PB Eats… Flavour Bastard

Now this has to be one of the most interesting meals I’ve had this year, mainly due to the fireworks of flavours! Flavour Bastard is in the middle of restaurant land – Firth Street, just off Soho Square.  So usually, my rule of thumb is always to have a sneaky peak at the menu online just to make sure I will have something to eat when I get to a restaurant. In this case? I didn’t even bother checking the menu before hand as I was so confident that I would be catered for.

And catered for I was! There was a short but sweet vegan menu, most of the dishes were duplicates of those on the main menu (save paper and stick a VE next to them!). The menus were divided into ‘tiny plates’ and ‘small plates’, and they lived up to their name as we had to order multiple plates in order to feel like we’ve had a decent meal.  All the key words were in there – starting off with the first menu item, house vegan butter?  Whoa! At this point, Pratap Chahal, the chef whose baby this place was came over and told us how much a labour of love it was creating it and how long it took to test and perfect before sticking it on the menu.

Obviously I ordered it! What arrived was a tiny plate (I’ll get this out of the way now, all the portions were tiny) with three slices of crusty, chewy – in a good way – bread and this little pot of pale yellow goodness.  It looked like butter, it spread like butter, it tasted like butter, I couldn’t believe it’s not butter! (sorry, not sorry).  It was a masterpiece – I was truly impressed and may or may not have ordered 2 more portions.

Next up – the tiny plate of steamed rice cakes with kimchi and sesame.  I was expected a Korean-esque dish based around dokbukki but the rice cakes were actually squares of idli pan fried until they got this charred crust.  They were served with this cabbage, spring onion and sesame salad.  This was one of my favourite mouth sensations of the night – so moreish and delicious with the right amount of chilli.  If the rest of the food was going to be like this, I was going to be very happy.

The miso and mango aubergine with buckwheat crumble was also another tasty dish.  It tasted exactly as it read. This man is a genius to put combinations of flavour and texture like this.  What wasn’t so good was that there was no consistency – we ordered about 4-5 of these dishes, and in some the aubergine was meltingly creamy and yielding, while in others it was undercooked.  And nothing is as horrible as hard, fibrous raw aubergine.

I LOVED this next dish of wild mushrooms with gnocchi and white onion puree, sprinkled with crispy shallots and parsley.  I had to double check if it was dairy free – how could anything be this creamy! Gnocchi was pillow soft, and that puree was a revelation – perfumed and smooth without any harsh onioniness (is that even a word).  To be honest I would have liked a ‘large plate’ of this dish – maybe that is something to think about Mr. Chahal?

There was only one duff dish of the night – coconut and mustard peas with an almond garlic sauce – like an ajo blanco – with fennel, almonds and crispy popadoms.  There was nothing right about this dish other than the sauce – but that didn’t pair or compliment anything else on the plate.  It was actually a really unpleasant dish to eat.  I did have a look at at the current menu and I’ve seen this dish doesn’t feature any more – thankfully!

And finally – dessert. There was only one option on the vegan menu and it had white chocolate (apparently another labour of love).  White chocolate and magnolia tart with watermelon sorbet, apricot and midori.  Now, I normally steer away from perfumed food, and this had more oodles – magnolia and midori.  But order it I must (mainly because of the white chocolate)!  It was one of the prettiest desserts I’ve had for a while.  The tart crust was buttery (how!) and crumbly.  The filling was nothing like the real thing but was tasty enough, and actually enhanced with all the fruity, flowery elements.  I eat my words.  I loved the watermelon sorbet and the apricot sauce.   It was a clever, mind boggling dessert and one I really enjoyed eating.

What did I like about this place?  Flavour Bastard’s dishes are very clever and thankfully most of them work.  The cocktail and drinks menu is also good. I tried a craft beer called ‘The Bastard’s Brew’ made in Liverpool Street – very very drinkable.

What didn’t I like?  The service at the restaurant started off really well, but towards the end it was 100% terrible.  I think they were understaffed and the ones who were there (including the head chef) were running around like blue bottom flies clearing tables and dealing with customers.   Also, as much as I like eating out and have no issues spending a lot on a good meal, I don’t think there is much value for money here. As tasty as the food is, the price to pay for the amount of food we got is ridiculous.. I’d like to go back but not until they start offering large plates that have more food at a more reasonable price!

PB Travels… Conil De La Frontera

One of the breaks I took earlier this year was to a lovely part of Spain, Conil.  The trip started off on a manic note – a 7am flight from Gatwick to Gibraltar with Sleasyjet.  We had a couple of hen parties on board with one group sitting right in front of us.  I must say, boarding a flight at that time in the morning with full make up, heels and party clothes? Really?! And they started drinking too (a wonderful concoction of white wine, gin and every other alcoholic beverage they could get their hands on?) Sheesh.  To top it all, Gibraltar was having a wind storm so after two failed attempts (and the drunk hens becoming hysterical), we were rerouted to Malaga, put back on a coach to Gibs (as it is affectionately known) and after yet another 1.5 hours we finally got to our accomodation.  Double Sheesh.  The one redeeming grace – stunning views!

So I am not going to say anything about where we stayed as I don’t want to advertise the place, but I’ll show you what I ate and what we did… the latter being not much to be honest – exactly how I wanted it to be!

What did I eat?

Conil is like any other seaside town, a lot of hit and miss places.  I was worried whether I was going to find anything plant based to eat, but to my surprise, it wasn’t bad at all. Breakfasts included the normal stuff, excellent bread, avocado, fruit salad, yummy marinated tomatoes, enough to keep me going until lunch.

Bar Ligero

We came across this little place in Conil when we went there for dinner.  The main reason why we chose it? There was a blackboard with the heading ‘Vegetables’ :).  I ordered a glass of wine (only about EUR3 and really nice!).  We also got some bread (ok) and a little shot of gazpacho (yum).  I only ordered a main – quinoa with vegetables and tortilla crisps.  Interestingly enough, I had almost the same dish when I was in Spain last time, and this also hit the spot.  Really tasty, and that reduced balsamic glaze added another dimension to the dish.  The whole meal cost less than EUR20 – not bad!

El Jardin Del Califa

A few people were raving on about this place, so when we were in Vejer, this is where we ate.  The decor was very pretty, all exposed stone and middle eastern lampshades.  Even the water bottles were eye catching!  The menu was very extensive and lots of options to choose from.

In a place like this, I wanted to go as authentic as possible, so for starters, I wanted the falafel (how could I choose anything else!) and beetroot hummus.  I chose a vegetable tagine for my mains.  The hummus was creamy enough, but I would have liked a stronger beetroot kick. As for the falafel – m m m m m.  Crispy on the outside, enhanced by the sesame seeds, smooth, zingy, soft insides. They were perfect!  The tagine looked simple – an assortment of veggies with some almonds scattered on top.  These looks were oh so deceiving.  I was surprised at how tasty this was (once I had impatiently waited for it to cool down).  Veggies cooked perfectly, there was a bit of tartness from the preserved lemons, a hit of chilli, the crunch of the almonds – simplicity at it’s best.  Delicious!  This place was on the pricier side, but I think it was worth it.

Las Delicias Costa

One of our beach walks was from Conil all the way to El Palmar, another seaside town a couple of miles down the…beach.  The initial plan was to grab a cool drink in La Torre, a restaurant that was recommended.  My recommendation? Don’t go there.  Shocking service, we were literally passed around from pillar to post and when we got a table, the service or lack of it was pathetic. We left and found this pretty restaurant literally a minute’s walk away.  Gin and tonic, check.  Cool and refereshing, exactly what I wanted, needed and had to have.  The tonic water was particularly nice! We also ordered a snack – fried aubergines which were quite nice and crispy, just a touch oily for my liking.  Overall though, a much nicer restaurant and level of service, and I got my G&T, so no complaints!

What did I do?

We had already lost a full day with all the travel shenanigans, so with only 2 and a bit days and not a lot on the agenda, we walked barefoot for hours on the seashore.  Cool water, warm sand and a beautiful breeze – lovely.  Thankfully, Conil isn’t a touristy place – well, it is, but more of a local getaway destination, as opposed to ‘I want to lie on the beach, get sunburnt and drink myself silly’ getaway.

We also visited Vejer one night for a (quick) walk around town and dinner.  I absolutely LOVED the vibe of this place.  It was laid back and chilled, cobbled hilly streets, a beautiful square, whitewashed buildings and independent jewellery and clothes shops.  All the trees in the area were loaded with oranges (that nobody was picked because apparently they are so bitter).  If I had more time (or if I came back to this part of the world), I would definitely spend it here…

We also wandered to Conil town centre one evening and it was just as quaint, but a much smaller version of Vejer.  The loveliest part was that there were only a handful of tourists like us. Niice!

The highlight of the holiday? A trip to Bodega Sancha Perez, a fantastic farm and vineyard about 15 minutes out of Conil.  A stunning little farm/vineyard/olive garden – it was a beautiful space, owned and run by this larger than life personality, Ramon.  He built it up from scratch and you could see how much he loved it and treated it like his baby. He was so passionate, entertaining and oh so funny.  You can book tours that last about an hour and a bit.  It was mainly in Spanish, dotted with English words here and there.  Even if you don’t understand Spanish, it is so worth it for his sheer showmanship and the stuff you see and drink and eat!

There was a small organic orchard with figs, plums, nectarines, peaches – sadly still not ready for picking.    But we did manage to find random ripe ones, I was was handed a peach.  OH MY WORD. Luscious and juicy!  And when I say organic, I mean organic – bugs galore, snail central… and they all had a place to stay – a bug hotel!

After a walk around the olive garden and vineyard, Ramon led us through the production process through – all small scale, all with love and without any crap or chemicals – excellent!  He then led us to this little shop where we could buy both the oil and the wine.  We didn’t buy any stuff for ourselves as we only had hand baggage, but we did buy a bottle of wine, a Merlot, to have there and then. Ramon also supplied us with some stunning olives to go with the wine.  Hands down the best wine I have had.

I would never have gone to this part of Spain, but I’m so glad I did.  There are a whole load of smaller towns all around that I would love to come back and explore… will add them to the list!

PB Eats… Vegan In London 4

So this is one of my what I ate in London over the past few months.  I’ve blogged about some of them before so won’t be saying to much about those restaurants, but what I love is how the menus are changing to accommodate everyone.

Yauatcha

We usually go for a la carte when I’m with a large group of friends, but when we are just 2 or 3, the set menus are fabulous and an excellent option to go for.  This one included a cocktail, dim sum, a main (that Crispy Tofu is fab) and dessert.  I reviewed it back here if you want to read more.

Hakkasan

Hakkasan is another firm favourite, we went for the Dim Sum platter, both vegan and omni.  The vegan ones were were all stunning – filled with veggies and mock meats and they went down very well! The vegan dessert was the standard sorbet, the mango being a stand out…

Vegan Yes

We stumbled across this little cafe when finding a place for a quick lunch in the Liverpool Street/Shoreditch area.  It is on Brick Lane, around the corner from Mooshies, which I am still yet to visit.   So Vegan Yes is run by a Italian husband and Korean wife team and has a seriously quirky menu, a with everything from kimchi lasagne to mushroom gnocchi to bibimbap with a twist.  Everything is made onsite, and having a chat with the owner I could feel the passion that went into the food.  The best part? The variety of kimchi.  Red (traditional cabbage), yellow (daikon and turmeric), green (cabbage, mint and spirulina), purple (red cabbage).  So with all of that on hand – I just had to choose the bibimbap.  Vegan and a variety of kimchi on top of that?  Vegan Yes Please!!! What arrived was a picturesque dish – a mound of brown rice, sitting on a bed of spinach surrounded by different coloured kimchi.  All lightly pickled, each with their own flavour profile and still crunchy.  I loved all of them, the red and yellow being my favourite. It was a big portion and I obviously cleared it all.  Only gripe – I wish the spinach was cooked and added as another side as opposed to being raw.  I’m going back to try the kimchi lasagne!

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Elephant Royale

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this has got to be my favourite Thai place in London.  Along with the standard green curry and coconut rice, I have to mention the fabulous vegan prawn toast that we had that night – made with minced tofu.  It was seasoned so well, and it was so crunchy – having not had prawn toast for almost a decade, this was utterly fabulous.  Loved it and will order it every time I go!

Mildreds

My last time in Mildreds wasn’t the best – I didn’t enjoy the dishes I chose other than the dessert, which was utterly fabulous.  We decided to go to the branch in Dalston.  The restaurant is massive, with high ceilings and beautifully decorated – the polar opposite to the crammed branch in Soho.  Good Start.  I didn’t go for any starters this time, I scanned the menu, had a peek at the desserts and I knew I wanted one.  For my main course, I really wanted to try the katsu curry – mock chicken, black rice, watermelon radish salad, yuzu dressing. MMM.  It arrived looking as pretty as a picture and tasted great.  2 things though – the curry sauce, as tasty as it was, could have been a bit thicker to make the dish even more authentic -a textural nit pick.  And if you hate coriander you’re in trouble as there was a lot of it in the salad.  I love it and I thought it was the perfect addition to the dish.  I would eat this again in an instant.  Other dishes went down really well, most ordered the Sri Lankan curry made with sweet potato, green bean, topped with cashews and served with pea basmati rice. Bowls were wiped clean.  My omni friend ordered the mushroom and ale pie and was very surprised with ‘how the pastry could be so good without using butter’. Ha!

My dessert? Another stunning creation of a large square of chocolate brownie with cherries and ice cream.  Yep. Tasted as it looks and how you would want it to taste…  Delish!  Now I know the trick with Mildreds – stay away from Soho and don’t order the starters 🙂

Tokyo Diner

After Indian food, Japanese food has got to be my favourite cuisine.  Having been to Japan twice and travelled around extensively, if I want my Nihon fix I go to Tokyo Diner in Covent Garden.  The decor, both the inside and outside perfectly mimics the restaurants in Japan, and the service only adds on to it – everyone there is so polite, you get free green tea and crackers as soon as you sit down, there is a no tipping policy, and best of all, they have a vegan katsu dish!  The tofu katsu ju a silky soft chunk of tofu coated with crispy panko and topped with this thick miso sauce.  All of this sits on perfectly cooked rice.  Every texture is there and that miso sauce is what makes the dish, giving that umami hit that makes this dish so addictive.   This is a massive portion, I have yet to finish it completely!  And another plus point – they don’t use MSG!  Perfect on every level.. Arigato!

Having talked about 2 katsus that are pretty decent, I also had to try the Vegatsu at Wagamama, a dish that I think they started doing a few months ago.  As a veggie, the yasai katsu curry was my favourite dish.  This one, not so much.  The rice was the same, the curry was ok, the salad was an embarrasment, and the katsu cutlet itself.  MEH.  The coating should have been more crunchy, and the seitan more firm and more flavourful.  Didn’t like this dish one bit. How disappointing.

Leon

I have to mention Leon is my current favourite place for lunch.  Along with the tofu teriyaki salad (not to be confused with the hot dish – which is vile), the meatless meatballs from Leon are excellent lunch options, that fill me up and are oh so tasty.  If you’re really hungry – add a portion of hummus.  If you are still hungry (I doubt it) and you want dessert (oh go on then, maybe for later in the day) go for the PB & J Brownie.  MY MOST FAVOURITE DELICIOUS TASTIEST MOREISH YUMMIEST treat, courtesy of Rubys of London.

So that’s it for now… until next time…

PB Eats… Galvin La Chapelle

Galvin La Chapelle was a restaurant I used to frequent regularly in my pescatarian and then vegetarian days, for some reason I stopped going when I turned vegan.  Actually, I know why I stopped going – a French restaurant, having vegan options? Non.  Fast forward to 2018 and that non has become a resounding qui.  Whee for me!  Not only did they confirm they can cater to my dietary needs, they also said they have a vegan menu with multiple options – both a la carte and gourmand.  What we chose was the set menu offer  – 3 courses and a glassy of bubbly for £38.  The menu looked so tempting I wanted it all! I’m still getting used to having a variety of options to choose from! Orders placed, bubbles and bread swiftly arrived with butter for my omni friend and olive oil for me.  Perfect start.

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For starters, my choice was a no brainer – beetroot, raspberry, radish, gingerbread and hazelnuts all on one plate? Yes please! Now this restaurant has always been big on presentation and that hasn’t changed over the years.  I mean, look at this dish – jewelled discs of yellow beetroot, complementing the pink of the raspberries and pink beetroot.  I love dishes like this – each bite tasting different to the one before, each being a complete revelation, a bit of this and that, crispy greens, crunchy gingerbread wafers, zingy greens. WOW.  Hats off to the chef for this ingenious combination.

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Next up – risotto with mushrooms and truffles.  My friend ordered the same dish but the omni version and it was really interesting to see how they differed.  She tried both and delivered the verdict that hers was creamy and cheesy, while mine was more oily and lemony.  For me, it was rich, and I thought it was creamy enough as the rice had been cooked perfectly.  The mushrooms were cooked perfectly and were exactly what was needed to cut through the rice.  Only complaint – there was truffle on the plate, I could see it, but I could barely taste it… more please!  As part of a set menu, no issues.  But if I was paying £34.50 for this on the a la carte, I wouldn’t be a happy bunny.

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Onward to dessert.  Sorbet, a fruity number or banana and chocolate?  Which one to go for! How to decide!  I asked our lovely waitress (service was top notch, as usual) who strongly recommended the latter.  Now I love chocolate but I’m not the biggest fan of banana in desserts, but she was so passionate about it, I ordered it.  Thank you lovely lady!

Now chocolate sorbet in this case is a very misleading label.  This should have been described as full bodied, intense chocolate ice cream – I just don’t know how they made this.  Dense, flavourful and smooth.  The fact that the banana was bruleed completely changed the flavour profile.  Crunchy nuts, honeycomb and greens – super excellent.  They should never take this off the menu!!  Omni dessert – chocolate fondant with blood orange sorbet, which went down just as well as my dessert.  Happy diners 🙂

I ended my meal as I normally do – a nice pot of fresh mint tea, which arrived with a rock of honeycomb and a caramelised walnut.  Perfect!

I know it sometimes sounds like I like everything I eat (I choose my restaurants wisely ;), but when it comes to this place – I did.  The whole combo of service, food, ambience and now variety of options will keep this a firm favourite for a while.

PB Eats… Strut and Cluck

Living in London is a blessing – with so many cuisines and restaurants around, I am spoilt for choice.  I am also a creature of habit eating at the same restaurants and fast food places.  But then I come across a place I’ve never been to before and it’s added on to the favourites list.  Enter Strut and Cluck – a cute restaurant near Spitalfields Market.

Initially, my first question was erm, ok, what options do I have in a place like this, with a name like that? A few tasty options, that’s what!  The food menu reads beautifully, and lots of options in the ‘Earth’ section can be made vegan.  The cocktails menu was just as uplifting to read, with combinations of drinks and mixers that I’ve never come across before.  My tipple of choice to kick off the evening was the aptly named “Jaffa I’ve Mist You” with rum, elderflower and orange in a variety of guises – bitter, candied syrup and even some orange mist. No pic but take it from me – lush!

My omni friend both chose a couple of dishes to have.  She had been here before and wanted to reorder the turkey lettuce cups she tried the previous time, along with some roasted mushrooms topped with harissa, cashews and breadcrumbs, both which she thoroughly enjoyed – the lettuce cups in particular.

I chose a couple of salads – roasted butternut squash with beans, radicchio, pumpkin seeds with a citrusy dressing.  First time round – came with the goats cheese instead of without (pic has the cheese, forgot to take one without it, but you get the idea).  They were very obliging and replaced it without any drama or hoo haa.  Second salad was a mountain of veggies – avocado, broccoli, gem lettuce, chickpeas and quinoa.  Now this is a salad.  The charred lettuce was wonderful – and in my opinion so underrated!  The roasted chickpeas were little crunchy flavour bombs that complemented the soft quinoa and peppers.  I polished it off!

We also got some pitta and dips to share – soft, hot pillowy pitta halves with 2 dips.  One was like a baba ghanoush – smokey and moreish.  The other a tahini dip with a dash of zhoug (could have had a stronger chilli hit) – velvety and smooth.  A must order!

Other than sorbet, there weren’t any other vegan or desserts that could be veganised, so my meal ended on a savoury note – no complaints.  There are some excellent Turkish, Greek, Cypriot – Eastern Mediterranean – restaurants in London, but I just feel that this place does things slightly differently that make it stand out in a good way.  I will be back.

PB Eats… Texture

5 months since my last post.  Shocking.  Same excuse – life has come in the way…  and I was very distracted with work (complete change, not in a good way) and health (am now on medical leave recovering from a major op).  So what better therapy than to revisit my blog baby and fill you in on the highlights of the past few months of eating and travelling!  But first, a restaurant review.   My ever intrepid socially aware friend and restaurant expert M found yet another interesting restaurant to visit that had a decent number of vegan options.  Hello Texture, a Michelin starred European/Scandi restaurant in Mayfair.

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We met for a drink in the bar first – a space that is very true to its roots – all rustic (a mini twig tree in the middle of the room)and textured (animal fur cushions 😦 ).   There was a decent drinks list, and I decided to go for my current favourite – a Negroni.  Oh my wordy… I could taste the love and attention that went into making this drink.  Perfectly bitter and zesty, exactly how I like them.  And along with the drinks – snacks on the house!  They brought some vegan snacks specifically for me 🙂 Popcorn, crispbread and crispy things.  As hungry as I was, I didn’t want to fill up on these yummy nuggets…

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The decor from the bar carried through to the dining area and and it really came out in the crockery and cutlery.  The perfect balance between rustic and chic, full of character and absolutely beautiful.  Having taken our seats, we were presented with menus – champagne menu, normal menus, a vegan a la carte and tasting menu too.   The plan was to go for the vegan a la carte, which had only 4 savoury options and no sight of a dessert (spoiler alert – I left the restaurant happy, so all was well in the end).

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Once our orders were placed, this cute little bread set up arrived.  Beautifully presented, the bread was warm with an impressive crust, accompanied with a jug of grassy olive oil and a little dish of volcanic black salt.  Can’t say there were explosions (ehehehe) but the combination of all three was pretty damn good.  I was so tempted to nick the spoon but I resisted.

Then this appetiser showed up – 50 shades of green and then some.  I can’t remember how they described it, but it tasted righteous and noble – I could feel the healthometer rising while I was eating it.  It was an intriguing dish of cold, chlorophyll rich green soup (juice?), topped with slivers of kale, basil granita and oil.  As a lover of all things green, I enjoyed it and thought the dish (both the actual plate and the food) lived up to the restaurant’s name.  Bring on the main course!

So any concerns regarding the restaurant’s generosity and portion size had clearly flown out the window – I was looking forward to the black rice main course I had ordered.  Would it be substantial? Would it be tasty? Would it be packed with flavour? Would it be full of texture? (sorry, can’t get away from this pun). YES on all counts.  The coconut flavoured broth was packed with galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf – essentially a tom kha.  Top that with nutty black rice and a few more al dente veggies, and what I ate was a filling and nourishing meal which left me feeling very very content.  M chose the cod – which she enjoyed too.

Completely satisfied and not even looking for dessert, I ordered a pot of fresh mint tea. M wanted dessert and appropriately chose the Icelandic Skyr, which came adorned with ice cream, fruit and crispy bits – looked quite lovely I must say.   Not wanting to be left out, they brought me a little bowl of blood orange sorbet – more like a palate cleanser, zingy, fresh and oh so perfect.  I think it was part of the vegan dessert on the tasting menu – I couldn’t have had the whole thing so this amount was ideal.  But no, it didn’t end there – they also brought out some petit fours. Oh my.  Coconut ice coated with chocolate coated with coconut shreds – another winning combination which went down very well.

It was also the last thing that went down – I was too stuffed to eat another bite.  Service I will say slowed down towards the end of the evening, but all in all, an excellent meal and I am coming back to try the vegan tasting menu.   Yum.

PB Eats… Vegan In London 3

I’ve been vegan for a couple of years now, and 2016 was challenging in terms of finding readily available vegan food or options in vegan restaurants.  But oh my word.  After I came back from travelling in July 2017, having been away for about 6 months, I saw such a difference – London had fully embraced veganism!  Obviously it made it easier for me to go out – some places have got it right, some are still trying, but at least everything is moving in the right direction!  Here are a few of the highlights so far 🙂

Aubaine

Aubaine had a menu on specifically to ‘celebrate’ Veganuary – starter and main for £12.50 and a couple of desserts too.  The options for starters were beetroot with apple or roasted cauliflower.  I went for the former and it was a good choice.  Zingy and fresh, crunchy apple, well-seasoned beetroot and citrus to cut through everything.

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Mains?  I went for mushroom bourguignon and M for the bean burger with fries.  She didn’t really enjoy her main – too salty for starters.  As for mine – my main is in the top right corner, the pic of the Aubaine marketing shot – sot the difference!  The stew itself was really flavourful, but it was a bit watery.  The mashed potato could have been less lumpy and the carrot bacon more crispy and maybe then it would have totally hit the spot.  But as they stand – miss the mains and go straight for starters and dessert.

Dessert on the other hand – oh my.  Polenta and plum cake with a super mandarin sorbet on the side – every dessert box ticked.  I could have had another portion.

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Maybe it was the branch of Aubaine I went to was having an off day with the service and mains – I would go again – just for the polenta cake.

Ba Shan

I went to Ba Shan with Mr O who is obsessed with chillies – and this was definitely the place to go.  Specialising in quite authentic and spicy Hunanese food, they were very open and accommodating to veganising their menu options.  I went for the Ma Po tofu with greens and plain rice.  YUM.  Sadly the Ba Shan website says they are closing down for a Baozi Inn (which isn’t bad either).  You will be missed 😦

Dishoom

Oh Dishoom.  How I love thee.  I used to be obsessed with their chilli cheese toast and their pau bhaji, but the obsession has now shifted to their okra fries – they are SUPER DELICIOUS – and off their vegan menu :).  Seriously guys, Dishoom have a vegan menu and it is full of yummy options – but you must try these fries.  Spicy, crunchy, moreish. YUM.   My other go to favourites are the gunpowder favourites – but you.. well I need to eat these while they’re hot, I don’t like them cold.  The chana chaat is a dish I order to feel righteous – chickpeas, cous cous, baby sprouts, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds.   I’ve never had a dodgy dish at Dishoom, may this continue.  And on the last visit, I indulged in a couple of Gimlets, laced with cardamom.  Wow.

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City Social

City Social also have a vegetarian/vegan menu, however they could put in a bit more effort – and at least come up with a couple more options for mains and a vegan dessert!  Put that Michelin start to good use!  A cheeky cocktail with a view to start off..

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Followed by a stonkingly good mushroom risotto for starters – packed full of mushroom goodness.  How they got this to be so creamy and so vegan is beyond me.

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Mains was essentially a cauliflower steak marinated in cumin and turmeric with leeks and purees of aubergine and garlic – what a clever combination of flavours!  I would have preferred a slightly thinner piece – after this meal I can tell you I didn’t have cauliflower for a while!

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The only dessert option was sorbet (boring) but my friend had a stunningly beautiful tart tartin – check it out!

Ham Yard

Ham Yard has been a favourite as they are one of the first restaurants I reviewed that had a vegan menu.  The latest menu read well, with lots of yummy and interesting bits to eat.

I wasn’t in the mood for soup or kale, and I did choose well with the artichoke and avocado salad, 2 of my favourite things to eat.  Creamy, fresh and those dots of red pepper sauce brought the dish together.  I stupidly went for the pasta, expecting it to be all mushroomy and truffley.  What came was a massive portion of pasta, a few mushrooms and no truffle.  It was a perfectly harmless plate of pasta, not what I would have expected from Ham Yard.  It was so dull that I even forgot to take a pic of it.  The dessert on the other hand was EXCELLENT. I asked for the clementine sorbet instead of raspberry – chocolate and orange, super combination – wise wise choice.  So creamy and rich, I was almost convinced it wasn’t vegan.  Yummy. Ham Yard stays on the ‘I will go back’ list.

Waffle House

I like this place not because of the food, but because of the location.  It is up in St Albans, and we usually wander through a beautiful park to get here.  I only ever have one option here, and sadly, it doesn’t involve waffles, as they don’t have a vegan option.  I have a salad, which is basically all the toppings of one of their savoury vegetarian options – hummus, rocket, sun dried tomatoes, olives, avocado and a sweet chilli and balsamic dressing. Lush lush lush.  Now if only they could create a vegan waffle and this will be a regular place for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

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Coppa Club

Now the Coppa Club is fabulous for drinks – I really like this place, the decor and the ambiance.  In the summer, they have these beautiful cabanas outside, and in the winter, they have igloos.  As for the menu, it isn’t very vegan (maybe this is why I go there for the drinks more than the food :). But saying that, the service has always been good and in this instance, super helpful in customising something for me.  I had the roasted cauliflower and kale salad with spinach, farro and almonds. And extra avocado. I love kale but this was raw, not massaged or soft in any way.  Definitely worked my jaw and my gut that day.  Since then, I stick to the drinks and fries. Can’t go wrong there 🙂

Purezza

I was in Brighton late last year for my birthday, and I got taken to Purezza by S for my birthday lunch.  WHOA.  So impressed.

The menu is perfect, a massive variety of pizzas. We both went for the Pesto Manifesto – pesto, red onions, fried courgettes, pine nuts, marinated spinach leaves & cherry tomatoes.  Stunningly good and so filling.  they even have a dessert pizza on the menu but we were too stuffed to eat it.  And the best part? Purezza is opening another branch in Camden in London. Whoop Whoop!

Haz

Haz is another firm favourite. There are so many mezze options and so much variety, but my go to option is the quick mezze plate, which they have no issues in veganising it. A giant plate with crispy falafel, creamy hummus, tabular, kisir and imam bayildi. Add some of that light bread and a cup of fresh mint tea and it is the perfect lunch or dinner. They did have this amazing main dish called Turlu which was like a veggie stew. So sad that it has disappeared, but the mezze will always be there.

So that is a snapshot of what I’ve been eating so far.. what I will end with is the BEST EVER VEGAN DOUGHNUT I have ever tried in my life.  Crosstown doughnuts do non-vegan desserts, with vegan options every weekend. I tried the yuzu (MY FAVOURITE flavour) and matcha doughnut.  OMG. Lush. Fluffy, not too sweet, chewy and perfectly balanced flavour.  Super excellent.    I’m glad they’re out of the way for me, or I kid you not, I would be eating them as often as possible.  So enjoy this beautiful cross section of a crosstown doughnut – until the next post :):)