Vegan in Prague: Balarama


After spending three weeks in the UK over Christmas, I had mixed feelings about coming back to Prague just over a week ago.  It’s been incredibly cold all week (-14C, which is unheard of to a city-dwelling Brit), I’ve diced with death slipping on the icy walkways, and, let’s face it, nobody likes going back to work.  On the plus side, going out for food no longer entails spending about £6 on public transport:  there are lots of good eateries within walking distance, even in this horrible weather.


One such place is Balarama, a cheap and cheerful Indian restaurant about a two minute walk from our flat.  At the bar by the front door you just ask for a medium or large plate (medium is more than enough, even for a glutton like me – all of these photos show the medium version), and if you’re vegan, let them know.

We’ve been three times, and I’d say the food is about 90% vegan.  On our visit this week the only non-vegan dish was a salad, and they actually had a vegan alternative waiting in the fridge.  Another time I got a big fried fritter to replace the non-vegan item, so there’s definitely no missing out.  The staff are always knowledgeable about vegan options, and they always speak flawless English too.


It’s one of those places where they just assemble you a plate of everything they’ve got, so there’s no choosing like in a buffet. Fortunately, the food is usually good and very hearty.  Generally there is a soup, salad and curry with rice.  There’s also usually an apple chutney, though we’re yet to ascertain if it’s meant to be sweet or savoury (it’s got a bit of a spicy kick to it).  And if you’re lucky, there’ll be a little portion of halva included too.


You can pay more for some fried, crispy goods on the side – definitely worth it, in my opinion, as these extras are usually my favourite part.  Bread and papadums are also available.


The Czechs generally love a poppy seed baked good, and you can usually find them here in Balarama.  They are vegan (but do check, just in case anything has changed), and are a nice little treat – assuming you still have any room after all that food!


The food isn’t the best Indian food you’ll ever try. I think it’s well-seasoned, but Dr HH feels it’s nowhere near spicy enough.  It’s not food to rave about, but Balarama is certainly enjoyable with its fast, filling food and friendly service.  It’s also cheap: last week we paid less than £9 for 2 medium plates and 2 crispy sides, and we could barely move for the rest of the night. Cheap and cheerful, indeed, and highly recommended for anyone on a budget who wants to fill up as cheaply as possible.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

MiniMoFo: New Vegan Products


The first MiniMoFo of 2017 is all about trying new things: new cuisine, new ingredients, new equipment…or simply new (to me) products in the UK.

Despite living abroad, most of my social media is full of exciting vegan finds from the UK, so it was nice to be back on home shores to try some of them at long last.  These products aren’t brand new, but it was my first chance to try them and I was very, very excited.

1.Tesco Churros


These are accidentally vegan and may have been around in 2015 as well, but this was the first time I went to a Tesco big enough to stock them.  They were in the freezer with the party food, which was being blocked by a ditherer, and Dr HH had to hold me back from knocking her out of the way and running to the tills cackling gleefully with my precious loot.


They would have been worth it:  they were delicious!  They just needed heating in the oven, and then sprinkling with a sachet of cinnamon sugar.  The filling was lovely and Nutella-esque.  Dr HH insisted that we share these with his parents, who had just returned from their first trip to Spain but had never had churros.  They were a hit with everyone.

2.Nutcrafter Creamery Cheese


After I read Jojo’s review of this cheese over at Vegan in Brighton, I knew I had to try some.  I asked my mum to order me one kind, so of course, she got me three.


The Indulgent Fresh Chive Chevre Style was very good and herby.


I liked The Essential – Spreadable Frawmage, though it burst out of the jar when I opened it (they had all been frozen and defrosted).  This wasn’t as flavoursome as the others, but I really enjoyed it on crackers.


And, saving the best for last, The Rebellious – Aged Roasted Garlic.  This has so much flavour, I wish I had an endless supply to it.  It was absolutely beautiful.  The only thing that stopped me from eating the whole thing in one sitting was a sense of decency and shame.

Vegan cheese can be a bit of a minefield, and I’m quite cautious with it.  This is the only time I’ve actually sat down to eat cheese and crackers like I did in my pre-vegan days, and I enjoyed it so much.  For cooking, I would stick with Violife and other brands you can get quite easily in supermarkets nowadays.  But if you’re trying to put together a vegan cheeseboard, or you want to convince non-vegans that they could survive dairy-free, then this is your top choice.  It’s the big cheese.

3.  Vegolino


I waited patiently to be in the same country as these chocolates.  They were worth the wait. They are the Italian gianduja chocolates:  hazelnut and chocolate, that winning combination.  Vego bars are generally held up as the best vegan milk chocolate, and this is their new spin-off.  Of course, they are delicious.

4.Sweet Revolution Instant Hot Chocolate


Instant Hot Chocolate is quite an elusive product in the vegan world, as so many brands contain powdered milk.  In fact, this is the only vegan one I know of.  It’s not cheap (around £5 a bag, depending on where you order from), but it’s ok for an occasional splurge.

You can mix the powder with milk or hot water, depending on how creamy you like it.  I tried both, and the milk was obviously better, but both were fine.  The hot chocolate came out with a lovely hint of coconut which made it extra delicious.  I’d say it’s much better than the non-vegan instant hot chocolate powders in the supermarket…but at this price, it really should be!

5.Peanot Cups



I’m a fiend for peanut butter and chocolate, it’s just such a good combination.  I’ve had a few different kinds of vegan peanut butter cups, and these ones are a great option.  The jumbo cups are probably better, but the little ones made a great cinema snack and would probably be great for baking with.  Bonus for anyone with a nut allergy:  they don’t contain actual nuts!

6.Fry’s Battered Prawns


I don’t have much experience with Fry’s products, though they’re now quite readily available in Holland & Barrett and some supermarkets too.  I really love fake prawns in Asian dishes, so I was keen to try these.  They’re not as good as the ones I was thinking of, and in fact they seemed a little Quorn like in texture, but I enjoyed them nevertheless. I don’t think they’d fool anyone into believing they were the real deal, so I might try some Asian supermarkets next time and try to find something more convincing.

Have you tried any exciting new products lately? Are there any other incredible UK products I should try to get my hands on next time I’m home?

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

2016 Hits & Misses


What a year, eh?  At least we’ll always have good vegan food!  In no particular order, here are my five hits and misses of the year.  (You can check out my 2015 post here.)

Hit #1: Edamame Vegan Sushi, Warsaw


This meal made my birthday the best one ever, it was such a delicious feast!  My mum, Dr HH and I shared various sushi rolls and each one was flavoursome and, let’s face it, beautiful.  I believe it was my mum’s first sushi ever, and it was the best I’ve ever had.   This should be at the top of everyone’s itinerary in Warsaw.

Miss #1: Bar Celoneta, Barcelona


€11 for a few fake prawns?  They did not meet my expectations.  This bar was generally a little overpriced (and they failed to put the air con on in heat of over 30C), but these prawns really took the biscuit.  I was expecting them to be gigantic, maybe battered or breadcrumbed and fried, full of flavour…but they were basically just an obscenely-priced portion of the prawns you can get pretty cheaply in Asian vegan restaurants.

Hit #2:  Ohlala, Berlin


I was devastated to hear that Ohlala was closing in September this year, but considering the general rubbishness of 2016, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  It was always the first place on my itinerary on a trip to Berlin, and was home to the best desserts I’ve ever had.  At least I got to visit it twice this year, and both times I had one of these delicious tresors.  I will remember them forever.

Miss #2:  Kopps, Berlin


Don’t get me wrong, the brunch here was glorious.  The policy on tap water was not.  I wrote a full, bitter review here.

Hit #3:  Leckereienfabrik, Berlin


In May we treated ourselves to a rather last-minute trip to Berlin, and ended up staying in a different part of town to usual due to limited Airbnb options.  Happily, that led us to discover this place, which was just around the corner.  We ordered the breakfast platter for two, and it was absolutely divine!  We also got a jar of chocolate blackberry jam to take home with us, and I used it when I recreated this spread at home during the summer:


We try to visit new places every time we go to Berlin, but this place has definitely earned a return!

Miss #3:  Vega, Madrid


This all-vegan restaurant had pretty good reviews on Happy Cow, but we were underwhelmed.  Service was really slow, despite it not being busy and us having a reservation, and the food was not as adventurous as we would have liked.  My noodle dish was ok, but Dr HH was bitterly disappointed by the little slivers of seitan he was served.  There were definitely better options in Madrid…

Hit #4:  B13, Madrid


…like this one!  We had a lot of tapas during our fortnight in Spain, but nowhere was cheaper or better than this exciting little bar in Madrid.  The omelette was sensational, the little seitan nuggets were delicious, and we got to try calimari!  Oh, and the wine was really cheap too.

Miss #4:  Avocado, Gdansk


I feel a little guilty about including this place, because it seems like they were trying to do a good thing.  But truthfully, we just didn’t have a great experience and wouldn’t go back (except maybe for cake).  As I mentioned in the original post, the meal was a little uninspired and the place was so crowded it was impossible to relax and enjoy the experience.

Hit #5:  Moment, Prague


If you read my Vegan MoFo post about Prague, you may have noticed that I rather enjoy the cakes from Moment, a lovely all-vegan cafe.  You may be surprised to learn that I am also quite partial to the savoury options there too.  Dr HH and I usually pay a visit every Saturday for a tasty lunch.  We can never quite decide what the best dish is:  the bagel?  The omelette?  The shawarma?  This is a fairly recent addition, and we hope it’s here to stay!

Miss #5:  Mr Hau, Prague


Prague has a plethora of cheap and cheerful Asian vegan eateries.  This, unfortunately, is not one of the better ones.  We ordered from the menu (they also do a pay-by-weight buffet, like their competition), and were underwhelmed with the food.  The gyoza barely had any filling, the sauce in the Cantonese special was watery and bland, and these seafood slices were swimming in an insanely dilly sauce.  All in all, the flavours just weren’t there.  If you’re looking for a better spot in Prague, I’d recommend Veganland.

If you have any vegan hits and misses from the year, I’d love to hear them!

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Vegan Christmas 2016: Christmas in Manchester


I’ve already shared my build up to Christmas in Prague, and now here is the second leg:  Christmas in Manchester!  Happily, my first day back in the UK coincided with the VON Christmas Fair in the city centre (catered by Teatime Collective).  I celebrated my return to Manchester with a delicious hot chocolate and a wander round the fair.


The Forgot the Eggs! stall was the real highlight, and the free samples lured me in.  I don’t remember having vegan meringue before, so I was keen to try a little bite.  It was amazing!  So I had no choice but to buy a little bag of them.  They were absolutely perfect meringues.


We also got a couple of these sticky toffee cupcakes to takeaway.  They were absolutely perfect cupcakes!


And we bought some chocolate too!  The guy from Solkiki also had loads of free samples and patiently talked us through them, explaining how the beans differed and how the quality was above and beyond what we usually find in the shops. He was extremely passionate and knowledgeable, and the samples were very good indeed, so of course we bought a few bars to take home.  It’s not cheap (£5 a bar), but definitely a good treat.


Speaking of chocolate:  even though I didn’t get back to the UK until almost midnight on 16th, my mum still had a advent calendar waiting for me.  Truthfully, the chocolate wasn’t the best, but everyone loves an advent calendar.


And I finished the one Dr HH had made for me as well.  Look at this jigsaw!  And the daily sweets were really delicious. He is the master of homemade advent calendars.


Indulgence was my priority this Christmas, so I treated myself to a mixed Christmas box of macarons from Floral Frosting Bakery.  You need to follow these guys on Instagram:  I believe it’s currently impossible to shop online for these vegan macarons, you just need to wait for Charis to announce that there are a few boxes up for grabs and hope that you can snaffle them before anyone else.


I was really pleased that I managed to get these, and that Charis could be flexible with delivery as I got home quite close to Christmas.  Each macaron was a different flavour:  candy cane, mince pie, mulled wine, peppermint mocha, gingerbread and snickerdoodle.  The flavours were fantastic!  The macarons were actually a little crisper than non-vegan ones I had back in the day, but I think that’s because it took them a while to arrive due to the Christmas postal chaos.  I will definitely order more in the future, because they were such a treat.  You can also get international delivery, but it starts getting quite pricey.


Onto some homemade food now:  as always, I made a Christmas Eve Party Tea for my mum and me.  I made the taco fiesta potato crisps from Oh She Glows, and they were a big hit!  There are also some mushroom and cheese tarts, which my mum raved about.  I was a bit worried as they were topped with grated mozzarella-style Violife, and vegan cheese can be a bit of a gamble – fortunately, we both loved the taste.  And there are some pizza pinwheels made with Linda McCartney sausages – they were delicious, and I’d actually like to make the sauce again to use as a bolognese.  Both of these were from the party food supplement with last month’s edition of Vegan Life.  Finally, a few samosas and spring rolls contributed by Dr HH’s mum.  There were lots of leftovers, as always, but it was delicious.


On Christmas Day we started with almond milk French toast from Street Vegan.  It’s only the second time I’ve made this dish, but I should definitely make it more often:  it’s pretty fast and easy, and definitely has the wow factor.  I used orange instead of grapefruit for the coulis, and I think it was a good festive touch. (Also, I hate grapefruit.)


What of the presents?  Well, most importantly, I got Isa’s new book.  I can’t tell you how much I’d been looking forward to this!  It looks every bit as good as I’d hoped.


And I got this cookbook as well, which is organised by colour.  Unsurprisingly, it looks pretty healthy and I’m eager to get some good fruit and veg in me in January – this will be my cookbook of the month.


All year I’ve seen people raving on social media about these Harper’s Candles, so I was very happy to get this Christmas Past one.  It smells so good!  I’ll definitely be a repeat customer.


Dr HH treated me to this T-shirt from our favourite cafe in Prague, Moment.  You can see their name and “Vegan Strong” written in there.  I love it!


And I got this nice little gift set from The Dirty Vegans.  I mostly wanted the snowman, because look how cute he is!  We’re travelling back to Prague with only hand luggage, so I am on a mission to use as much of this as possible before setting off.  It’s going well!


The snowman was a fun little bath melt that left me both fragrant and glittery – two of my favourite things to be.


And the jolly holly bath truffle was good fun, because it fizzled away to reveal a little gingerbread man soap!  This gift set also contained a vanilla and coffee bean bath melt and a rich almond oil soap bar.


I got a couple of separate products from them as well.  This sweet satsuma shampoo and body wash smells incredible!  I’m trying to use up as much as possible because I won’t be able to make it with me in my hand luggage next week.


And one more bar of soap which I should be able to cram into my bag: candy floss and mallow soap bar.  It smells incredible in the wrapper, so I can’t wait to get it out and make good use of it!


And finally:  some chocolate!  We spent Christmas Day with my brother and his in-laws, and they kindly took the trouble to find me a vegan treat.  I hadn’t heard of this company before, but a look at the vegan page on their website suggests they really should be on my radar. Vegan sea-salted caramel sauce?  Yes, please!  They pop up at a lot of markets in the Manchester area, particularly Levenshulme Market (which is generally pretty good for vegans), so if you’re a north-west vegan, definitely keep an eye out.

As always, I’ve had a lovely Christmas and been fortunate to spend it with my loved ones and an excess of food.  It’s my third vegan Christmas, and I honestly find that it gets easier every time.  Here’s to a cruelty-free 2017!

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Vegan in Manchester: A Teatime Collective Christmas


Merry Christmas, friends!  I hope the festive period is treating you well, and that you are full of food and mirth.

Last year we went for Christmas Dinner at Teatime Collective, Manchester’s best all-vegan establishment.  And it was so good that we went back for more this year.  A lot more, in fact.


First of all, we caught them in Manchester city centre at the VON (Vegan Organic Network) Christmas fair where they had the monopoly on hot food.  I was with two dairy eaters, and all three of us ordered the cheesy potatoes – and all three of us loved them!


Then we visited the cafe itself in Hulme for a proper Christmas dinner.  I’d been patiently waiting for an announcement on social media about evening opening times for Christmas dinner (they’re usually closed in the evening, and it’s reservation only for special events like this), but somehow missed it until it was almost fully booked.  Fortunately, they managed to squeeze us in, and they fed us as well as ever.

We both ordered the caramelised onion, mushroom and cheese tart.  The pastry was lovely, and the mushrooms and onion brought so much flavour.  The cheesy sauce was nice, but didn’t add that much, surprisingly.



For the mains, we each got the proper Christmas dinner with beef wellington and chicken pot pie, the same as last year.  What a gigantic feast! The cauliflower cheese was beautifully creamy, the red cabbage was absolutely sensational, and the chipolatas were very salty and crisp.  We had differing opinions on the potatoes:  mine were all really well-seasoned and perfectly cooked, but Dr HH’s were a little bland and underdone.  The carrots and parsnips were fine, and the sprouts were good – I think my only complaint last year was that the veg was a bit unexciting, so it was definitely a step up this time.

The pie was rather lacking in chicken pieces, or they were too small and soft to give it any good bite, so the wellington was the better option for the main.  There was a huge jug of gravy being passed around too.  We were absolutely stuffed by the end of these plates!


We barely had room for dessert, but somehow, we managed. The sticky toffee pudding from Teatime Collective is one of my all-time-top-five-desserts, and of course it didn’t disappoint this time.  It was everything it should be: sticky, sweet, delicious.


The chocolate peanut butter stack was served with peanut brittle ice cream and comprised two sponges sandwiching some chocolate and peanut butter layers that were possibly freeze-dried:  they were quite hard and almost like compressed powder.  They were a little weird, but chocolate and peanut butter is one of my favourite flavour combinations, so it’s hard to go wrong.

It was £24 for three courses, and we were so full at the end that Dr HH had to roll me to the bus stop, which shows that it was good value for money.  (Other people requested their desserts to take away, but we went to eat.)  I believe there are a few other options in Manchester for a full vegan Christmas dinner, but truthfully, I think I’ll be back at Teatime Collective next year too.  Service is fast and friendly, portions are huge, and everything is tasty (except for Dr HH’s potatoes, apparently).


And I went back to good old Teatime Collective for my actual Christmas dinner too.  As we weren’t eating at home this year, I just needed something easy to make and transfer to my brother’s house.  I spent most of the week leading up to Christmas in the midlands with Dr HH’s family, so I didn’t have a lot of time for food shopping and preparations, so this seemed like an easy option, and more delicious and exciting than just picking something up off the shelf at Holland & Barrett.


It was such a good choice!  On Christmas morning, I just brushed it with milk and popped it in the oven. It was £10, which seems like a good deal considering how gigantic it was.  Yes, this is all for me,


I’m not a complete glutton, so I merely sliced off a bit to take with me.  I forgot to take a picture of the full plate, but rest assured it was a total feast.  And of course, this means I will be eating wellington for the rest of the week!

So, if you are ever in Manchester for Christmas, make sure you see what this wonderful all-vegan establishment is up to.  You can also order cakes, mince pies, and sticky toffee pudding trays for Christmas dinner.  I’m sorely tempted to order the sticky toffee pudding and just sit in my pyjamas eating it straight from the tray with Dr HH – isn’t that what Christmas is all about?!

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

A Vegan Christmas 2016: Pre-Christmas in Prague


In case there was any doubt, I love Christmas.  I’m enjoying it so much that, rather than my usual Christmas post, I’m splitting it up into two different legs:  the build-up when I was in Prague, and the main event now that I’m back in Manchester with my family.


Dr HH has provided me with a homemade advent calendar once again.  This year I have numbered jigsaw pieces and a little treat every day, including these maple candies that I’d never tried before.  (Notice how there are two so I can share with him?  He thinks of everything!)  I’m looking forward to seeing the completed picture on 24th.



These traditional Czech cookies, cukrovi, are so cute and inviting.  Last year we stumbled across some in one of our favourite vegan restaurants, and this year I was over the moon when I saw these boxes in a local vegan shop, World Vegan.  The biscuits were a little softer than I would have liked, but really delicious and festive.  The chocolate sandwiches were especially good.  When I was young we always used to get a box of M&S biscuits every Christmas and I always agonised over which one to have and whether I could get all the good ones before my brother did.  It’s nice to have that variety again.


I also picked up a little 100g box of cukrovi from Puro, one of my favourite cafes in Prague.  I have to say, these were much better than the shop-bought variety:  the biscuits were crunchier, and the fillings were delicious.  Unsurprisingly, the one with the big mountain of chocolatey cream was the highlight.


We’re also lucky in Prague to get a range of Veganz products, and they were out in force at Christmas.  I tried to resist this chocolate bar, but then I thought that life is too short for such nonsense.  I’m glad I came to my senses, because it was really delicious.  The flavour was a little stronger than I’d expected, but that was a good thing – it was so festive.


And these cherry biscuits were just sensational!  They’re those soft, gingerbread ones you get everywhere at Christmas, with a lovely blob of cherry jam in the middle.  Oh, I could have eaten a million of these!


I was pretty giddy when I saw that a veggie Christmas festival (Veggie Vanoce) was coming to Prague in December.  This is a great place to live if you’re a fan of vegfests (as discussed here), and I was hoping that the Christmas twist would provide a chance to try some festive food with a vegan twist – Christmas markets can be sad places for vegans.


It wasn’t really what I’d hoped for, in the sense that there wasn’t really a Christmassy theme to either the food being served or the products on sale.  But as festivals go, it was a good one, and we branched out from our usual festival spots.  Veggie Garden is perhaps the only all-vegan, non-raw restaurant we haven’t been to in Prague yet, but it’s definitely at the top of the list for January based on the quiche we got.  The vegetable one up top had loads going on, as you can see, and was full of flavour.  But the mushroom one was the star of the show.  As Dr HH pointed out, it’s an encouraging colour for a mushroom dish, and it tasted so earthy and savoury.  An excellent start to the festive eating!


We continued with a couple of samosas from Sri Lankan Curry House.  I’ve had curry from their restaurant before and enjoyed it, so it was nice to try some of the crispy wares too.  They were very greasy, but to be honest, I love that.


And then cake time!  We were spoiled for choice at Nebeske Dorticky, but finally Dr HH went for the chocolate and banana cupcake, and I got this lovely gingerbread one.  Both were moist, well-flavoured and had good creamy icing.  We couldn’t have been happier!


And finally, something that I’m enjoying now that I’m home in the UK:  some chocolate decorations for the tree!  I have always loved these, largely because my parents virtually forbade my brother and me from eating them when we were young (apparently eating them too soon in the Christmas period is perilous).  I really missed them in my first two vegan Christmases, so how exciting to have them back again now!  Unfortunately I don’t know the brand as they were just sold in a pot in World Vegan, but I’m very happy to have them,


And now that I’m back in the UK, they are sitting tempting me on the tree!  I hope you all enjoy the build up to Christmas this week.

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

MiniMoFo: Bonbon Chocolate Boutique


MiniMoFo is back and in December it’s all about hot cocoa!  Immediately when I saw this prompt, I thought about this sign in Manchester for Bonbon Chocolate Boutique, one of my favourite places for a little bowl of hot chocolate.  I got back to the UK late last night, and this morning my first stop was this lovely little cafe in the Northern Quarter (the most vegan-friendly area of the city, full of independent shops, cafes and restaurants).


It’s a teeny tiny cafe/shop, with four little tables squeezed in.  This place is famous for their hot chocolate, which comes in several flavours, all of which are vegan.  I’ve had the salted caramel before and absolutely loved it, but this time Mama HH, Dr HH and I all tried something new.  My mum got chocolate orange, with orange zest grated on top.  Dr HH got chilli, which had a really nice kick to it.  I opted for Christmas spice, which tasted just like Christmas, and also had some orange on top.  Delicious!  We were all very satisfied.


On the shelves of the cafe you can find lots of chocolates and baked goods.  Not everything is vegan, but a lot of the chocolates are (including some Booja Booja truffles), and increasingly the baked goods are too – everything is clearly labelled.  They had an exciting vegan goody bag for Christmas and I was sorely tempted to buy it, but at £20 it was a little too steep.  Instead, we settled for a couple of these gingerbread biscuits, which were crunchy and well-spiced, and much better suited to my budget.


Bonbon is such a lovely place to visit, it has a great atmosphere and the staff are really friendly.  Also, they have a pop-up version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which is a real treat to read – Dr HH got me a copy for Easter a couple of years ago, and it’s an absolute treasure.  Bonbon is like our own little vegan-friendly chocolate factory in Manchester!

Posted in Travel, Vegan Mofo | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments