I’ve been on my travels, stalking Ultravox around the UK, and I’ve only just persuaded the laptop that it wants to let me log in to WordPress. The whole experience has been good for me – I’m eating surprisingly well, drinking less than usual (I want to be sober to enjoy the gigs, and not need to rush out half way through!), and am getting lots of exercise from all the dancing.
I’ve eaten in old favourites like Café Soya in Birmingham, and made an acquaintance with establishments such as The Porter Bar in Bath, a pub with an entirely vegetarian food menu with more than adequate vegan selections. I had the Sausage and Bean Cassoulet, as did my meat-eating friend, which was substantial and comforting. The partner of the aforementioned friend is also a really good cook, who seemed to relish the challenge of feeding me.
I’m currently in London – my second visit in a week, thanks to gigs at the Hammersmith Odeon (and, like Midge, I don’t care what it’s called now – it’s the Hammersmith Odeon, okay?) and the Roundhouse in Camden being six days apart. I had the London Randomness Guide recommended to me, and have been using it (oh, how I love thee iPhone) to find places to eat that are not listed in the usual place. One of the regular contributers, whilst not vegan themselves, has this thing about finding vegan-friendly places, and it’s one of the standard search options.
Mimouza in Shepherd’s Bush was one of the places it took me to. It’s a Moroccan place with an good selection of vegan dishes. The service was friendly, but I’ll leave it to the people accompanying me to describe it:
The service was atrocious, including waiting half an hour to tell me my choice of mains was unavailable as they were out of okra. I selected another, and five minutes later was told that was out as well. It took forever for our drinks to arrive (non-alcoholic cocktails, very nice), then even longer for the starters. Our mains were brought after seemingly forever and one of them was a completely different dish to what was ordered. They were all taken away and brought back ten minutes later. Two of the three in the second round of booze-free cocktails were on the house to make up for the error.
The food was very good, but after the service, we declined to stay and experience dessert. Unfortunately, as our two courses had taken around 2 and a half hours, the preferred local hostelry (The Stinging Nettle) was shut. It should be noted that we thought the place was practically empty, but there is a second room in the back which had a large party (and is presumably responsible for the poor service).
The food was great. I had the soup followed by a spinach and butter bean tagine with couscous. And boo to the pub for being shut at midnight on a Saturday in London!
Cock-ups seem to be the order of the week. My second Randomness discovery was The Real Greek, a small chain of restaurants. Their menu is really promising, with vegan options marked but, as I have discovered, that really means that the dish can be made vegan if asked. I went for the vegetable souvlaki (kebab), which is marked as vegan, but I noticed that it contained tzatziki and asked for that to be omitted. It was mentioned that this was because I was vegan. The menu described it as consisting of grilled seasonal vegetables, so imagine my surprise when one of those vegetables turned out to be feta cheese! I complained, and a replacement was issued promptly. It was good though, and I will probably go back there and try a selection of the cold mezzes (there are no vegan hot ones), but I will be very careful to mention that I’m vegan and ask for a note of that to be made, even though I’ll only be ordering stuff marked as vegan on the menu.
I’ve also visited Tibits in the new Westfield shopping centre (not that exciting, but I like the geodesic roof), which is a pay-by-weight vegetarian buffet. Again, there were plenty of vegan options, and staff were on hand to explain the system. The card explaining how it worked was auf Deutsch on the reverse – the parent company is Swiss. The culinary highlight for me was the German potato salad with gherkin, something I got fond of on my last trip to Berlin where I could get a plate of their (vegan) Kartoffelsalat ohne Fleisch for €1.50 at HarDies Kneipe, a friendly gay bar round the corner from my hotel. The HarDies version has red peppers in it, too, and is the inspiration for my own potato salad.
It’s been a good tour, and I’ve not had to invoke travel rules at all (“some dairy allowed if staying vegan means not eating”). I’m hoping they announce a European tour – that should challenge me a bit.