Vegan in Manchester: Kosmonaut

Kosmonaut (1)

Sunday roast for only £9?!  Yes please!

There are a few places in Manchester that offer a veganised traditional Sunday dinner, but this one in the Northern Quarter is the only one I’ve tried.  And it’s a good ‘un!

The main attraction is, of course, the stuffed aubergine, which was visually appealing as well as delicious.  The three falafel balls were tasty, but a bit out of place – I had to eat them before pouring the gravy on.  The potato and carrots were really good as well, and as a whole I thought this was good value for money, and a very tempting plate which didn’t look like a poor substitute for the meaty version.  Actually, Kosmonaut is the perfect venue if you’re in a mixed group as it caters for omnivores, vegetarians and vegans.

Kosmonaut (2)

And there was even a vegan dessert just sitting on the bar waiting for me!  They had three different kinds of baked goods, and one of them was this vegan brownie with Biscoff swirl.  I’ve made something similar myself before, and it’s such a good combination.  It was lovely!  (It looks a bit lost on that big plate, though.  Maybe I should have had two?)

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Vegan in Barcelona (Part Two)

Barcelona Gaudi Parc Guell (1)

Continuing our adventures in Barcelona:  after paying some rather steep prices for tapas, we finally got some good value for money at Vegetart.

Barcelona Vegetart (1)

It’s a nice little takeaway deli place.  When we visited, they were stocked up with burgers, hummus, lentil dishes and cakes.  I had read somewhere that they do excellent tortilla, but they didn’t have any mid-afternoon when we visited.

Barcelona Vegetart (2)

Barcelona Vegetart (3)

We got a little picnic to take to Parc Guell later that day (top tip:  book your tickets for the Parc.  We saw lots of people turn up thinking they could just pop straight in and being disappointed to find that they had to wait a few hours for entry to the monumental park).  The mushroom and leek quiche was almost perfect:  creamy filling, delicious pastry, but just short a touch of seasoning.  We will also got a little pot of pasta which was packed with flavour from the tomato sauce, olives and capers.

Barcelona Vegetart (4)

It would be rude not to have a cake, surely?  This carrot cake was moist and flavoursome, and the icing was perfect.  I would definitely recommend this place for your visit to Barcelona.

Barcelona Uay Balam (2)

And while you’re picking up your picnic, you should stop in at Uay Balam just down the road.  We saw its sign proclaiming some vegan treats in this gelateria and dessert shop, so we made a little detour to investigate.  There were five flavours of vegan gelato (chocolate, strawberry, peach, watermelon and grapefruit), and we were given a free spoonful of each to help us decide.  The cones weren’t vegan, so we enjoyed a little cup piled high with rich chocolate and refreshing strawberry gelato.  It was fantastic!

Barcelona Dos Trece (3)

Our time in Spain was relatively light on breakfasts, but we enjoyed brunch at Dos Trece.  It has four or five vegan brunch items and is a bright, spacious place with fast service.  I had the French toast, which was a wee bit too blackened on the bottom for my liking.  Still, it was delicious with the fruit and maple syrup.

Barcelona Dos Trece (1)

Dr HH enjoyed his nachos, and as you can see it was a gigantic portion.  It featured guacamole, beans, salsa and tofu – the tofu was a bit bland (he reckons it was just crumbled, unseasoned tofu from a packet), but otherwise it was a rather exciting start to the day.

Barcelona Cat Bar (1)

In Cat Bar we had some very impressive burgers.  It’s one of the few places in Barcelona (and possibly in the whole of Spain) which serves food continuously in the afternoon, allowing hungry Brits to eat at a respectable hour like 6pm, rather than battling on till some ridiculous time around 9pm when we should all be tucked up in bed.  Yes, I liked Cat Bar.  There were about 7 burgers on the menu, and you order on a little form that you take to the bar.  This is Dr HH’s Mexican Red, which he said was pleasantly spicy and had good structural integrity, which is very important – nobody likes a burger that collapses in your hands.

Barcelona Cat Bar (2)

I loved my Crazy Burger, which had a patty full of nuts and seeds.  Combined with the pesto in the bun, it was very tasty.  We both ordered patatas on the side.  They were a little too big to be bite-sized, and could have been crisper, but we were happy.

Barcelona Rasoterra

And finally, we ate at one of the few non-vegan places of our trip:  Rasoterra.  It was quite fancy, and they only just squeezed us in without a reservation, so I would recommend making one if you want to go.  It definitely wouldn’t be my top recommendation though.  After two weeks of all-vegan eating, it was a little disappointing to be back on a reduced menu.  The vegan tapas dishes were not plentiful, and there was only one vegan wine available by the glass (fortunately I am not at all particular).  We got all three vegan tapas:  the tomato bread was basically what you would expect, the veg and tofu gyoza were lovely, and the patatas bravas were like mini jacket potatoes:  crispy and delicious, and very different from the other potato dishes we’d tried.  It was all fine, but generally unremarkable.  All in all, I found the tapas scene in Barcelona a bit underwhelming, either unexceptional or too expensive.

Barcelona Gaudi Casa Batllo (1)

Barcelona itself was great.  We spent most of our time on Gaudi-inspired pursuits.  The Casa Batllo was expensive and crowded, but getting up onto the roof made it worthwhile.

Barcelona Gaudi Sagrada Familia (7)

We didn’t pay to go in the Sagrada Familia, but it was still fascinating to walk around it and try to catch all the details.

Barcelona Gaudi Parc Guell (8)

Parc Guell is worth a visit, especially if you are a fan of tiles.

Barcelona Street Art

And sticking with an arty theme, we also took a street art tour, which was very interesting.  It didn’t yield any single, huge impressive pieces like other cities have before, but there were lots of little bits and pieces and we found out a lot about local artists and techniques, so it’s definitely worth a few hours of your time.

The big three cities in Spain are definitely vegan friendly, and have plenty to keep you entertained too.  We really enjoyed our time there – if only the restaurants opened at more reasonable hours!

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Vegan in Barcelona (Part One)

Barcelona Gaudi Sagrada Familia (11)

The final stop on our Spanish tour was Barcelona.  I went there 10 years ago with my mum as a vegetarian, and had an absolute nightmare trying to find good food.  Thank the lord for Happy Cow and the vegan blogging scene!  I had more suggestions than I could reasonably fit in!  There were loads more places I wish we could have tried, though generally I was very happy with our chosen few.  This post is a two-parter, so check back next week for the final installment of our Spanish food quest.

Barcelona Enjoy Vegan (2)

Our first meal was a hearty lunch at Enjoy Vegan, which was in a part of the city centre with quite a few vegan restaurants.  It was a small, colourful place with a tempting glass counter of sweet and savoury food.  The indoor seating area doesn’t have aircon, and as we were there in the height of summer, we snaffled a couple of stools in the doorway.  It wasn’t much cooler, but we would take a few degrees where we could get them.  They serve empanadas, cakes and a few dishes like lasagne, and then a daily menu of three courses for €11.  This is what we chose.

Barcelona Enjoy Vegan (1)

I got the coconutty lentils, posted higher up.  They were well-flavoured, though they included some surprise pear – the worst kind of surprise, surely.  Still, they were good.  Dr HH panic-ordered the risotto (there was no menu, and about four options for each course which the waitress described to us).  It was really flavoursome too, with a good bite to the rice and nice bits of carrot.

Barcelona Enjoy Vegan (4)

Barcelona Enjoy Vegan (3)

For the mains, I chose a tofu and veg cake which had a nice thick crust but was a little too squidgy underneath.  It was also a touch sweet, which surprised me.  Dr HH really enjoyed the meatballs.  They had a good bite, chewy raisins, and a nice tomato sauce.  Each main is served with your choice of salad or wedges.  We asked for the wedges, but got the salad.  At least it was colourful and light.

Barcelona Enjoy Vegan (6)

Barcelona Enjoy Vegan (5)

The chocolate cake I chose for dessert looked really gooey, but was actually surprisingly dry.  It still tasted good though.  Dr HH chose the winner with this apple cake.  It was the perfect bake, with a really moist sponge and good flavour.  He was very pleased with himself!

The food here was quick and flavoursome, and definitely good value for money.  I like the fact that they serve food from cardboard trays that can be recycled (takeaway is also available).  This was a really good start to our Barcelona eating.

Barcelona Bar Celoneta (3)

Next, we ate at beach tapas place Bar Celoneta.  It was a nice atmospheric place, but for some reason they decided not to put the air con on, meaning it was not the kind of place you could linger.  It was also surprisingly expensive – it was similar to B13 in Madrid, but significantly more costly.  For example, it specialises in sangria, but even the non-alcoholic ones cost about €6 each.  And speaking of expensive, the prawns on the left cost a whopping €11!  It’s safe to say we were expecting to receive something a bit more special.  They tasted good, but I’m had the same thing battered and fried to crispy perfection for a fraction of the price in various Asian restaurants before, so there’s just no justification for this.

The accompanying tempeh skewer was light on tempeh, with just three pieces, and two each of aubergine and sun-dried tomato.  Again, this should really have been cheaper.

Barcelona Bar Celoneta (5)

The ‘aliens’ tapas were much more like it!  They were little towers of grilled courgette, sundried tomato pesto and thick, melting cheese.  I loved them, and am keen to have a go at making some for tasty nibbles at home one day.

Barcelona Bar Celoneta (1)

And finally, we had potatoes romesco:  slices of potato in flavoursome sauce.  I actually preferred them to the usual patatas bravas, they were delicious!  As good as these and the aliens were, I wouldn’t go back to this place, overpriced as it was.

Barcelona El Maderal (5)

I had similar feelings about El Maderal Bar Vegana, a classy and elegant little place with an extensive beer and wine menu.  We got some croquettes, which were so cheesy and buttery that I was a little unnerved!  Dr HH loved them.  The patatas bravas had little blobs of fiery suace and cool alioli:  the perfect balance.  The smoked aubergine pate with toast was a little too bitter for me, which was a shame.  It didn’t live up to the one we had in Valencia.

Barcelona El Maderal (6)

We also got this dish, which I can best describe as a long cracker topped by tomato and cauliflower bits and slices of mushrooms.  It was flavoursome and light – but very messy to eat!

Barcelona El Maderal (7)

Finally, we got a giant cookie to take away.  It was huge and generously packed with walnuts and chocolate chunks.  Lovely!  The food was good, but the restaurant itself was a little fancier than I expected – more of a classy bar that serves food as well.

Come back next Monday to see the other food we ate and the attractions we saw.  Here’s a little teaser for you:  French toast!  Gelato!  Burgers!

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Vegan in Valencia

Valencia (7)

After Madrid, we made our way to Valencia.  It was welcome relief from the absolute chaos of Madrid:  fewer tourists, easier to get around on foot, and the gentle lapping waves of the sea.  There was still a good vegan scene, though this time booking definitely wasn’t necessary.

Valencia Nomit (2)

On our first night we ate at Nomit,  a 100% vegan burger place.  It opens at 8:30pm, but the kitchen doesn’t open till 9pm – we didn’t even get a menu (or the air con switched on) while we waited.  When we were eventually allowed to peruse the menu, Dr HH eagerly chose the Morrissey burger.  It was a good choice!  The patty was made of pumpkin, beans and lentils, it was crispy on the outside, and it was delicious.

Valencia Nomit (6)

I didn’t choose a burger, surprisingly.  I got this gigantic seitan and hummus wrap. It was huge and filling.  The seitan was good, the hummus was generous and the pita was lovely and soft.  I wish it had had a little something extra for seasoning though – a little kick of spice or flavour from something.  While both of our main events were delicious, the sides left a little to be desired.  Two potato wedges?!  TWO?!  And they weren’t even crispy!

Nomit is quite a new place, and it has a lot of promise.  Service was really friendly, once we hit the 9pm mark anyway.  There was only one other guest the whole time we were in, which is such a shame.  Hopefully they will make a few little tweaks and pick up more custom.

Valencia Tarta de Zanahoria (1)

The next day we had a typical Spanish lunch set menu at Tarta de Zanahoria.  Alas, this also involves typical Spanish lunch times:  it’s open 2-4pm.  The entire lunch service is done by one woman, both cooking and serving, and this was quite the achievement.  They deserve all the success in the world because she still managed to explain things to us in English and keep a smile on her face the whole time!  It’s quite a small place, so maybe booking would be a good idea here – it was full.

Valencia Tarta de Zanahoria (2)

To begin with, there’s a serve yourself salad bar.  We enjoyed these amazing courgette ribbons in pesto and chickpeas with red cabbage.  We were also served a green smoothie.

Valencia Tarta de Zanahoria (5)

There were two choices for the mains, so we got one each and split them.  The pad thai was nice, with its noodles, broccoli, nuts, mushrooms and carrots.  It would have been improved by a bit more spice though.

Valencia Tarta de Zanahoria (4)

The mushroom ceviche was spectacular!  It featured mashed potato, avocado, mushroom and tomato, and it was so refreshing and cool.

Valencia Tarta de Zanahoria (7)

We also split the desserts.  You know you’re onto a winner when both options are chocolatey.  The tart was rich and decadent, and the square was a little bit spongy, a little bit moussey, and it was amazing!  It cost us €11 each for all this food, and we were very satisfied indeed.  This seems like a great business to support.

Valencia Nehuen Tasca Vegana (1)

Time for tapas now!  Nehuen Tasca Vegana is in Cabanyal, close to the beach, and it’s casual so you can combine a visit to the two.  It’s really nice and relaxed inside, I thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  The menu is written on chalkboards and includes some tapas and some main dishes.  We used a combination of Google Translate and help from the waitress to fathom it.

Valencia Nehuen Tasca Vegana (2)

Valencia Nehuen Tasca Vegana (3)

We got two tapas plates to start.  The smoked aubergine spread was delicious, and the crispy mini pizza base was amazing.  If you go to Valencia, make sure you get this.  The croquettes are available with three fillings.  We chose miso and tofu, but you couldn’t have guessed it – the texture was amazing, but the flavour was really lacking.

Valencia Nehuen Tasca Vegana (4)

Valencia Nehuen Tasca Vegana (5)

We also shared a couple of mains, that we’d thought would be tapas.  The vegetable ‘cake’ (Google Translate had promised us pie) was really tasty and savoury.  The quinoa and sweet potato crepe was a bit of a mixed bag:  the crepe itself was delightful, but it was spread with sweet potato puree which was a bit too sweet.

Nevertheless, we were very happy.  This place is cheap and cheerful, and wine is only €1 a glass, if you need any extra motivation.

Valencia Miobio (1)

Miobio was another place on my hit list.  It’s in Rusafa, which is the trendy/arty part of town, but it was actually a rather upscale restaurant.  Throughout our meal we were worried about how quiet it was, but at about 10pm loads of people came in.  The menu was only in Spanish, but again, we got some help.  The main courses are all pizzas, burgers or wraps.  As we were already doing pretty well with burgers, we decided to go for pizzas.  Dr HH got this one, the impressively titled ‘exclusiva pizza’.  There was no cheese on it, but it was topped with mushrooms, courgette, rocket and olive tapenade.  He said the tapenade really made it, it was so salty and delicious.

Valencia Miobio (2)

Mine was the coco-cheese pizza.  The base was lovely and crispy, and it was topped with mushrooms, leeks, tempeh bacon cubes and tasty coconut cheese.  Also, lots of rocket, which I hate, but at least its’s easily picked off.  Both pizzas were really good, but small for the price.  I suppose this is the price you pay for organic food!

Valencia Miobio (5)

Even though it was expensive, we couldn’t resist a pud.  And just look at this apple cake!  It was basically a cheesecake, with a creamy apple part.  It was tasty as it was, but then with the added crumbs for texture and peanut butter and horchata creams, it was just sublime.  This place really was good, but it’s hard to justify the price – only for a treat, unfortunately.

Valencia Kimpura (1)

We had a slightly confusing lunch at Kimpira one day.  It’s not all vegan, and the menu is marked with allergies, rather than a simple ‘V for vegan’, so it took some effort.  The menu also doesn’t refer to any soft drinks, and we were sneered at for gambling and asking for coke – they’re all organic, don’t you know?  In the end, it was expensive but pretty good.

Valencia Kimpura (2)

I had the Kimpi Burger, which had a thin but tasty, herby patty and a nice slice of cheese.  The menu warned that it came with “chef’s special ingredients”, which sounded a bit worrying to someone who loves plain burgers.  So imagine my delight when the surprise element was onion rings!  They were delicious.  I also enjoyed the accompanying yuca chips, heavily dusted with paprika.

Valencia Kimpura (3)

Dr HH’s dish was somewhat less coherent.  We thought he’d ordered an Indonesian sandwich, but this is what he was served.  It involved a sweet potato and tempeh tower, avocado salad and a papadum.  It was a bit baffling, and it in no way tasted of Indonesia.  This place probably wouldn’t be on our list if we returned to Valencia.

Valencia The Nature

Our final meal in Valencia, at The Nature, was the very definition of cheap and cheerful.  It’s a €7.50 all-you-can-eat buffet with Asian leanings.  The food is greasy and filling, and really hits the spot.  It’s a huge restaurant, so you definitely don’t need to book.  There’s a great big table full of food to serve yourself – though unfortunately, there are no labels and the sweet dishes are just scattered in with everything else, so you may surprise yourself with some mochi or fried bananas mid-meal.  There’s lots of fried food, which is exactly what I want from this kind of buffet.  The spring rolls and wontons were exceptional.  There are also lots of dishes with a mock meat focus.  All in all, it wasn’t the best food we had in Valencia, but it was great when we were hungry and in need.

Xativa Castle (19)

We didn’t have any big plans in Valencia, besides a day trip to Xativa to see this amazing castle.  Definitely worth the climb!

Valencia Street Art (19)

In the city we enjoyed some of the historic sights, but also took in a lot of street art.  There is plenty of it, including some by the Vegan Bunnies. The old town centre is impressive too, and the market was well worth a look – we got some phenomenally good cherries there!  Valencia was a much more relaxing destination than the other Spanish cities we visited – it was nice to take our feet off the pedals and take life at a more leisurely pace.  And with so many good vegan eateries, it’s definitely a good city break destination.

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Vegan in Madrid

El Retiro Park (3)

Spain had been on my wishlist for a while before we booked our summer holiday there for the beginning of July.  My only previous experience with Spain was a long weekend in Barcelona ten years ago when I really struggled to find vegetarian options, and I was confident I could improve on that this time around:  I’ve seen a lot about how vegan-friendly the main cities in Spain are.  Sure enough, we ate very well as we spent two weeks travelling from Madrid to Valencia and finally Barcelona.  These are good places for vegans.

In fact, our only problems with food came from the opening times.  As a person who thrives on a regular eating schedule of breakfast at 7am, lunch before 1pm and dinner by 6:30pm at the very latest, I was not very encouraged by Spanish opening times.  Even when I thought I’d found a winner (“Oooh, this place is open from 11am!  Let’s book lunch for 12pm!”), I was swiftly disappointed (“We serve breakfast 11am-1:30pm, lunch 1:30-3pm.”).  Eventually we managed to get into a rhythm, and I don’t think I let my hanger get the better of me, though Dr HH might disagree.

My top tips for eating in Madrid are to always make a reservation, and to go for set lunch menus where possible.  Almost every eatery we visited in Madrid was constantly jam-packed, which is great news for the thriving vegan businesses, but bad news for hungry tourists.  I made all my reservations on Facebook, no clumsy telephone attempts at Spanish required.  And the three course lunch menus were very good value for money, and helped to keep me going until my next feeding at 8pm.

So, let’s dive into it!

Madrid Rayen Vegano (1)

On our first day we went for a 12pm “breakfast” at Rayen Vegano.  It’s a lovely, charming place:  really attractive, but quiet small and you really need to book.  There were English menus, and the staff spoke perfect English too, so it’s very tourist-friendly.  In fact, I’d call this a must-visit if you’re in the city.

Madrid Rayen Vegano Breakfast (3)

Dr HH ordered the Sunday special of three buckwheat pancakes, which were good and thick.  They were topped with a really good cream and some fruits, and served with amazingly thick chocolate sauce.  He was delighted with this, unsurprisingly.

Madrid Rayen Vegano Breakfast (4)

I couldn’t resist the tempeh sandwich, though I usually favour something sweet.  This is a regular feature on the breakfast menu, and I can’t praise it highly enough – and I say this as someone who generally hates sandwiches!  First of all, the homemade bread was delicious.  It was filled with tomato, lots of tempeh bacon fingers, cheese slices, tofu scramble and a really good sauce.  I couldn’t pick the whole thing up, it was so substantial!  The accompaniments (purple potatoes with crispy bits and a mustardy salad with avocado) were also delicious.  What a feast!

Madrid Rayen Vegano Breakfast (7)

As it had gone so well, we decided to treat ourselves to a slice of raw peanut butter cake for dessert.  It was exactly as a peanut butter cake should be:  sticky and gooey, with a good crunchy base.  Alas, we didn’t realise until the bill arrived that it cost €6.50.  It was a good cake, but that’s still a pretty high cost.  Even so, we left on a high.

Madrid Punto Vegano (6)

Late that night (at 8pm on the dot) we arrived at Punto Vegano for our first tapas of the trip.  It also serves main courses, but we were eager to get into the spirit with some tapas.  Again, booking is recommended for this small and charming little place.  There are English menus and friendly staff.  It’s a stone’s throw from the Temple de Bod, a little Egyptian temple relocated to Madrid and a nice spot to catch the sunset.

Madrid Punto Vegano (4)

We ordered three dishes to start.  Of course, we had some patatas bravas.  The little cubes of tomato were perfectly crispy, and the fiery sauce was only drizzled on, so it was quite easy to control the spiciness (you can also order the non-spicy sauce).  We added a squeeze of alioli, which was lovely and garlicky.

The fried ravioli sounded and looked so inviting.  They were lovely and crispy, but the filling was only spinach, which was a little bland.  Some tofu or mushrooms would have livened it up a bit for the palate.

The quinoa and oat meatballs in tomato sauce are also available as a main, and they were remarkable!  They had so much flavour.

Madrid Punto Vegano (5)

To make sure we were completely full, we finished off with some babaganoush.  We got a mixed plate with some hummus, as they were almost out of the aubergine dip, and both were really tasty.  The bread was good too, and we were definitely full by the end.

Madrid Punto Vegano (8)

We also got a couple of chocolate muffins to take away for breakfast the next day.  They were a bit decadent for the morning, but they were really good!

Madrid Rayen Vegano (2)

On Monday we were back to Rayen Vegano for the lunch set menu.  As I said, these are such a great deal.  It was €11.50 for three courses plus bread and a ginger kombucha drink (tap water was also available for free, which is always a bonus in Europe).  There were two options for each course, and the waitress recommended choosing one of each to share.

Madrid Rayen Vegano Lunch (1)

Alas, one of the options for the starter was a melon and cucumber gazpacho.  Melon and cucumber are two of my most-hated foods, so we didn’t bother with that – we both had the carrot and mushroom salad.  It was a simple salad that was elevated by an earthy mushroom sauce and a tasty tempeh slice on top.

Madrid Rayen Vegano Lunch (4)

One of the mains was a timbale of quinoa, avocado and fiery salsa.  It was summery and fresh, but not particularly filling – especially in comparison to the other option.

Madrid Rayen Vegano Lunch (6)

The seitan pasty on mashed potato and tomato sauce was delicious, with some pesto vegetables too.  It was very filling and there was good depth of flavour in the sauce.

Madrid Rayen Vegano Lunch (7)

The dessert options were a little disappointing:  a coconut muffin, or a coffee one.  Still, the presentation made it look somewhat fancier, and the coconut cake was moist and lovely.

Vega was our next stop.  All the reviews on Happy Cow are positive – except from people who were turned away.  Yes, booking is necessary: it’s small and popular.  Even though we booked, the service wasn’t great.  After 15 minutes nobody had taken our drinks order, and then it took another 30 minutes for our food to arrive.  Still, it was a nice, rustic place, and all vegan, so there is hope.

Madrid Vega (2)

We considered tapas again, but decided to get some mains instead.  I got the brochette of smoky tofu, which had a lovely sticky, sweet marinade and crunchy sesame seeds.  The vegetables and glass noodles were tasty and filling, though the salad leaves were not dressed, which is a shame.

Madrid Vega (1)

Dr HH was quite disappointed by his barbecued seitan with grilled vegetables.  The seitan was cut into really thin slivers, which isn’t great when the chunky, meaty texture is always the highlight.  The sauce was a little too sweet, but the chunks of vegetables were good.  It was the first underwhelming meal of the holiday, both in terms of food and service, but I suppose you can’t win them all!  It was still nice, but not on the same level as our other excellent meals.

Madrid Le Pain Quotidien (2)

Madrid Le Rollerie (1)

We had breakfast croissants a couple of times while we were in Madrid, once from Le Pain Quotidien and once from La Rollerie.  They look pretty similar above – I expected both places to bake their own goods, but who knows if they share a supplier?  They were both a little flaky outside, but quite bready inside.  Still, they were nice.  In both places you can get the croissant to eat in or take away.  Le Pain Quotidien has a couple of vegan options on the menu, and four muffins labelled vegan, so it’s a great spot to pick up snacks.

Madrid Viva Burger (1)

Madrid Viva Burger (4)

We got our burger fix at Viva Burger, which is a fun 100% vegan restaurant which specialises in, surprise surprise, burgers.  There’s an outdoor terrace in a nice square, so you can feel like quite the European – however, there’s a 10% surcharge for dining out there.  We did so anyway.  It was extremely popular, and initially there was only one server so things were a little slow.  It picked up eventually though.  This place was the first in Madrid that gave us complementary olives while we waited:  hurray!

Madrid Viva Burger (5)

I ordered the ahumada burger, which promised smoked cheese and sundried tomatoes.  The patty was good and vegetable-based, but the highlight was the cheese – a really thick slab of it, simply delicious.  It was very good, but I couldn’t actually finish it, it was so immense.

Madrid Viva Burger (6)

Dr HH had no such problems.  He enjoyed his chingona burger, which had the same patty topped with avocado and pico de gallo.  He enjoyed the spiciness and thought the whole thing was packed with flavour.  Alas, it lacked some structural integrity – the avocado should have been sliced, rather than cut into big chunks which couldn’t be held in place or squashed down for easy devouring.  Both burgers came with amazing crispy potato wedges.  I ate all of those, no problem!

Madrid B13 (1)

Our last meal in Madrid was definitely one of the best, and probably our best tapas in the whole of Spain.  We went to B13, which serves both tapas and mains and is quite a cheap and cheerful place with no table service and no reservations.  We were there about 5 minutes after opening at 8:30pm, and within half an hour it was absolutely packed.  Happily, we got some fried potato slices while we waited and agonised over the menu.

Madrid B13 (5)

I was really excited about trying the calamares, something neither of us had ever eaten in our omnivore days.  They were rings of lightly battered tofu with a slight taste of the sea, which I guess is from seaweed.  The batter was perfect, and they were delicious, though I can’t comment on their authenticity.

The onion rings were less impressive – the batter wasn’t as good as that on the calamares, and they seemed to be made from mushed onion rather than actual rings.  They came with a tasty BBQ sauce which livened them up a bit.

We gambled on something called San Jacobs of seitan and cheese.  They were basically breadcrumbed nuggets comprised of two thin slices of seitan sandwiched with gooey cheese, and served with more of that BBQ dip (there were four options).  Sounds good, no?  They were excellent.

Madrid B13 (3)

And, saving the best for last, we had this potato omelette.  It was huge!  It was also very tasty.  This was our first taste of tortilla, and it was very good indeed, you must try it if you visit.

Madrid Palace (5)

Madrid was a great destination, both as a vegan and as a tourist.  We enjoyed the greenery in the city, especially El Retiro park in the city centre and the gardens around the palace.

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There were also lots of grand buildings to admire, including the palace itself, the cathedral and this rather famous one.

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There is no shortage of good art in Madrid either.  The Prado is possibly the most famous, but we didn’t go there – we went to the Reina Sofia and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza instead (both have free opening hours, so take a look if you want to save some pennies).  Those two have more of the impressionists, which is what we generally keep an eye out for.

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And there’s street art aplenty too.  We went on a street art tour and saw some impressive works around the city centre.  The walls around the Tabaclera were one of the best spots, with lots of colourful pictures to admire.

Whatever you’re into, and however hungry you are, Madrid will keep you happy!

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Vegan in Manchester: Phở

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I don’t think I ate phở the whole time I lived in Vietnam (two and a half years, for the record), but I am constantly on the lookout for it now.  I’ve made my own before, but when a restaurant named Phở opened in Manchester (just a couple of weeks after I moved away last summer – what a cheek!), I was eager to pay a visit.  It’s located in the newly renovated Corn Exchange, which also houses at least one other vegan-friendly establishment, Mowgli.  The menu has plenty of vegetarian options, and the waiter told me that they were all vegan as long as I specified that I didn’t want any fish sauce.

Pho (2)

What to have?  Well, there were some inviting looking spring rolls, but of course I had to go for the button mushroom and tofu phở.  And it was good!  The broth was really flavoursome, and it was full of good herbs, mushrooms, noodles and fried tofu.  I loved it, and was really full afterwards, so I’m glad I didn’t get any starters.

While the food was delicious, I felt it was ridiculously expensive.  There’s a reason this is the national dish in a poor country.  I’ve made it myself in Manchester and know that even the more exotic ingredients can be bought pretty cheaply.  Even though it’s a meal in itself, I feel that £7.95 is a lot for a bowl of soup.

None of this will stop me from going back, of course.  Phở is just so good!

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Vegan Package Swap: New Jersey

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Back in March I posted about my love of package swaps, and I arranged an exchange with fellow blogger Jennifer from One Raw Bite.  She sent me all of these delicious goods from New Jersey and I had a marvellous time eating my way through them!

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I had never had matzos before, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect from these.  For anyone else who is uninformed, they were big crackers, coated in dark chocolate and sprinkles.  They were so good!  These were the first things we tried from the package, enjoying them with a cup of tea and Game of Thrones.

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I love hot chocolate, but I don’t know of any vegan instant versions in the UK or Europe.  These packets were perfect for me!  The 6 Spice mix was actually a little too fiery for me, but the traditional one was perfect.

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Of course, these are the things that excited me the most.  I’ve had Cleo’s Peanut Butter Cups before, but think I prefer these new-to-me Justin’s ones, with darker chocolate.  The gold peanut butter cup at the top was solid with nutty pieces, rather than filled with gooey butter as I’d expected, but it was still tasty.  The Larabar was amazing, like a raw Snickers.  Speaking of which, the Jokerz bar is the vegan version of the Snickers.  I’ve had the Mars before and loved it, and this was just as good.  I also enjoyed the Mahalo (vegan Bounty).  Whoever invented these was definitely onto a winner!  No No’s are vegan M&Ms, and I’ve had them just once before.  They are also delightful.  It’s so great being able to have these familiar sweets in a cruelty-free way.

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I love Manner wafers, but not all varieties are vegan.  Actually, the middle packet here (vanilla cream) contain milk powder, which I noticed before eating them.  The others were great, though.  They make a really good snack.  Downside:  they also make a lot of crumbs.

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And onto the savouries.  The Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg has been the talk of the vegan community lately, and I was delighted to finally get my hands on some.  I decided to make a simple scramble as part of a nice weekend breakfast – unfortunately, I overcooked it a bit and it was a little rubbery.  Every picture I’ve seen on social media looks better than this one, so don’t let my photo deter you from trying this product.  It was nice, but to be honest I prefer tofu scrambles now.  If I can track down some more, I’ll try to make an omelette instead.

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And here I had two different kinds of mac and cheese mix.  The pizza one was a bit weird – it was nice and creamy, but the taste was just strange. The Earth Balance one was better, it had both texture and taste.

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The Pad Thai pot noodle was great for an emergency (eg. when I was too lazy to cook on a Saturday).  It was flavoursome and fast, and that’s exactly what you’d want from this kind of thing.

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Deliciously Ella Classic Stir Fry

And finally this soybean spaghetti, which is packed with protein.  We used it in a stir fry, and thought they had a little less bite than we’d like – but probably because we overcooked them!  Anyway, they were really nice and it’s always good to have another source of protein up your sleeve.

I absolutely loved this package swap!  I got some new and exciting treats, and lots of good chocolate and peanut butter combinations.  This has made me more excited about the possibility of a trip to the USA, even though it doesn’t fit into our plans for the next year or two.

Of course, I’m now on the lookout for my next package swap!  I’ll be in the UK again soon, so if any readers from around the world are interested in some good British vegan treats, let me know!

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