast and had chosen to visit us.