Vegan in Liberec: bistRAWveg

You wouldn’t know it from this picture, but it was the height of summer when we took a day trip to Liberec, just an hour away from Prague.  Our main reason for visiting was to go to the science museum, IQlandia, so fortunately the incessant rain and thunder didn’t spoil our plans too much.  The only outdoor activity we did was have a quick look at the town hall here on arrival, then we ducked into a nearby shopping centre where we found our chosen eatery:  bistRAWveg.

It’s completely open in the centre of the mall, with no walls or doors, so it’s not especially cosy, but it’s still really nice – there’s a row of plants separating the tables from the masses, so it’s not too bad.  It seems to have all-vegan food, but cow’s milk available for drinks.  We ordered up at the counter after Dr HH did some top notch translating (though another Happy Cow review suggests they do actually have an English menu too), and our dishes were brought out pretty quickly, along with a free glass of water each – almost unheard of in this country!

Dr HH got the tacos:  they were filled with really flavoursome creams, the tomato paste was very flavoursome, and the seeds gave everything a lovely crunch.  The tacos themselves were corn-based and were quite thick, which was very exciting!  He loved this dish.

I played it safe with a good old bowl of courgetti.  It was an absolutely massive portion, which always makes me happy.  It was quite nutty too, with lots of bits of cashew in there, and it was well-seasoned.  It’s hard to make courgetti new and exciting, but the tomato sauce and cashews were really flavoursome and I would recommend it.

And we fuelled up on cake before our afternoon at the science museum!  Dr HH’s apricot cake is in the background.  What a lovely colour! The base had a hint of chocolate in it which provided a nice contrast with the fruity mousse part.  My chocolate cake was really creamy and had such a good, firm base.

Generally, I only visit raw eateries as a last resort – and sure enough, there aren’t many other vegan options in Liberec.  We were quite impressed by this place though, so well done bistRAWveg!  Even more impressive was the science museum, which is definitely worth a trip if you’re in the area.

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Vegan in Manchester: The Deaf Institute

Manchester is such a great place for vegans, especially vegans who are friends with omnivores.  The Deaf Institute is yet another non-vegan establishment that is absolutely smashing it when it comes to plant-based options.  Thanks to their vegan chef (who is well worth a follow on Instagram) they have a strong array of vegan options on their regular menu, plus various specials.

There’s a vegan mac’n’cheese in the small plates menu, and despite hating the word “small” in relation to meals, I gave it a go.  The cashew cheese sauce was lovely and creamy, and the bacon added some good texture.  It was nice, but I think I’ve found more flavoursome recipes myself – so only order this for the novelty, or if you’re not an experienced mac’n’cheese maker yourself.

Dr HH agonised over his decision:  the seitan burger with aubergine bacon and cheese, or the veggie hot dog?  As you can see, he went for the burger, and was very pleased with his choice.  The patty was good and meaty and the burger as a whole had great integrity:  it held together and never became too sloppy to handle.  He enjoyed that there were a few different flavours going on, so every bite was a little different.  The cheese was nice, and the aubergine was good, though its texture was not as bacon-like as the menu suggested.  A winner!

And we split the chocolate brownie bowl for dessert:  a delicious warm, gooey brownie with tiny meringues for crunch and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  My only complaint was that there was a fruity compote at the bottom of the glass – I’d have prefered to keep it all chocolatey.  It was a really indulgent dessert, so I’m glad we shared.

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While the regular menu is packed with vegan options, it’s also worth popping along on a Sunday for their Vegan Hangover menu – four or so all-vegan options.  We gave this a whirl back in the Christmas holidays and were very impressed.

Dr HH had this jackfruit flatbread pizza.  The base was a little tougher than we’re used to from regular pizzas, but the topping was excellent:  good meaty jackfruit and mushrooms, and a pleasant kick from the jerk seasoning.  The creamy cashew dip was a nice addition.

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I went all-out and got this nut roast with all the trimmings, as it was the Sunday before Christmas.  The nut roast itself was really flavoursome and festive, I just loved it!  The kale and sprouts were delicious, and the roasties were cooked to perfection, though the carrots and parsnips could have done with a wee bit longer.  I haven’t had many Yorkshire puddings since going vegan, and these were beautiful – quite greasy, but I love that sort of thing.  Usually I like my food as dry as possible, but the gravy on this dish was absolutely sublime.  I could barely move at the end, and all thoughts of dessert were banished, but it was worth it.

All in all:  delicious!  And as a bonus, you can go on Wednesday and get two mains for the price of one.  The building is quite old and impressive, and the bar has a great atmosphere, though the music tends to be a bit too loud for an old lady like me. I’d put up with any music for food like this though!

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MiniMoFo: The Boiler House, London

August’s MiniMoFo theme is outdoor eats, so let’s go to the market!

Since I discovered Pomodoro e Basilico on Instagram last year, I had been drooling over their weekend fares of burgers, twix bars and cheeze fingers and trying to work out how to get close enough to London to try them.

Finally, I had my chance when Dr HH and I flew back to the UK to visit our families, and decided to fly in to London and spend a day eating en route home. The Boiler House at Brick Lane was top of my list – we had some amazing Ethiopian food there on our last visit a couple of years ago, and I’d heard that the vegan scene there was excellent.  And of course, it was home to Pomodoro e Basilico and their famous burgers!  There are some picnic tables in the garden, and we got there quite early to settle in for some serious eating.  Here are our outdoor eats:

I was clearly so hungry that I was unable to take a decent picture!  This was Dr HH’s choice, ‘The Jack’:  featuring pulled jackfruit, peanut butter dressing and strawberry BBQ sauce.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t too impressed with it – there wasn’t much of a BBQ flavour, and he felt it was lacking in meatiness and was more of a salad in a bun than a hearty portion of jackfruit.  What a shame!

He was bowled over by his solitary bite of my burger, and rightly so.  It was called ‘The Good’, but clearly it was the best.  The patty was excellent, and I loved all the flavours, despite usually being quite unadventurous in my burger choices.  It involved beetroot ketchup, carrot bacon and cashew cheddar, along with a fantastically chunky seitan patty.  Divine!  We also got some chips to celebrate our return to the UK, and they were proper chips too, I’m pleased to report.

We returned for dessert.  There was a selection of twix bars, and I got us the chocolate orange one to share.  It was a raw treat!  Usually I stay away from raw things, especially when there are baked cookies on offer, but I’m glad that the pretty colours lured me in.

I’d long been intrigued by the spinach, peanut butter and banana cake on social media, so I had to give it a whirl.  We didn’t actually eat it until the next day, and found it very moist and flavoursome.  Presumably the spinach is just like other vegetables in cakes:  largely there for moisture.  I liked the pretty green swirls, anyway.

The cake orders did not stop there:

Just look at these beauties!  Vida Bakery is another I’ve been following on Instagram, and I was devastated when their pop-up shop closed a few weeks before our trip to London.  Imagine my relief, then, when they revealed that they were setting up in the Boiler House every weekend too!  There were probably about ten different kinds of cupcakes available on the day, and I got this box of six for £16 to share with Dr HH’s family.

Clockwise from top left, we have:  peanut butter and jelly, vanilla (yes it’s topped with a doughnut), double chocolate, red velvet, banoffee and caramel.  Alas, the chocolate and vanilla were inhaled before I had a chance to photograph them, but here are the others in all their glory.

The peanut butter one wasn’t the best, unfortunately:  it was quite dry, and the sponge:icing ratio didn’t help with that (it was an absolute beast of a sponge, towering over the other five).  The flavours were good, though.

We were worried the banoffee would be similarly dry, but it was a lovely moist sponge, thanks to the bananas, no doubt.

Dr HH’s parents had never tried red velvet cake so they had nothing to compare it to, but they were very pleased with this!

And the caramel was the best of the bunch:  a delicious chocolate sponge with sweet icing and sticky caramel sauce.  Yum!

All in all, these cupcakes were good and I’d definitely frequent Vida again – but Ms Cupcake still edges it for me on the vegan cupcakes front!

And finally, as if that were not enough, we also got a doughnut from Peanut Butter Bakery, who have since relaunched as Dough Society.  They had a selection of doughnuts, all vegan and all insanely inviting.  Ordinarily I’d have chosen the millionaire’s shortbread, but we were facing a lot of food already, so I went for the comparatively tame marshmallow one.  Yes, there is a hole in the middle of it, buried under those sweet, sticky clouds of marshmallow!  Watching the bearded and moustachioed Dr HH tackle this was a highlight of the trip – it’s pretty messy even when you don’t have a face of luxuriant hair!

I was so happy to finally get to try the burgers, cupcakes and doughnuts I’d lusted after online for so long.  And enjoying them at a picnic table in the great British summer – well, that was the icing on the cake!

Are there any great vegan finds in the food markets in your neck of the woods?  Which cupcake would you have fought off your family members for? Let me know!

 

 

 

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Vegan in Prague: Puro (Take Two)

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I discovered Puro the very first week I moved to Prague, and have written about it before here.  It continues to go from strength to strength, so I feel that it’s time for another review.  I didn’t use to go to Puro very often (it’s so small that I worry about not being able to get a seat, and I don’t deal well with disappointment when I’m hungry), but now I’m quite the regular and it is satisfying all my needs.

Daily Menu:

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Last August when Dr HH was on school holidays, we went along for lunch even though we weren’t particularly excited by the daily menu (they post the full weekly menu on Facebook every Monday).  And then it turned out that we both loved the dishes we ordered!  I got this cauliflower pizza – in an exciting twist, the base was made of cauliflower. I thought it might be a bit of a let down compared to “normal” pizza, but far from it:  I loved it!

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Dr HH had this dish, which involved mashed potato, mushrooms stuffed with couscous and cheese.  Like me, he said he wouldn’t usually have chosen this, but he’s glad he did.  It just goes to show that we should always have faith in the Puro daily menu!

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We weren’t back until February, when we stopped by at around 6pm (they close at 7pm) and were able to order the burger and marinated skewers, which are available every afternoon/evening, but not at lunchtime.  Dr HH really enjoyed the burger, though he had to take a knife and fork to it, which is never ideal.  The patty was beautifully crisp on the outside, and he enjoyed the mayo.  His only complaint was that there was substantially more bread than filling.

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I absolutely loved the skewers!  The fake chicken pieces were just perfect:  the texture was lovely and the meat was beautifully seasoned.  The peanut dipping sauce was delicious too and, surprisingly, I really liked the salad as well.  The white pieces are coconut!  I have since popped back along for another helping of these on more than one occasion.

Also in February, I saw that they had moussaka listed on their weekly menu and had to go.  They did not skimp on the potatoes, and I was very happy indeed!

Light Bites:

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As well as the daily menu so beloved in these parts, they also serve an assortment of bagels, wraps and light meals to eat in or takeaway.  When they have quiche I always try to snaffle a slice.  This one was tempeh, mushroom and courgette, which I’m sure you can imagine was rather delicious.

The burrito is also reliably good, and is pretty hearty, as it’s chock full of rice and cheese.

There are two different bagel fillings available every week.  This one contained smoked tempeh and a puree made from celery – usually I detest celery, but somehow this was delicious!

 

Sweet Treats:

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Puro also has a dessert counter that combines chia puddings, raw sweets (like this Twix and Bounty), raw cakes and sponge cakes.

Here are some of the raw cakes:  chocolate and blueberry (amazingly rich) and rawfaello (light and coconutty).

And what about this rich and sensational peanut butter pie?

And they usually have both raw and baked brownies – the baked ones look superb, but unfortunately weren’t quite as dense and fudgy as I’d hoped.

I was a huge fan of this apple and cinnamon cake – the sponge wasn’t too sweet, and the apple filling was lovely.  Also, you can’t argue with a classic flavour combination like this.

It’s quite rare to see a vegan carrot cake in Prague, so when I spotted the last slice of this, I just had to have it! And it was divine – the cream cheese icing was especially pleasing.

And finally, this cake.  I liked the look of it, but didn’t recognise the Czech word describing it so asked the server for a translation.  She told me that she wasn’t sure if there was a direct translation, but it was some kind of spice and it was really good, so I decided to give it a whirl.  Neither Dr HH nor I could place the spice, except to say that it tasted like Christmas!

Breakfast:

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And Puro also serve breakfast too! We’ve had the socca a couple of times , and it’s highly recommended: a nice light chickpea flour pancake with some delicious toppings.

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The full English breakfast might not meet British standards, but it’s still pretty good.  There’s plenty of tofu scramble and spicy beans, but they skimp on the sausages and bread, and there’s no potato at all.  Calling it a “full” English isn’t entirely accurate then, but it’s definitely still a good choice, though it seems to have disappeared from rotation at the moment.

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And the raw coconut porridge is nice too – the flavours are beautiful and it’s good and creamy, though I was a bit surprised to find no oats in it!  It’s nice for a lighter breakfast.

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They’ve even started serving chocolate croissants on some Saturday mornings too!  The filling is a delicious chocolate hazelnut spread, and they’re lovely and flaky.  One of these with a cup of the thickest, most delicious hot chocolate you’ve ever had is a beautiful start to the day (though it’s worth checking their Facebook page on a Friday night to check if they’re on the breakfast menu – they don’t always have them).  The hot chocolate is the kind you have to eat with a spoon rather than drink, it’s so thick – I absolutely love it!

Shop:

The little shop is still one of my favourites for finding good vegan products.  As well as the more common cheese, mayo and mock meat products, they’ve started getting some more unusual things in.  Like, for instance, this camembert.  It was a bit of a splurge, but definitely worth it for a treat – we baked it and enjoyed it with some bread.  It was my first vegan camembert ever, and it seemed very realistic to me. Definitely one to keep an eye out for.

I also picked up some feta, another cheese I’ve never tried in vegan form.  This one is actually made from tofu.  I really enjoyed it – I used it to make the roasted Greek salad I used to love when I was vegetarian, and the feto was just perfect.

Puro is a great place for finding seasonal treats as well – they had advent calendars and chocolate Santas in December, and they’re the only place I’ve seen stocking vegan Easter eggs.  I couldn’t resist when I saw this one!

These days Puro has shifted a lot of their merchandise to their new shop on separate premises, which I haven’t had chance to look at yet.  They’re possibly the only reliable source of Nutritional Yeast I’ve found in Prague so far, and for that reason alone it’s always worth having a little snoop around their shops!

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MiniMoFo: The Warehouse Cafe, Birmingham

I’m not a big BBQ enthusiast, so I was a little worried when I saw this month’s MiniMoFo theme.  And then Dr HH saved me by taking me on a trip to The Warehouse Cafe in Birmingham and ordering the BBQ burger!  What a champ!

The cafe is located on the first floor, and just next door to a very well-equipped vegan shop which is well worth visiting.  The cafe got busy pretty quickly at lunch time, so booking might be a good idea if you’ve got your heart set on it.

There are five or so options each for small plates/starters, mains and desserts, plus daily specials.  Most things are vegan or veganisable, so there’s plenty to eat, and the menu offers tasty things like curries and burgers.  We only had eyes for the burgers.

Dr HH ordered one of the daily specials:  the BBQ burger, which was the regular patty (more on that later), topped with cheese, a grilled pineapple slice and lashings of BBQ sauce.  He really enjoyed it, saying it was full of flavour and goodness.

I played it safe with the regular burger:  a patty made of sunflower seeds, quinoa, butterbeans and spinach, and topped with cheese, tomato and caramelised onion.  It was my kind of burger, because it was actually quite dry – I really hate sloppy or over-stuffed burgers that are difficult to eat.  The patty was so good – a great texture and plenty of flavour.

Although we both loved our burgers, we felt they were a bit overpriced at almost £10 each.  The burgers themselves were a little small, and there was a lot more salad on the plate than I would have liked.

The desserts were definitely worth the price, though!  Dr HH got the pineapple and coconut cake, served warm with ice cream rolled in toasted coconut.  Oh la la!  The cake had a good bake and the flavours were quite subtle, but pleasantly sweet and delicious.

This brownie is one of the greatest brownies I’ve ever tried!  It was also served warm, making it extra gooey and lovely.  In my experience it’s quite rare to find a genuinely dense and fudgy brownie, so this was a real treat.  I’d eat it again right now if I could!

All in all, the cafe gets a thumbs up from me!  It’s the kind of independent place that I love to support (and would happily return to, despite a minor quibble about the cost of the burgers), and service was extremely friendly.  And that brownie…

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Vegan in Bolton: Earthlings

I don’t get vegan afternoon tea very often now that I’m living abroad, but every summer when I pop home for a summer holiday I take my mum for a birthday treat.  This year we went slightly further afield, travelling all the way to Bolton for the afternoon tea at Earthlings.

Earthlings is a bright, cosy cafe with really friendly service.  All their food is vegan (and the regular menu looks very tempting), though they serve dairy milk for their hot drinks.  The afternoon tea is available if you book in advance – I booked a full month in advance because I was just so excited.  And rightly so, as it turned out: here’s the afternoon tea.

Top marks for presentation!  Not only does everything look delightfully fresh, but seeing it all proudly on display on a wooden board was a nice way to showcase it.

Here are the savouries!  There were superfood wraps, containing seeds, leaves, and sweet potato, amongst others.  There were four of everything (as there were four of us), but six wraps, which almost led to fisticuffs at the table – definitely a sign of how good they were.  We had two kinds of finger sandwiches:  cucumber and horseradish, alongside chilli jam and avocado.  The former was not popular, as horseradish is somewhat polarising, but the others were absolutely wonderful.

There were two different kinds of crackers:  one was charcoal cracker with beetroot hummus, which was delightfully smoky and earthy, and beautifully coloured to boot.  The other was a small cheesy coleslaw cracker, and I could have eaten twenty of them!  And finally, two pastries:  a pizza roll, which was a little chewy, very olivey, and had a mixed reception (two of us loved them, two did not); and a sausage roll, which had the best and flakiest pastry and won rave reviews from everyone.

It was a lovely varied plate of savoury treats, and was generally very well received indeed.  The offerings were so creative:  there’s no way you’d get these same dishes replicated anywhere else.

Onto the sweets!  In the top left corner we have some mini blueberry scones served with coconut cream and a fruity chia jam.  They were quite an exciting twist on the traditional scone, if a bit difficult to eat without the cream squelching out everywhere!

The little orange cheesecake was one of the highlights:  it had a raw, chunky base and a light, fruity mousse.  The chocolate brownies were very rich and dense, which I thought counted in their favour, but my companions found them a little too much.  Amateurs!  They were intensely chocolatey, and served with a little bit of chocolate sauce.

The beetroot and coconut raw balls were a surprise hit!  They were surprisingly sweet (I think there was a good hit of vanilla in there), and really lovely – I think we were all expecting them to be virtuous and unappetising health food, rather than a bonafide treat.

And finally, a raw caramel shortbread.  The base and caramel were delightful, but the thick chocolate on top proved a little divisive:  again, I loved it, but the others found it a bit overwhelming.  All in all, the fruity treats were more popular than the chocolate ones, but I loved them all!

I would highly recommend afternoon tea at this place.  Presentation and flavours were all spot on, and the staff clearly put a lot of thought into creating a menu that is inventive and well-balanced.  It was £20 per person, and we all left pleasantly (but not uncomfortably) full.  The price included one big cup of tea each, but truthfully we were a little disappointed that they were all just Pukka teabags.  This is a minor complaint though – I would definitely return to Earthlings to check out their regular menu, and to work my way through another feast like this!

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Vegan in Manchester: Stretford Canteen (Pop Up July 2017)

Since my mum moved to Stretford almost ten years ago, my brother has been trying to convince us that Stretford is the new Chorlton (for non-Mancunians, Chorlton is the cool place to be; Stretford is a bit dead).  It seems he may finally be on to something, as a pop-up establishment has opened up at 1116 Chester Road and the July residents have a vegan-friendly menu.  Pop-ups and vegan options?  It doesn’t get much more Chorltonian than that!

The menu is divided into small plates (starters), medium (brunch) and large (mains), and each section has one vegan option.  I was with a meat-eater and a vegetarian, but we all naturally gravitated towards the vegan options anyway.  As a bonus, vegan wines are marked on the menu.

From the all-day brunch menu, the vegan option is this dish of cabbage leaves stuffed with lentils, mushrooms, cream cheese and roasted tomatoes.  Mama HH chose this and heartily approved:  the cabbage was a bit tough to cut through, and she would have appreciated more of the cream cheese, but she found it very tasty and satisfying.  This one seemed worthy of its £7.50 price tag.

Dr HH and I both tried the large vegan dish: asparagus and caramelised onion tart with toasted tomatoes.  We were surprised by the cream cheese on top, but very pleasantly so – it was really delicious.  The asparagus was really well-seasoned, the pastry was gloriously thin and crispy, and the whole dish was flavoursome.  £10.50 seemed a little steep for this (we thought there might be a potato side included), but for a pop-up place, and one of the few eat-in places in Stretford with vegan options, we couldn’t grumble too much.

There was also one vegan dessert, which consisted of chocolate ice cream, fruit compote and candied nuts.  I’m not convinced that the nuts were candied, nor that this was worth a fiver, but the ice cream was good, and it was nice to have a vegan dessert option anyway.

This place is open for all of July, so try to pop in if you can before then!  Of course, it wasn’t as polished as more established restaurants (the food took a little longer than expected), but service was really friendly and it was a nice little place.

Surely it’s only a matter of time until Stretford truly is the new Chorlton!

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