Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

14/11/2009

Nottingham: Dotty’s Café

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 11:48

Note: this café has now closed down.

This weekend I’m in Nottingham for Novacon, and as well as the usual place, I have found The Vegan Nottingham Guide, the latter far too late to make a printout, alas, but England is not abroad (yet) so I can afford data on my phone.

On arrival yesterday, the partner and I went to Dotty’s Café (197 Mansfield Road), which is not too far from the hotel. It’s a bizarre take on the greasy spoon, harking back to a 1950s where your average housewife was Amy Winehouse. Even the staff dressed in theme, and the furniture was all period pieces, mostly melamine.

Dotty's spicy burgerThe food was mostly sandwiches, with burgers, falafel and a few other options, and was 70% vegan. Vegan cheese is available as an option on many items, and all mayo used is vegan. I went for a spicy burger, and my partner had a (not vegan) cheese and Marmite toastie. Hint to vegetarian eateries – if you want to keep my omnivorous other half happy, something involving cheese and Marmite, especially Marmite, will fit the bill. The more Marmite the better. Both were enough for lunch and thoroughly satisfying. Dotty’s also had a range of vegan cupcakes, and I had to have one to round things off perfectly.

One observation: children, however small, are welcome at Dotty’s. The staff will engage with them, too – they seem to really like children, rather than seeing them as a nuisance. There are books and games available for them. The children who were there yesterday appeared to reciprocate by being very well behaved.

I planned to return. But unfortunately it has now closed down.

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10/11/2009

Oslo: The Fragrance of the Heart

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 13:22

The Fragrance of the HeartFragrance of the Heart has two vegetarian cafés in Oslo, and before leaving for the airport I visited the one inside GlasMagasinet, a department store on Stortorvet. The café is located by the entrance to the store on the corner with Møllergate, by the large ochre-coloured half-timbered building.

A department store café is never going to score highly on atmosphere, and I think they’d done pretty well, but it still felt like eating in the staff canteen of a New Age hobbit hole. Decorating a vegetarian eaterie with dangling slices of seashells was also a little odd.

Fragrance offers a set menu at lunchtime for 99Kr, which is outrageously good value in Oslo. It consists of a small bowl of soup and the curry of the day. The soup was lentil, and was thick, rich in flavour and warming. The curry was probably curry by Norwegian standards, but I would have called it a pea and mushroom stew. There was no detectable chilli in it, though the rest of the tomatoey sauce was rich with other spices, and contained plenty of coconut. It too hit the spot on a frozen November day.

Dessert is not part of the set menu, but knowing the odds of eating anything substantial for the rest of the day were quite remote, I had a slice of the wholemeal apple pie. There did not appear to be any vegan cream options to go with this, so I had it on its own, but it was moist enough. The coffee is also good, and the meat-eating partner was more than satisfied with the omelette baguette which was apparently much larger and more filling that it appeared.

08/11/2009

Oslo: Vega Fair Food

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , , — Feòrag @ 12:48

Sunday is a bit of a dead loss in Oslo, but Vega, located in a former hydrotherapy baths run by the Seventh Day Adventists, is the one exclusively vegetarian place that is open that day (but not, obviously, on Saturdays).

The old Kurbadet entrance.It’s a bit tricky to find. You need to go in the main entrance to the baths (Kurbadet), which looks locked. It isn’t – you just need to turn the knob. Turn left, though the most spectacular Arts and Crafts corridor and turn right just before you get to the door of what used to be the men’s bath.

English is spoken, and they will guide you through the options available to you, and let you know which few dishes in the buffet are not vegan. This afternoon, the only things that weren’t were a pasta salad containing feta, and the lasagne. The lunch buffet was 125 Kr., drinks other than tap water extra.

Keep going down this corridorThere was a creamy asparagus soup, and a wide variety of salads to choose from. The hot dishes were the aforementioned lasagne, stir-fried mixed vegetables and rice – I didn’t bother as the salads were more than satisfying. By the bread were a couple of chutneys–a fantastic banana one, and an Indian style one consisting of large pieces of green chilli and whole cloves of garlic. I liked that one even more.

The atmosphere is exceptionally peaceful and relaxed. There are no windows in the dining area, yet it didn’t feel like I was in a hole in the ground. The loos are worth mentioning, too. Outrageously clean is the default in Oslo, but considerable care had been taken in their decoration too.

Update: I returned the following spring, and the food was even better. The only pain was the woman outside who wanted to evangelise me, even though she spoke bugger-all English.

06/11/2009

Oslo: Indian House

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 12:36

Oslo is the most expensive city I’ve ever visited, more so even than Tokyo. Never mind that beer that’s worth drinking is about £9 a pint, my native guide informed me that if I could find a main course for less that 100 Kr., that would be regarded as incredibly cheap.

On arrival, I didn’t have much time to decide where to eat, so we decided to play safe(-ish) and go for a curry. A quick search indicated that Indian House (Fred Olsens Gt. 11) had a reasonable vegetarian selection and it was close to the tram from our hotel, and the pub where we’d arranged to meet a friend. I had the mixed vegetable pakora to start, and followed it with Rajmah Masala – a red kidney bean curry. We were warned that Norwegian tastes tended to the bland, and they offered to make the dishes a little hotter for us.

I’d neglected to ask for no dairy (I was knackered, okay?) so the pakora came with a yoghurt sauce as well as a very tangy tamarind one. Okay, that was my fault, but the bigger surprise was discovering that cheese is apparently a vegetable as the pakora were cauliflower and paneer. I invoked travel rules, and made a mental note to check next time. I think the restaurant might make their own paneer, as it had a much better texture than the commercial stuff. The main course had been made hotter by simply adding chili. As the other spices were also under-represented, this just led to an unbalanced flavour, with the chilli dominating everything. Pity, as the dish is one of the standards that is rarely served in British curry shops.

To continue the bad start to the trip, the pubs we were hunting, Gambrinus, was not at the address we had for it, and there was no evidence that there had every been anything other than a jewellery shop there. Our friend had found an alternative address, but that was occupied by a loud rock bar. This suited us fine, and the beer wasn’t entirely bad (Leffe Bruin and Bedweiser Budvar in bottles) or excessively expensive so we stayed there.

07/07/2009

London: Eat and Two Veg

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 13:01

Note: this restaurant has now closed down. Bugger.

Look at all that lovely spinach!

Look at all that lovely spinach!

Last week, at home in Edinburgh, my partner and I had been pondering where to go for breakfast that could both cater to me, and keep himself happy. We forgot about the one place that has build-your-own breakfasts (the Auld Hoose) and so ended up having something completely different instead.

This week, we were in London, so things should have been better. I admit I’m surprised that Eat and Two Veg was the only place coming up on searches to do vegan breakfasts, but it wasn’t too much out of the way, so we went along.

It fit the bill. I got a completely vegan breakfast which consisted of some grilled smoked tofu, beans, mushrooms, toast, lots of spinach –something I’ve only seen in Australia (and one posh cafe in Belfast) before — and half a large, half-cooked tomato, which got handed over to my partner before I took the photograph. I like raw tomatoes, and ones that are thoroughly cooked, but there’s a halfway stage I really dislike, and it seems to be a standard part of cooked breakfasts. Fortunately, he likes them that way. He got his eggs, (veggie) sausage etc. We both came out satisfied and happy. There was neither too little nor too much food, it was nicely cooked, although the toast was more like warm bread, and it tasted great.

Vegan breakfast choices could have been improved if they used vegan sausages, and the main menu looked almost bereft of vegan options. We’ll go back, but only for breakfast.

Eat and Two Veg, 50 Marylebone High St, London, UK, London W1U 5HN. (Warning: the restaurant website is all Flash, so presumably they do not welcome customers with visual disabilities).

08/06/2009

Café Nom de Plume

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , — Feòrag @ 08:32

Last night I ate at Café Nom de Plume in Edinburgh’s LGBT Centre on Broughton Street for the first time. It’s been a long time coming, with Alan and Colin taking well over a year to get the place to their liking.

The menu is varied, inspired by dishes from all over the world. Vegetarian and vegan options are clearly marked, but only on the specials board, not on the main menu. I opted for the tomato and mint soup, which consisted mostly of tomato cooked down just enough to be really tasty, yet still have some texture. I followed it with stuffed vine leaves with red pepper salad, which turned out to be an enormous plate of stuff, including hummous and pita bread. I was full, and did not eat all of my greens.

The beer range isn’t bad either, including Schneider Weisse and the Leifmans Kriek and Frambozen, back after a break when the brewery went bust and was taken over by Duvel. The only thing that’s changed about the beer is a 6pt note on the label indicating who the new owners are.

The beer is expensive, but the food is good value. There aren’t many vegan options, but what there is was interesting and delicious.

02/06/2009

Veggy Steady Go!

Filed under: Reading matter — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 13:02

I can’t resist Japanese bookshops wherever I am, even though my ability to read Japanese is pretty limited at the moment. When I was in Seattle I found myself in Kinokuniya browsing for filthy gay manga anything of interest. It was there that I spotted the first two issues Veggy Steady Go!, which bills itself as Japan’s first vegetarian magazine (日本初のベジタリアン・マガジン!!) and urges us to eat more vegetables (もっと野菜を食べましょう!- this is the form you always see translated as “Let’s do whatever!”). Now, cookery is one of the areas where my ability to read Japanese is a little less limited, and resistance was futile.

Issue one includes the traditional article on going vegetarian and material about different style of vegetarian eating, including macrobiotics, raw foods, something called Natural Hygiene, whose proponent looks really unhealthily skinny, and ayurveda. There’s news about products of interest to the vegetarian, and a travel guide – brief articles on Germany, Denmark, and New York and longer in-depth pieces on London (but why is that fish shop mentioned?), Paris and, unsurprisingly, Japan. There are recipes – a curry, vegan carrot muffins (I’ll be having a go at that one), risotto, a French-style macrobiotic dish etc, all of which appear to be vegan.

Issue two focusses on vegetarian people, with interviews with a couple of actresses, a woman who runs a café and an author, plus two people who talk about being vegetarian in London and New York respectively. There’s a three page item, probably advertorial, on the Maman Terrace shops and restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka — I’ve eaten at the Osaka branch, and it wasn’t bad at all. The article I most want to translate is on Shoujin Ryouri – the cuisine of Zen temples, and my favourite food in the whole world. It seems to focus on two places where you can eat the cuisine.

There are many more recipes (hooray!), and they come from all over the world. There’s an Indian-style chickpea curry, Jamaican baking, Spaghetti alla Genovese and potato salad — the latter, as is common in Japanese magazines, being to advertise a particular brand of soya mayonnaise. There’s a feature on vegan home cooking. The travel guide concerns itself with vegetarian eating in Okinawa, a part of Japan where they eat more soya and fresh vegetables than anywhere else in the world, but also tend to put pork in everything. They’ve also noted the existence of Lush cosmetics.

I notice from their website that there’s a new issue out, but I’m not sure where I’ll be able to get it in the UK as I haven’t seen it in either of the Japanese bookshops in central London.

28/05/2009

Why I take emergency rations on long-haul flights

Filed under: Airline food — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 19:48

I am just back from three weeks in the States and have been suffering at the hands of airline caterers again. I’m quite disappointed, because the airlines I chose, Air France and Delta, are ones which have previously fed me rather well.

This first meal was served to me on an Air France flight from Paris CDG to Seattle-Tacoma on May 8th.

VGML meal served in Air France economy class CDG-SEA

VGML meal served in Air France economy class CDG-SEA


It was technically the second meal of the flight – a light lunch prior to landing. My first meal went astray due to a game of musical chairs played at Edinburgh, and then at the gate – the cabin crew couldn’t find me. Travel hint: if you have your seat changed, let the cabin crew know where you were originally seated, and where you are now.

By lunch time, they knew where I was, and I got my special meal. It wasn’t bad – roast vegetables and couscous, with a fruit strudel and a piece of wonderful dark chocolate to follow. I only have one complaint about this meal, and that was the spread which contained milk powder. It was only possible to determine this by reading French in 2pt white type on a pale green background.

My next journey was by train, from Seattle to Portland. It took forever given the distance, but was just about quicker than flying if you take into account travel to and from airports, time for security etc. I raided Uwajimaya and had a nice selection of Japanese goodies to keep me going. There was some vegan food available in the buffet, in the form of hummus and crackers, and some interesting microbrews.

The big-name airlines in the US are trying to compete with the likes of Southwest (the airline on which easyJet modelled itself), without the smiles, so there was no food on any of the domestic flights. No food, but they were still happy to leave an aircraft on stand for 90 minutes, not doing anything and just costing them money. The state of vegan food at the airports was dire, too. I managed a peanut butter and jam sandwich at Baltimore, which might have been vegan (I wasn’t going to ask at this point, due to hunger). It was far too sweet for me, but it did fill me up.

And so, eventually, I made my way home via JFK to Edinburgh on a Delta 757. Alas, they seem to have acquired Northwest’s caterers for this is what they think constitutes a good vegan meal:

Economy class vegan meal served on a Delta flight between JFK and EDI, May 26th 2009.

Vegan meal served on a Delta flight between JFK and EDI, May 26th 2009.

It was awful.

It was simply boiled vegetables with white rice, a green salad, a roll and a fruit salad. They had contrived to simultaneously over- and under-cook the vegetables. They were cooked for long enough to lose their colour and flavour, but were still hard. Even the mushrooms were boiled. The only flavouring used was an excess of salt in the rice. The salad was just as flavourless and the main ingredient in the dressing was high fructose corn syrup. The roll looks as if it would be quite tasty, but I was not able to find out, as the spread was another dairy one, containing whey and other milk-derived ingredients. It was even marked Kosher-dairy, and it wasn’t because the rabbis were being paranoid about stuff made in the same factory as dairy products.

The fruit salad was the only thing I ate. It wasn’t that bad.

I wonder if I’d been given a vegetarian low-fat meal instead of the one I asked for?

There was no special breakfast available, but the standard offering included a bagel and a banana. Banana is quite nice spread on a bagel.

05/05/2009

Those vegan Chinese buffets

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 10:09

One good thing about London is the vegan Chinese/Thai buffets that are everywhere, it seems. There’s a chain of them, plus a couple of independent ones, and it means that reliably vegan food is never very far away.

Most of them are called either Tai or Veg, and the chain is run by some kind of Buddhist cult. If they’re recruiting, they don’t exactly make any great efforts – you might, if you look, spot the plain A4 notices giving details of meditation sessions and cookery classes, but that’s as evangelical as they get.

The food is not the most fantastic in the world – there’s an over-reliance on fried items, and they definitely like their MSG – but it’s only £5.50 for as much as you can eat in the daytime (I think it goes as high as £6.50 in the evening), and it’s all vegan. No worries about what you can eat, nor about cross-contamination.

The food is Chinese Buddhist, but not monastic grade – onions and garlic are used, and it relies heavily on fake meats made from various combinations of soya, wheat gluten and konnyaku. The fake prawns can be unnerving at times. There are vegan interpretations of sesame toast, prawn crackers, spring rolls (probably the standard Tsingtao brand, beloved of caterers everywhere) and potstickers. There are curries, and a range of stir-fried stuff in other sauces, plus various rice and noodles, though they seem to have stopped providing plain boiled rice. Some of them do vegan duck pancakes.

It is possible to eat healthily – there’s a salad section with plenty of stuff that isn’t fried, including fruit, and a cold, spicy tofu dish.

As with any buffet, is probably best to go at a time when it’s busy enough that the food is fresh, but not so busy that you can’t get anywhere near the counter! There are too many of them to list here, but most of them are mentioned at the Vegan London eating out guide.

03/05/2009

An unexpected vegan treat

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 09:21

Inside M Manze, Bermondsey

Inside M Manze, Bermondsey

The London Randomness Guide threw me an irresistible option yesterday – something so intriguing that I couldn’t not try it. It told me of Manze’s pie and mash shops. Now, pie and mash is a very traditional food among the white working class of London, and is essentially what you think it is: a meat pie served with mashed potato and either liquor (a non-dairy parsley sauce) or gravy, and the only other things pie and mash shops tend to sell is eels, either stewed or jellied. So, nothing much there for the vegan, right? Well, according to the Randomness description of M. Manze:

Vegetarian pies are available, but there’s a 10-minute wait while they heat one up. According to the Manze’s website, the vegetarian pies, the mash, and the liquor are all suitable for vegans.

The website also mentions that the gravy is suitable for vegetarians. It was a no-brainer, and soon I found myself, and two meat-eating companions, on a bus heading down Tower Bridge Road. The shop is exquisite, with tiles, and marble table tops, with the only change in the last 80 years or so being the sympathetic addition of some stainless steel surfaces in the food serving area. Manze is no dodgy establishment, and they pride themselves on keeping up with all modern hygiene standards, and even some up-to-date ingredients, whilst maintaining a traditional atmosphere and flavour.

I ordered the one vegetarian pie, one mash and one liquor, plus sarsaparilla to drink. The food only took five minutes, if that, and this is what I got:

Vegan pie and mash, with liquor.

Vegan pie and mash, with liquor.

Now, I’m not from London, but I’m from a working class background, and that just says to me “food”. One of the others, of more refined origin, opined that it resembled school dinners. Obviously private schools have better dinners than we did! We all tucked in, and none of us was disappointed. The veggie pies are made with a soya-based mince to resemble the meaty ones as closely as possible – none of those effete vegetables here. The pastry was a little tough at the edges (does chewing it count as exercise?), but the mash was made of potatoes – real ones, that tasted of something – and nothing else. The liquor was interesting, mildly herby and was really good with the potato. This is the only recipe I’ve found so far, with a very superficial search, and making that vegan will be trivial.

Overall, I never expected to find food like this in a vegan form, especially not in such a traditional shop, and it was solid comfort food that kept us going all day whilst touristing around London, and it was a joy to eat. I’ll be back on my next visit, and I’m only waiting that long because the shop’s not open until after I get home (Sundays and bank holidays being in the way).

M. Manze Pie and Mash shop, 87 Tower Bridge Road, London SE1 4TW. Open lunchtime only, Mon-Sat. Closed Sundays and bank holidays.

01/05/2009

On the road

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 09:57

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.

30/03/2009

More on vegan Dublin

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 22:14

As mentioned in the previous post, I returned to Juice one evening to have the mushroom wellington. The food was excellent, but I have to say that if your establishment is in a 1960s building made of concrete, the decor consists of hard surfaces, and you have members of staff whose first language is not that spoken by the majority of customers, then loud music isn’t a good idea. My (BBC English speaking) partner’s main course order was misheard, though replacing it was handled professionally and with good grace. I also noticed that the scrambled tofu I mourned was on the weekend brunch menu, so I went back for that, too.

We also tried out Sinners, a Lebanese restaurant on Parliament Street, close to the Porterhouse. The menu had ample vegan options, and the service was just the right level of attention. The food was tasty, but the portions are American in size, and being tourists we couldn’t really take them up on the offer of packing the leftovers in take-away containers.

The Porterhouse, where you will find the best beer in Dublin, has added a vegetable tagine to their menu which looks to be vegan.

I’ve eaten a lot of very substantial food on this trip, and am looking forward to a week or so of light Japanese cuisine and salads before I hit the road again.

28/03/2009

Disappointment and delight in Dublin

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 16:35

I’ve been in Dublin and environs for the past few days and the food has been somewhat variable.

The first disappointment was discovering that China House has changed its menu, and the interesting range of vegetarian dishes has been replaced with mixed veg in a choice of five very boring sauces. The next was the lunch menu at Juice, from which the scrambled tofu and mushrooms on toast, and practically every other vegan option, has been removed. There are now only two vegan main courses – a stir fry (yawn!) and a bean stew. The evening menu looks to be pretty good, and the mushroom wellington is still there. Disappointment the third was discovering that another Chinese place with an interesting veggie menu, the one by the International Bar, has closed.

My intense disappointment was compounded by the vegan meal prepared by the posh hotel restaurant (with prior notice), which after a good start – a mediterranean soup – degenerated into yet another bloody stir fry. This was a vegetable one, with the same vegetables served boiled as a side dish. The chef appeared to have added salt to the stir fry, even though the sauce consisted mostly of soy sauce. It was so salty, I couldn’t eat it. Dessert was a fruit salad – the raspberries were nice.

So, that’s the bad stuff out of the way. With himself busy doing other things, I was able to take myself to Cornucopia, a venerable vegetarian wholefood restaurant of the most worthy kind. It’s a cafeteria-style establishment, very similar to Henderson’s in Edinburgh. There are generally a couple of soups (both vegan on my visit), five main courses (three of which were vegan), about a dozen salads (all vegan) and there were vegan desserts too, though I never got there. Everything is labelled as to whether it is vegan, gluten-free, low-salt and many other things. I went for a layered polenta dish with fennel and squash, which came with two salads of the customer’s choice, and I was completely full.

This morning I was passing and noticed they were serving a breakfast menu, including items that the omni partner likes. A lot. So I texted him and we had brunch. He had the omelette of the day – smoked cheese and aubergine, I believe – which he declared to be okay, though he felt the aubergine was an odd thing to put in an omelette. I had the vegan cooked breakfast – two sausages which were clearly doctored Sosmix, stuffed mushrooms, beans, an excess of caramelised onions and toast. I’m typing this at four in the afternoon, and I’m still not hungry!

My other discovery so far is Cafe Irie on Fownes Street in Temple Bar. It’s a place that, if it were located in the UK, I would point out as the epitome of Britishness. It’s a reggae themed cafe serving Italian/American style sandwiches apparently run by people of East Asian ancestry. They have a lot of vegan options, mostly involving hummous. The vegan club sandwich provided a more substantial lunch than I was expecting and was delicious. I plan to head back and try the tofu wrap some time. Note this is not the same place as featured in this disturbing report – the Temple Bar branch was sold on late last year and is no longer related to the Thomas Street one. As a result of the stushie, the new owner is considering changing the name.

I have a couple of other places to investigate – Saba looks rather promising, as does Sinners, a Lebanese place on Parliament Street not too far from my hotel. There’s also a Filipino restaurant over the river with some vegan options on the menu. Finally, when I was getting annoyed at the lack of vegan lunch options, a man overheard us and mentioned that Gruel has a chef who used to be vegan and who enjoys cooking up something special for vegans.

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