Vegan in Manchester: Healthy Spirit

Healthy Spirit

When Dr HH and I first moved in together in Manchester, we were living in a place that was…a mixed bag.  It was cheap, spacious, equidistant between our work places and easily reached on public transport.  Alas, it also had dark brown carpets, neighbours who rowed constantly both downstairs and next door, the most incompetent letting agent ever and no front door.  Yes, you read that correctly.  We had to enter and exit through a garage door.  It was weird, but, as Dr HH comforted me, it was only our first place:  it could only get better from here. If the flat hadn’t been within walking distance of Healthy Spirit, a little shop with a vegetarian cafe in the back, I probably wouldn’t have lasted so long there.

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They have a vegan cake every day, and I used to go regularly on the off chance that it would be this chocolate peanut butter cake.  It’s unbelievably good.  Under the chocolate topping is a layer of sweet, delicious peanut butter goo.  It is not only the best thing about the cake, but quite possibly the best thing about life, ever.  Altogether it’s like eating a Snickers bar in cake form, and the dark chocolate sponge prevents it from being too sweet.

Healthy Spirit Cake

Not that the other cakes are anything to sniff at, though.  This date and ginger cake was beautiful – a good sticky sponge with icing that isn’t too gritty.

Healthy Spirit Choc Courgette Cake

And the chocolate courgette cake was also tasty, as was the hot chocolate – there’s nothing wrong with a double serving of chocolate at the weekend, is there?

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Their own blend teas were also good – I loved the ayurvedic rainy day brew most of all, though the chai is very good with a splash of coconut milk.

Healthy Spirit Soup

And occasionally I had something from a non-cake food group.  The daily specials are always written on the chalkboards and marked if they’re vegan.  There’s almost always a vegan soup, which is hearty and wholesome…

Healthy Spirit Stew

…and also a stew.  Look at all that goodness!

Healthy Spirit lasagne

I’ve also had a lasagne before, with numerous salads and a good bit of bread.  All the meals are like this:  substantial, inviting and healthy.

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And I’ve talked about their breakfast plate before too.

I think Healthy Spirit is one of the most underrated meat-free eateries in Manchester.  The people who work there are lovely, and it’s a great relaxed atmosphere – you never feel like there’s a hurry to get rid of you.

Fortunately, our new home in Prague is much nicer and comes with the traditional door.  And it’s once again just a ten minute walk from the best cake in the city!  It’s like I have a radar for it…

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Cookbook of the Month: Vegan Bible

Vegan Bible Frittata (2)

I have a duty to start the year by reviewing my Christmas present, Vegan Bible by Marie Laforet.  I love thumbing through a recipe book on Christmas Day, and a lot of the recipes I ear-marked made it onto the table in January.

Vegan Bible Cinnamon Chocolate Hazelnut Porridge (1)

There are a few porridge recipes in the book, and porridge is such a great wintry breakfast.  I tried the cinnamon-scented chocolate and hazelnut porridge and was surprised to find that it was a bit too much even for me.  It was very tasty, but so chocolatey that it was more of a dessert than a breakfast – definitely too much for a work morning.

Vegan Bible Rosewater Pancakes (3)

For another indulgent breakfast, I waited until the weekend and tried the rose-scented pancakes.  Dr HH isn’t really keen on rose flavoured food, so I replaced the rosewater with freshly squeezed orange juice and chucked in some chopped dark chocolate to make chocolate orange pancakes.  And it was a brainwave, if I do say so myself!  They were absolutely delicious, and will definitely be made again.

Vegan Bible Banana Choc Chip Hazelnut Scones (2)

In the vegan brunch section, there was a recipe for banana, chocolate chip and hazelnut scones.  Rather enticing, no?  The recipe itself included neither banana nor hazelnuts, though:  it was for blueberry and chocolate scones.  I wanted the scones of the title, so I adapted the recipe a bit and made these for a Saturday breakfast.  Served fresh from the oven, they were divine.  The outside was slightly crispy, and the inside was nicely gooey from the banana and the still-melted chocolate.  They were sublime!

Vegan Bible Banana Date Millkshake (1)

Sticking with bananas, I also whizzed up some banana and date milkshakes.  It’s not a revolutionary recipe, but they’re tasty drinks.

Vegan Bible Split Pea Soup (1)

I wasn’t bold enough to try more than a spoonful of the split pea and coconut milk soup – even when it’s not bright green, I hate pea soup.  Dr HH really loved it though, saying it was a bit different and the occasional chunky pea was a real treat.  He also enjoyed the miso flavour (who wouldn’t?).

Vegan Bible Parsnip Thyme Veloute

I thought the thyme-scented parsnip veloute was delicious, but Dr HH was a bit underwhelmed and thought it a pretty average soup.  I didn’t completely blend it, as I like a soup with some good chunks in it, and added a bit extra stock to turn it into a proper soup.

Vegan Bible Quinoa Soup

The quinoa soup looks beautiful, partly because I used a sweet potato rather than a boring old normal one.  It had a lot of good stuff going on, though it needed a lot more seasoning.

Vegan Bible Curried Creamy Broccoli Soup

The creamy curried broccoli soup was nice partially blitzed, so it still had some bits in it, but I’d like to beef it up more with some potato too.  I was dubious about the curry powder when I read it, but it was actually a really nice pairing and I would increase the spiciness next time.

Vegan Bible Creamy Corn Soup (2)

The cream of sweetcorn soup recipe looks a bit uninspired, so I followed the suggestions for the jazzier version, with chilli, coriander and lime juice.  It was good!  Not the best corn soup I’ve had, but not too shabby.

Vegan Bible Tamari Caramelised Almonds (2)

The tamari caramelised almonds are intended to go with salads, but I made some just as a snack to distract Dr HH from the non-vegan treats in the staff room.  This is a quick way to make snack time a bit more exciting:  really great flavours on here.

Vegan Bible Quinoa Salad

I really enjoyed the quinoa, grilled tofu, olive and sun-dried tomato salad.  The tofu is fried (not grilled) with lots of herbs and spices, so it’s really flavoursome.  The olives and sun-dried tomatoes give a really nice flavour to the quinoa too.  A nice easy lunch.

Vegan Bible Tortilla (2)

I was rather anxious about trying the tortilla (Spanish omelette).  I’d never made anything like that, vegan or otherwise, and it seemed a bit daunting.  It’s a combination of firm and silken tofu which worked well to create the ‘eggy’ part, but I needed to add more water to get it to a suitable consistency.  The fried potato slices were fantastic!  Alas, it all fell apart when I followed the instructions to flip it out onto a plate then slide it back in to brown the other side – I don’t have any plates big enough to cover my (extremely heavy) frying pan.  It may have looked messy, but it tasted good, and that’s always the most important thing.

Vegan Bible Paella (1)

Staying on the Spanish theme, I also made paella.  Rice dishes rarely blow me away, so this was solid but not life changing.  My local Czech supermarket did not stock artichoke hearts, so I chucked in some sliced mushrooms instead, and they worked really nicely.  The smoked tofu cubes were the real highlight.  I think it needed more seasoning, as it only had the saffron (or turmeric/paprika substitute, in my case).  To give it more of a seafood taste, I added some chopped up seaweed to the leftovers, and that really elevated it.

Vegan Bible Frittata (2)

I also had a go at the tomato, onion and chive frittata.  We don’t have a grill, so I put the whole frying pan in the oven to get the top cooked as well, and it was really good.  I think the texture was pretty spot on, and the only thing I’d change would be to add some black salt for that eggy taste.

Vegan Bible Korean Pancakes (2)

I was less impressed with the Korean Vegetable Pancakes.  The ones in Asian Vegan Kitchen are far superior.  I couldn’t flip these, so I ended up folding them rather like an omelette.  Dr HH was really keen on them, and they did have a nice flavour, but I wasn’t a fan of the texture and found them a bit stressful to make.

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I made the courgette and coconut risotto using cumin instead of coriander, due to poor preparation on my part.  It’s hard to be dazzled by a risotto, isn’t it?  This was a nice meal, but unspectacular.  It was creamy from the coconut milk, and the courgette cubes were really good.  This won’t change anyone’s life, but it’s a good solid option.

Vegan Bible Tempeh and Winter Vegetable Casserole (1)

I could only get my hands on smoked tempeh for the tempeh and winter vegetable casserole, which was a shame.  I think regular tempeh would have been better, but it was still good and very tasty.  I rarely use cream when I’m cooking, so this was quite a change for us, and it’s always nice having a small twist on familiar flavours and combinations.

Vegan Bible Seitan Stew (2)

The seitan a la Basquaise was just my kind of evening meal – fast to make, tasty to devour.  I love big chunks of seitan in a stew, and this was a comforting dish.

Vegan Bible Seitan Gratin (1)

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I made a few changes to the conchiglioni au gratin – primarily, switching from shells to penne, because who has the time to stuff little shells with seitan stuffing?  Anyway, it was delicious, though needed a bit more passata to help all the pasta cook properly -there were a few crunchy pieces still.  It was a really tasty dish, and looked a bit fancier than it actually was, which I’m always a big fan of.

Vegan Bible Indian Burger (1)

There are quite a few burger recipes in the book, and I opted for the Indian burgers first because they sounded a bit different: lentils and coconut should make for a good, if unusual burger.  I cooked them in the oven rather than frying them, and they came out very dry.  But also, very delicious!  I’ll tinker with this recipe a bit to try to get them perfect.

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I followed the chef’s recommendation and made tofu a la provencale to accompany the soba with rocket pesto.  The flavours were faultless, and you can’t go wrong with big tasty chunks of tofu.  I rarely have soba noodles in, so I’ll probably make it with pasta next time.

Vegan Bible Summer Vegetable Lasagne (2)

Dr HH and I celebrated our two year anniversary in January, so I cooked up a fancy meal for us one evening.  We had the lasagne with summer vegetables, ricotta and pesto, and it was delicious!  It’s only the second lasagne I’ve made since becoming vegan.  I used shop-bought pesto, because I had a lot of other things going on.  I was worried the ricotta wouldn’t work, and I had to add a bit of extra cream to try to get it smoother, but it was perfect in the end.  It was a real treat, worthy of my favourite human being on a special occasion.

Vegan Bible Roast Potato Salad

It was served with the roast potato, grilled courgette, Kalamata olive and fresh herb salad.  I completely forgot that I was meant to be setting aside a courgette for this salad, and chucked it in the lasagne instead.  But still, as a potato salad it worked well.  The potatoes aren’t roasted, they’re fried for a really long time – I’d probably parboil them next time.  Still, it was a great side dish.

Vegan Bible Chocolate Mousse a la Liegeoise (2)

And for dessert, the fanciest-sounding pudding from the book:  chocolate mousse a la liegeoise.  There are some seriously impressive-looking cakes and desserts in the book, and I’d love to have all the utensils, equipment and ingredients needed for some of them.  This one was basically the easiest to make on a busy day – minimal effort to whip them together, and just a few hours chilling in the fridge.  The end result is creamy and decadent.  Its fanciness belies the ease of making it and the simple ingredients list.  And I topped it with some coconut chantilly cream.  Super duper fanciness, and also delicious added to a mug of hot chocolate.

Vegan Bible Chocolate Spoeculoos Layer Cake (5)

Vegan Bible Chocolate Spoeculoos Layer Cake (3)

Not only was it our anniversary, we also celebrated Dr HH’s birthday in January.  He requested a cake with more than one layer, so I chose the chocolate speculoos layer cake.  You may notice some differences between its photograph in the book and the cake I actually produced.  One difference is easily explained: I cut down from three layers to two, as we’re only a two-person household and don’t need to over-indulge.  The other differences lead me to believe that the photographed cake is following a completely different recipe.  The batter was not as liquid as I’d expect in a cake batter – it had to be spread around the tin.  The recipe calls for a 25cm tin and mine was only 20cm, and the batter barely covered it.  So how did they get the thick, fluffy layers in the photograph?  And don’t get me started on the speculoos cream – how does theirs look the colour of chocolate when it doesn’t contain as much as a pinch of cocoa?  As Dr HH reassured me while I wailed about its disastrous appearance, it’s all about the taste.  And it was indeed delicious.  But I feel like it’s not really the cake that was advertised.

Vegan Bible Coconut Raspberry Scones (2)

On a happier note, the raspberry and coconut scones were sublime!  I love baking, but haven’t procured many tins yet in Prague, which means anything that can be made on a baking tray is automatically a winner.  I couldn’t get my hands on either fresh or frozen raspberries, so I had to make do with a bag of frozen mixed berries and pick out anything attractively red.  They smelt so good when they were baking, and it took all of my will power not to devour them immediately from the oven!

Vegan Bible Chocolate Chip Cookies (2)

What else can you make on a baking tray?  Cookies!  The oat, chocolate and pecan cookies were oaty, chocolaty, delicious.  They’re pretty soft, so if you prefer crunchy biscuits these ones may not be for you.

Even though I got a lot of use from this book, I’d give it a mixed review.  Why?  Well, I wasn’t keen on the organisation of the book.  I like simple sections:  Breakfast, Soup, Mains, etc.  This book has five sections:

  • Discovering plant-based proteins
  • Substituting dairy products and eggs
  • Cooking vegetables
  • Gourmet recipes
  • Cooking for every occasion

That’s not really how I plan my meals, so I found it quite hard work.  The index also made the book tricky to navigate:  there’s an ingredients index and an alphabetical index, and whichever one I looked at first came up empty.  For example, the oat, chocolate and pecan cookies are not listed under cookies, or oats, or pecans.  It could have been made much easier to follow.

Also, some of the ingredients are a bit odd.  What, for example, is lupin flour?  As I use a lot of American cookbooks, I’m experienced at making educated guesses and substitutions, but it can be a bit off-putting.  And then there are a few mistakes in the book, like the banana scone recipe that doesn’t contain bananas, or the chocolate speculoos cake photo that is clearly not from this recipe.

I like most of the things I’ve made from it, but a lot of them were quite unremarkable.  There are still more things that I’d like to try, especially for fancier occasions, but I think I’d hesitate to recommend it to people as it’s not as accessible as it could be.  Only for cookbook fanatics, I’d say.

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Vegan in Dresden: Falscher Hase

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My students were unimpressed when I told them I was going to Brno last September.  They were much more encouraging about my daytrip to Dresden in November.  I eagerly asked them for suggestions.  “Shopping!” they all cried eagerly.  “Primark!  It’s so cheap,” they specified.  “Ok, I probably won’t go shopping,” I admitted, “so what else is there?”  Blank stares.  But it turns out there is plenty to do there, and a wealth of vegan eateries too.  We were planning on spending the afternoon wandering around the sights in the Altstadt, so we needed a hearty lunch, and that’s exactly what we got.

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Falscher Hase is a nice, cosy little cafe in the Neustadt.  The food is anything but little, though.  It’s not an extensive menu (usually a sign of quality), but it has four different burgers and they caught our attention.  Burgers are available either regular size in a sesame bun, or XXL in Turkish flatbread.  We had to get the XXL, as we needed sustenance for the afternoon and there are no chips on the menu.  And the burgers were indeed huge!  Dr HH had the Satan burger:  a seitan patty with tomato and chilli sauce.  He said it could have been spicier, but was generally delicious.

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I had the soy burger, which had a large rectangular patty with a real intriguing texture.  Usually I like all the flavour to be in the patty because I pick out all the garnish, but this time I loved the onions in BBQ sauce on top.  It was a messy burger to eat: I’m talking sauce running down the chin and hands.  Only eat this in front of someone you are not ashamed to make a mess with.  But it was so, so good!

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I was not remotely hungry after this beast, but as a general rule, if I see a vegan waffle, I eat a vegan waffle.  So Dr HH and I split the waffle plate, which handily came ready to be shared.  The waffles were a little flat, but were still delicious.  The cream was great, as were the sugary nuts, but I wasn’t really bothered about the applesauce.  Give me chocolate sauce any day!

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Unsurprisingly, this was enough to keep us fuelled for an afternoon of exploring.  We worked off some of the calories by climbing the tower or the Kreuzkirche and looking over the city.  We enjoyed the Frauenkirche, the Balcony of Europe, Zwinger palace and the Fuerstenzug Frieze.  And, my students were delighted to hear, we even had time to pop into TK Maxx.

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Vegan in the Lake District

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Despite being a northerner, I had never been to the Lake District until last summer.  When we decided to quit our jobs and move to Prague, an obvious highlight was the fact that we could actually have a summer holiday first (Dr HH is a school teacher, so those six weeks of summer are the only time he doesn’t have a mountain of stuff to do; my old job had a strict ‘no time-off in the summer holidays’ policy.  Boo!).  We couldn’t afford our dream exploration of Japan, so we planned a few trips around the UK as a way to bid a fond farewell.  We spent a week in Cornwall, then three days in the Lakes.

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Usually Dr HH and I are all about Airbnb, but this time we decided to splash out on our accommodation, the all-vegan Fox Hall B&B near Kendal.  It was quite small, but very welcoming.  As you may deduce from the decor, we were staying in the Sunflower Room.  It was a bright, airy room, and the bathroom was stocked with vegan shower gel and handwash, which is always a good sign.  It’s possible to order an evening meal in advance, so we had done that the day before and ate almost as soon as we arrived.

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There’s quite an extensive menu, so it was difficult to choose.  We both opted for soups to start:  parsnip and lemon for Dr HH and mushroom for me.  The former was zingy, but needed a bit more seasoning.  The latter was a bit watery, but nice.

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For the mains, Dr HH couldn’t turn down a chance to eat the fanciest food known to humankind:  a chestnut croute.  He found it very good, but a wee bit small.  Fortunately, we could help ourselves to lots of veg, gravy and roasties.  I gambled on some pancakes, which were nice but a little watery from the spinach, which was a shame as it diluted the flavoursome tomato sauce a bit.

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The dessert was the best round, which is exactly as it should be!  Dr HH had the chocolate orange gateau, which was gigantic.  He reported that it was moist, sweet, tasty and good.  I had the chocolate sponge pudding, which was also huge.  And chocolate custard!  Oh, I was happy.  I wish I could have ordered seconds without appearing a total glutton.  It was £15 each for three courses, which isn’t bad.  It was good home-cooking, and a really enjoyable, relaxed meal.  We loved it!

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I’ve already written about the excellent breakfasts we enjoyed there.  I’ll also add that the hosts are really accommodating and welcoming, and there’s lots of information about local walks and activities.  We were advised to go to Grizedale Forest for a walk, so we did that on our second day, amidst a few downpours.  We meandered along underneath the Go Ape! course overhead, and followed a few different trails to find some of the exciting sculptures dotted throughout the forest.

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When we found this foxy fellow, we stopped and picnicked on our holiday staple, Lucky Stars.  After we had exhausted ourselves, we hopped back in the car and over to Ambleside for an evening meal.

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Zeffirelli’s is a cinema/jazz bar/restaurant, and it looks quite fancy – this was a little worrying as we arrived in our scruffy hiking clothes.  Fortunately, we were not the only ones slumming it a bit.  It was a big restaurant, but it really filled up, so booking might be a good idea during summer.  Vegan options are clearly marked on the menu, and there are quite a few of them.  Despite the summer weather, I wanted this more festive meal:  pecan and chestnut wellington with mash, gravy and veg.  It was sensational!  Everything had depth of flavour, and the pastry was especially well cooked.

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Alas, there are only two vegan dessert options, and one of them is sorbet.  That left me with the summer pudding, which isn’t a bad thing to be left with, in fairness.  It wasn’t really as elegant as the one I had in The Waiting Room a couple of years ago, but it was fruity, and delicious with some soya cream.  Zeffirelli’s gets a bonus point for marking vegan wines on the menu.  And for its good service, too.

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On our last day we breakfasted at the B&B again, then drove home via Ulverston, where we walked up the hill and then went for a delicious afternoon tea in Gillam’s Tea Room.

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I’m hoping to return to the Lakes next summer, and I’d love to stay at Fox Hall again.  There are a few other veggie eateries I had my eye on as well, so it would be nice to give them a try too.  The holiday really inspired me to be more outdoorsy, and since then I’ve been doing a bit of hiking and trying to build up the courage to try Go Ape!  It’s not easy to do such things when you’re afraid of heights and…well, most things, really.  But I’m trying!  Hopefully this summer there’ll be a follow up post with pictures of me climbing and zip-wiring and who knows what else!?

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Vegan in Prague: Belzepub

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When I’m looking for vegan eateries in a city, Happy Cow is always my first port of call.  However, Dr HH frequently berates me for focussing on the 100% vegan options on there, rather than looking at all the options.  He rightly points out that ignoring places that serve both meat and vegan meals would have meant us missing out on some of the great food we’ve had before.  I argue that I’d always prefer to give my money to a meat-free eatery, but as we’re going to be in Prague for a while we’ve been checking out the merely veg-friendly options too.

One of those is Belzepub, which isn’t far at all from where we live.  We were a little hesitant to visit, because it allows smoking indoors (this is very strange and off-putting after getting so used to the smoking ban in the UK).  We decided we could only risk it early in the evening (it opens at 5pm and is a pub rather than a restaurant) so as to beat the smoky crowds.  This was a good move, as there was only one couple smoking in there, but still, it had that stale smoke smell which doesn’t really do much for the appetite.

So it’s just as well the food was delicious and the service was exceptional!  The barman spoke perfect English, and there was an English menu to boot.  The burgers come in meaty, vegetarian or vegan varieties, meaning there are three choices for vegans:  the classic veggie burger, chilli or Moroccan.  I went for Moroccan, because it had hummus.  It was a huge burger – to my shame, I had to tackle it with a knife and fork.  And it was full because of the actual burger patty, not because of rubbish filler, which isn’t always the case.  The bread bun was toasted (bonus points), and the patty was really good – crispy around the outside, and tasty and soft in the centre!  I wish it had been a bit more Moroccan spiced; the hummus was great, and there were some lovely chunky chickpeas in there too, but a bit more flavour would have really pushed it to the top level.  Next time I’m planning on trying the chilli burger, which definitely wasn’t lacking in seasoning – Dr HH had the vegetarian variety and isn’t sure I’ll be able to take the spiciness!

The burgers are served without accompaniments, and we ordered onion rings rather than fries as a side.  One serving was enough for us to share along with the substantial burgers, but the onion rings seemed like they were out of a packet rather than home made, though we could be wrong.  They were nice, but not quite spectacular – they lacked that lovely light batter than makes the perfect onion ring.

Prague has a plethora of raw restaurants and numerous Asian fast food places, thanks to the Loving Hut chain, but this is the first place I’ve encountered with proper pub grub.  While the smokiness will prevent me from becoming a regular, it’s definitely one that I’ll be back to.

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Vegan in Budapest

Budapest 2015 Day 2 (57)

After three weeks of holiday, I’m dragging myself back to work this morning and feeling rather unhappy about the situation.  So allow me to cast my mind back to those happier times three weeks ago.  Before flying home to the UK for Christmas, I hopped on the train to Budapest for a few days.  Budapest is a wonderful place, not least in December when it’s all festive and cold.  It’s the classic European city, where you can just walk for miles and gape at all the spectacular buildings.  And, like so many big European cities, you can get lots of good vegan food too.

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We kicked things off at Napfenyes Restaurant, which has an exciting, all-vegan menu including some traditional Hungarian dishes.  If you hate feeling that you’re missing out on the local cuisine when you travel as a vegan, this place would be perfect for you.  I agonised over the menu, and eventually chose the stuffed cabbage.  The cabbage leaf served as a fresh spring roll wrapper, and the filling was really flavoursome.  It was delicious by itself, but it had lots of accompaniments.  There were two nice hotdog sausages, a seitan cutlet and some cooling yoghurt on top.  There was also lots of sauerkraut, which it turns out I really don’t like.  Nevertheless, it was a fantastic dish.

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Dr HH had the Hungarian oatcakes.  The oatcakes themselves were salty and crunchy, and were served with shredded cabbage, potatoes, mayo and parsley.  He declared it a bit dry, but generally good.

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An enviable cake counter stands at the entrance to the restaurant – it’s perfectly acceptable just to go in for a cake, rather than a full meal.  Everything looked extraordinarily tempting, but we eventually managed to narrow it down.  Dr HH got the chestnut cake at the top, and absolutely raved about the creaminess and layers.  He said the flavour was perfect and it was not too sweet.  My choice of ‘Snickers-like’ cake, on the other hand, was incredibly sweet – too much even for me.  The layers of sponge and cream were nutty and delicious, but there was just too much sugar.

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It’s also possible to get treats to take away, so for the next two mornings we breakfasted on muffins and apple pie.  We were binge-watching 30 Rock at the time, so any reference to the word muffin meant that we had the song ‘Muffin Top’ going round in our heads constantly (…and here it is again).  It was worth it though, because there muffin tops were indeed all that.  The apple pie had good flavours and a nice texture too, crunchy on the top and bottom.

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While Napfenyes was big and bright, Kosmosz was a cool, dark, underground eatery.  It was fantastic!  The service was excellent and there was an English menu too.  It’s quite a small menu, which is usually an encouraging sign.  I went for this seitan stew.  The seitan  was really flavoursome and smoky, and was served with some kind of noodly-pasta which was a bit bland on its own, but nice mixed with the seitan.  I would recommend it.

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Dr HH had the bean burger, which he thought was nice but not mind-blowing.  It was too big to be eaten with the hands, which is always disappointing, but on the plus side the little potato wedges were very good.

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The best part, of course, was dessert.  There are only two options and we chose the layered pancake.  The Hungarians love their layers, eh?  It was like a slice of cake with all these tiny layers, smothered in rich, dark chocolate sauce.  Oh, it was beautiful!  We just shared one slice, but I wish I’d had room for my own piece.

Elixir

The next day we ate at Elixir, which was not quite what I’d expected.  It’s described on Happy Cow as a bistro, but it was primarily a takeaway with only a bench for eating in.  Fortunately, we were the only people eating in.  Also, the Happy Cow page shows elegant looking plates of food, whereas in reality it was cafeteria style, with a few vats of different dishes.  We chose three things to fill our little pots:  I had buckwheat, gingery lentils and some potato cakes.  Dr HH had millet with vegetables instead of buckwheat, which was probably a better choice.  Everything was delicious and really filling, plus it was a nice cheap meal.  The chef was really friendly and enthusiastic about vegan food, and explained in perfect English how it all worked.  I’d really recommend this place, either to eat in or takeaway – just make sure you’re not expecting a fancy little bistro!

Napfenyes Bakery (1)

Napfenyes Bakery (3)

In need of dessert, we headed for Napfenyes Cukraszda, a bakery connected to the restaurant we’d visited on our first night.  It had a different array of cakes, and seemed to focus more on cheesecakes, so that’s what we had.  I had the banana and chocolate slice, and it was deliciously creamy.  However, the base was too soft:  what do you have to do to get a good crunchy base?!  Dr HH said the caramel cheesecake was creamy and orangey, but not spectacular.  I preferred the pastry counter in the main restaurant to be honest, but if you’re in this neck of the woods, then why not?

Napfenyes Bakery

We were both more impressed by the breakfast goods that we got to take away.  The poppy seed roll at the bottom here was nice, but the chocolate-coated loaf cake was the star of the show, really fruity and moist.

96 Zen (1)

96 Zen (2)

96 Zen (3)

We needed a bigger evening meal, so we went to 96 Zen, where all the food is vegan (but the bubble tea is not).  Again, we needed some explanation:  this time we chose a plate size and were allowed a certain number of sides and mains to fill it.  We got 1 main and 3 sides, and were very satisfied indeed.  We both had the deep-fried sushi, fried rice and deep-fried mushrooms as our sides – the sushi was exciting, but probably not as good as normal sushi.  The deep-fried mushrooms were spectacular!  They were so crunchy and salty, I could have eaten a whole plate of them.  To accompany the rice, I chose BBQ seitan which was delicious, and Dr HH chose the coconut tofu curry and also enjoyed it.  We also shared a little portion of dumplings, because we cannot resist them, and of course they were good too.  The staff were incredibly friendly and, once again, explained the system in perfect English.  They also blasted the food in the microwave before serving, as it had been sitting out at the counter.  However, it was still only lukewarm.  Nevertheless, this was good fast food and really hit the spot, and I would go back in a second.

Hummus Bar (1)

Hummus Bar (2)

Hummus Bar

To fuel our flight back to the UK, we went to one branch of Hummus Bar.  And it definitely kept us going until we got home!  The branch we went to was really close to St Stephen’s Basilica, and it was one of the ones that also serves meat- there are two all-vegetarian branches too.  It’s a big place with fast, English-friendly service, and we got complimentary mint tea on arrival.  Dr HH ordered the falafel plate, which is 10 falafel balls with two sides of your choice:  he got chips and hummus.  It also came with some bread and two spicy dips.  I ordered the hummus plate with falafel, which was a big bowl of hummus topped with ten falafel balls and served with another gigantic piece of bread.  I think mine was the winner!  The falafel was excellent:  small, crispy and tasty.  The hummus was also good.  Ah, it was a feast!

Budapest 2015 Day 2 (30)

There were a few other restaurants I would have liked to visit as well, but hopefully I’ll have another chance.  The December weather was cold and foggy, so it would be nice to see the city in the summer sunshine.  As cold as we were, we walked and walked, climbing from the Chain Bridge to the Buda Castle and enjoying the hazy view and spectacular buildings.  We also strolled along the river on the Pest side and enjoyed more of the impressive buildings.  One of the highlights was the trip to Szechenyi Thermal Baths.  It was -1C, but the outdoor pools were heated to 37C.  It was beautiful, bobbing around in the toasty water, looking up at the dark night sky, watching the steam blow across the surface and then suddenly clear.  Whatever the temperature, I would heartily recommend these – though hopefully they’ll be a bit cooler if we visit one summer!

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2015 Hits & Misses

Day Three Falmouth (33)

A few years ago I commented to my brother:  “Hasn’t this year gone quickly!”, to which he calmly replied:  “No.  This is just the normal speed of life.  Get over it.”  Nevertheless, let me say again that this year has flown by.  I have achieved some great things (read 50 books as part of the 2015 reading challenge, blogged every day in September for Vegan MoFo, finished second in the pub quiz).  I have also moved to another country, travelled to some beautiful places and, of course, eaten some exceptional food.  Here you will find my five favourite eateries of 2015.  Not everything is plain sailing though, so I’m going to include some of the culinary low points too.

Hit #1:  Koffee ende Koeck, Amsterdam

Amsterdam Koffie ende Koeck (3)

In 2015 I had eleven vegan afternoon teas.  Given that afternoon tea is such a British institution, I was surprised to find that my favourite was the only overseas one, at this lovely cafe in Amsterdam.  It was not a classic afternoon tea, but everything was absolutely sublime and the service was so friendly.  Also, I remember it being a lovely spring afternoon, in the good mood of a holiday, just across from a beautiful park.  Perfection!

Miss #1:  Alchemist Garden, Amsterdam

Amsterdam Alchemist Garden (2)

Let’s stay in Amsterdam for the first disaster of the year:  breakfast at raw vegan cafe Alchemist Garden.  Service was painfully slow, despite us being the only customers, and unfortunately the food just wasn’t great.  They’d run out of granola the day before, presumably, and not bothered making any more for the morning shift.  Maybe there was something going on behind the scenes, but it was pretty disappointing.

Hit #2:  Cafe Ginger, Paris

Paris Cafe Ginger (1)

We ate some very fancy food in Paris, but this simpler cafe was probably my favourite place.  I don’t always eat the healthiest food on holiday, so it’s nice when a plate like this comes along with a million little salads which are all refreshing and delicious.  Top tip:  reserve a table if you go here, they were absolutely packed when we went.

Miss #2:  Yamm!, Vienna

Vienna 2015 321

Yamm! looks like a great place for vegetarians.  For vegans, alas, it is not so amazing.  I may never get over my breakfast disappointment there:  if your menu promises two vegan pastries, you have to deliver.  Bread buns will not suffice.

Hit #3:  Pirata, Vienna

Pirata Sushi (1)

I love sushi!  This year I was bold enough to make my own on several occasions, which is just as well because I didn’t have it in restaurants that often.  This all-vegan sushi restaurant in Vienna was fantastic.  There were lots of different kinds, all of them delicious.  It was also a cozy little place, pretty quiet in the early evening, and a nice laid back place to eat after a day on the go.

Miss #3:  Brass Monkey, Vienna

Brass Monkey (1)

Another broken promise, another breakfast disappointment in Vienna.  This time the promise came from Facebook and spoke of breakfast waffles.  The reality was waffles in the afternoon, and only one vegan baked good in the morning:  the cake above (delicious, but not really breakfast).

Hit #4:  Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen, Manchester

Lotus Vegetarian Kitchen (5)

I’ve had a lot of good vegan Chinese food, but never anything better than my old local in Manchester.  About half of the menu is vegan, and I’ve never had anything there I disliked – this is largely because I usually order the same things again and again because they’re just too good to resist.  It’s quite out of the way, but well worth the bus ride from the city centre.

Miss #4:  LoVeg, Prague

Loveg (2)

Let me start by saying that I’ve also had one of the top ten meals of the year at LoVeg:  their traditional Czech dishes (main course and dessert) are truly impressive.  Alas, the burgers leave a lot to be desired – they are flat, flimsy and soft.  So, I would encourage all visitors to Prague to eat there, and I will definitely take my guests there in the future.  Just stay away from the burgers!

Hit#5:  Wildebeest, Falmouth

Day Three Falmouth (35)

This was the only all-vegan eatery we visited in Cornwall, and it was a great find.  Again, it was helped by the fact that I was on holiday and it was a beautifully sunny day, but the food was top notch regardless of any other happy circumstances.  The savoury food was delicious too (pictured up top), but this cake was spectacular and probably the highlight of the meal.

Miss #5:  Odd Bar, Manchester

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I always see a lot of love for the Odd vegan breakfast on the Manchester Vegan Facebook page, and it just baffles me.  While some elements of it (namely the sausages) are sublime, I think this is a plate of food that would be deemed not good enough to be served to non-vegans.  The tofu is unseasoned, the toast is served without spread and there is no non-dairy milk for hot drinks.  Must try harder, Odd!

I don’t yet have any travel plans for 2016, but I’m sure there’ll be plenty of good food to see me through the year.  Happy New Year!

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