Vegan in Granada: Hicuri

Like most British people my age, my primary association with gazpacho soup will always be the dying words of Arnold Rimmer in Red Dwarf. I don’t think the UK generally has the weather for cold soup, and I think it might be a tough sell anyway – a big bowl of soup is so wintry and comforting, who would even want it cold?

Well, Dr HH decided to give it a whirl while we were in Spain! I refused, in solidarity with Rimmer, of course. This was at Hicuri, one of the oldest meat-free restaurants in Granada – it hasn’t always been entirely vegan, but is now. It’s very highly rated on Happy Cow, but we were ultimately a bit underwhelmed by it, starting with this gazpacho (which is only on the menu March to October). It’s hard to say though if Dr HH was underwhelmed by this particular version, or by gazpacho as a whole.

The menu here was very extensive, yet Dr HH and I both ordered the same thing: cordon bleu seitan with chips. I know that’s not really typical Spanish cuisine, but we were eating a lot of that elsewhere, and after a long day of sightseeing sometimes you just need some mock meat and chips!

I would have liked a bit more colour on the chips, and a bit more oomph to the seitan steak. The menu promised cheese and bacon, but the layer of cheese was very thin and dry, and there wasn’t really a bacony taste or texture to it, so it was a bit disappointing. We ate it up though – it was fine, but not mind blowing.

I’m always a little wary of restaurants with long menus, because those who only offer a few things tend to do them better. I fear that was the case here. However, we are probably in the minority, because the place was absolutely packed and there are plenty of five star reviews on Happy Cow. Maybe we simply ordered the wrong things? I do feel though that every city has that one vegan eatery that most people rave about and I just don’t quite get it (V Rev in Manchester, Maitrea/Lehka Hlava in Prague). This could be the one for Granada!

Is there a vegan restaurant in your town that everyone loves except you?

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Vegan in Malaga: MIMO Vegan Bistro

Has the sea ever looked so inviting?! I envy people who can take their government approved daily walk anywhere more attractive than a city park right now!

On our trip to Andalusia last October we were flying back from Malaga and decided to arrive there early enough to get some lunch in the city before heading to the airport. We didn’t have time for any proper sightseeing (not when there was food to be had!), but we made a beeline for the sea, because that’s what you do when you’re on holiday. It was very pretty indeed.

And the food wasn’t so bad either! It was a bit of a trek from the sea to MIMO Vegan Bistro, but it was a pleasant day for walking. The bistro itself was very small and cramped, but they managed to squeeze us in, fortunately. The staff were extremely friendly and informative, letting us know that all the ingredients are locally sourced and lovingly prepared. We hadn’t planned on having a three course meal, but we were powerless to resist!

There was a choice of three starters, but we only had eyes for one: happy oysters. It was a pot of oyster mushrooms cooked in olive oil, garlic, and parsley, and served with homemade bread. Just based on the description your mouth is probably watering imaging how earthy and delicious it was, but truthfully we both felt it could have packed a bit more of a punch. More garlic, maybe? That’s my solution to everything!

Dr HH went for the main course that definitely sounded the best. It’s a bit difficult to discern from this picture, but it was a baked sweet potato topped with quinoa, mushrooms, chard, and jackfruit, with an avocado and lime dressing. It’s hard to make a baked potato an exciting main, but they did the trick with this, it was really flavoursome!

I decided to go for the kashotto instead, which turned out to be a kind of buckwheat risotto, with fennel sauce, tempeh, green beans, and roasted broccoli. The tempeh was especially good, but again they could have turned the flavour up a wee bit for my taste.

There was some chocolate mousse/meringue concoction on the dessert menu, and I wish I could remember why I didn’t order that when it was clearly tailor made for me! Instead we got this apple tart with homemade ice cream, which was really tasty.

Spain is one of my favourite countries to visit for delicious vegan food, and this trip certainly proved why. Even though there could have been a bit more flavour in some of these dishes, everything was still fresh and tasty, the wine was delicious, and the service was warm and friendly.

Here’s to another trip to Spain in the future!

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Vegan in Prague: Pastva (Take Three)

Well, how is everyone? I’m about to start Day 8 of mandatory, company-wide work from home. All cafes, restaurants, bars, and non-essential shops have been closed for 9 days now with the exception of those eateries operating from a takeaway window. Since Wednesday we haven’t been allowed out unless we’re covering our faces with a mask/scarf. Life feels weirder than I ever thought possible. The world feels like it’s shrinking down to just these four walls around me.

Like everyone, though, I’m counting my blessings and keeping on as best I can. I feel great joy that Dr HH is by my side right now and we are able to keep each other entertained and optimistic. There’s nobody I’d rather be with. (Though if he continues humming at his current rate, things may change.) I’m relieved that we’re both in a position to work from home and are well supported by our employers and colleagues, and that we’re in good health and therefore low risk if we do get sick.

I’m glad that our loved ones are still healthy and able to continue buying their essentials and, for many of them, to continue working. I’m happy that I can keep in touch with the people I care about, however physically near/far they are, and that I am able to offer them help and support in whatever small way. Even when the world seems to be shrinking, I feel like my support network is widening, and checking in with people on a more regular basis is a nice reminder of how we’re all connected and in this together.

Like many people who are in our fairly fortunate position, I’m looking around to see how I can help those who are struggling and sacrificing. For anyone who is not financially able to stockpile, the bare shelves must be a huge source of anxiety, so I’m supporting food banks.

For the elderly and vulnerable, it must be a lonely and terrifying time. For people who are told to leave their elderly loved ones in isolation for their own protection, it must be heartbreaking. Age UK has a list of ways to help, from donating money to getting involved locally.

It’s an anxious and stressful time for everyone, and living in an expat community many of us are dealing with the uncomfortable reality of being far from our loved ones and unable to return home to them if they get sick. I’m checking in with my local friends and colleagues as much as I can in the hopes they will feel less alone and be able to vent their fears/forget about their troubles for a little while, as needed.

Mind is a great mental health charity in the UK that provides a vital service. A £21 donation can fund their online peer support group for one hour, and I imagine there will be high demand right now.

As I mentioned, I’m extremely happy to be isolating with the charming, kind, loving Dr HH. Many people are going to be forced into isolation with people with whom they are not safe. Women’s Aid released this strong statement on the link between the virus and domestic abuse, and outlined the work that needs to be done to help survivors during this time. You can donate directly on their website.

And of course I’m trying to support local businesses as much as possible, including vegan eateries. You can probably check your local Vegan Facebook group to see which businesses near you are still open. VeggieVisa put together a comprehensive list of what’s open and closed here in Prague, so now Dr HH and I are aiming to get takeaway a couple of nights a week.

Unfortunately my two favourite eateries, Pastva and Moment, have completely closed for now. The original government order was for all establishments to close until 24th March, but I don’t think anyone is expecting them to open again tomorrow. I’ll be counting down until they reopen, and thinking of their brilliant staff, hearty meals, and eclectic playlists in the meantime.

I go to Pastva almost every day when I’m working in the office. I’ve convinced my team that all of our group lunches must be held there. Their ever changing lunch menus bring joy to my life. Sometimes my deskmate and I go at different times on the same day and then try to guess what each other have ordered, with an admirable degree of success (you can’t go wrong with their pasta or ramen dishes). As soon as they reopen, I’m buying vouchers, tipping generously, and following my lunch with a slice of cake every day to help boost their profits!

Friends, how are you doing? I hope you’re all getting through the bad days and finding reasons for celebration, however small. It seems frivolous to continue posting about food right now, but it makes me feel better and hopefully for some of you it will be a welcome, brief distraction from all the bad news. If you want to highlight a great charity to support, or a small online business I might like to buy from (bonus points if it involves vegan chocolate), feel free to share in the comments.

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Vegan in Paris: Janine Loves Sunday and Cloud Cakes

It’s strange to think that just a couple of months ago I was popping over to Paris for a last minute weekend away, and thinking nothing of it. Now the Czech Republic has essentially closed its borders, and I can’t even pop in to the office or my local brunch spot any more – everything’s closed down. It’s an eerie situation.

But life must carry on with some semblance of normalcy. Now there are no travel plans to look forward to for the foreseeable future, at least I can look back fondly…

While we were in Paris we made two attempts to visit Cloud Cakes – the first time we relocated to Wholywood, and the second time we went to Janine Loves Sunday, just down the road. It was a strange place – empty when we arrived at around 11:45am, but they sat us in a cramped little corner table, and then boxed us in by seating all the next customers really close to us. There was no personal space at all.

We were expecting to order from the brunch menu, but were told it was not running, and they were only serving pizza. So pizza is what we had!

They were good pizzas, with a proper thin base and plenty of good cheese. Dr HH ordered this one with mock meat and pickles, and he really enjoyed it.

I loved the mock meat on mine, but I wish they’d listed rocket as an ingredient in the menu, so I could have asked for it to be removed. Does anybody want a massive pile of leaves on top of their pizza?!

I wouldn’t hurry back here – it was fine in a bind, but it wasn’t a very relaxing atmosphere due to how tightly we were crammed in.

We decided to try to grab an outside table at Cloud Cakes so we could at least see what all the fuss was about. We ordered a slice of chocolate fudge cake to share, and I suppose I was expecting more, based on the crowds. It was a good cake, but not the best I’d ever had – and I was displeased to find a layer of fruit in the middle. That is not what I expect from a chocolate fudge cake!

There seems to be something of a pattern here, with the sneaky unlisted rocket on my pizza, and the devious fruit hiding in my chocolate cake. Just let me eat my unhealthy food!

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Vegan in Granada: El Ojú

Dr HH often berates me for my unwillingness to share food, even though I’ve considerably improved since we first met and I used to scowl and harrumph if he asked for so much as a chip (in my defence, he does invariably go for the chip I was most looking forward to eating). I now almost always offer him a bite of what I’m having, and there are rare occasions when I consent to order a few different dishes to share, on the strict understanding that I manage the division of the food.

So it’s possible that he was not very keen to go back to Spain with me and have to negotiate the sharing of various tapas plates. But he needn’t have worried – I view tapas as a food that is meant to be shared, and there’s something very appealing about sitting at a bar in Spain and pecking at some tasty morsels with your loved one. El Ojú was top of our list of eateries to target in Granada, as it was an all-vegan tapas spot a mere stone’s throw from our hotel. It did not disappoint, and nor did my sharing skills, I think it’s safe to say.

The chorizo slices in the sandwich were very good indeed – really flavoursome. To be honest they got a little bit lost in all the bread, it might have been nice to have them just on one slice rather than a sandwich, but I assume the Spaniards know what they’re doing when it comes to serving tapas!

This is not entirely what I was expecting from the tortilla – a fairly thin slice of tortilla on bread, as opposed to the big hearty slab I had my heart set on. Obviously if it’s a free side with a drink, I can’t complain too much. But it just seems like a weird thing to put on bread. It was nice, but not entirely what I’d been hoping for.

We really enjoyed the meatballs – I think they were better than the ones we had in Sevilla, and you can see from the sauce that they were well-seasoned.

Like many small children, if I see chicken nuggets on a menu I simply have to order them! Is there anything more comforting than a chicken nugget?! These were great. The mock chicken was really tender, and the coating was good and crispy. I’d be happy to eat these every day!

Vegan calamari is not something you see on a menu too often, which means it’s always hard to turn down when it does pop up. I never had calamari before going vegetarian, so I don’t have a good frame of reference, but these had an interesting rubbery texture which was reminiscent of some seafood I had back in the day, so I assume they were fairly authentic. These were really tasty, but I wish the mayo had been properly on the side rather than in the same bowl – some of them got pretty sloppy.

When we returned on our last night we couldn’t resist getting the calamari again, and this time we also shared this dish of cheesy, bacony potatoes. I’m not sure if it’s traditional Spanish tapas fare, but unsurprisingly, it was really good. Gooey, meaty, carby…three of my favourite things!

This little place was jumping both nights when we went (in fact, it was busier on a work night – how wild!), and mostly filled with young locals enjoying wine and tapas, and tourists trying as much as they humanly could. It’s quite cheap and cheerful rather than a fancy spot, and it was one of our favourites in our short stay, in terms of the novelty of the items on the menu.

So if you feel that you have the generosity and maturity to share delicious dishes with someone, make sure this is on your list for Granada. Or if not, go by yourself and stuff your face!

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Vegan in Prague: Dim Sum Spot

I had been hoping and expecting to have a lot of dim sum in the coming weeks – Dr HH and I had a two week trip to Beijing, Taipei, and Hong Kong booked. That’s no longer on the cards for obvious reasons, but at least we found somewhere to get dim sum domestically! This is a relatively new spot in Prague, and I’m already a big fan. The menu is fairly small, but it’s good to vegans, with four dumplings and a soup all clearly labelled.

From the “classic” menu we ordered four each of the pumpkin and peanut, and the tofu and spinach dumplings. Dr HH preferred the pumpkin ones for taste, whereas I found them a bit sweet and preferred the tofu and spinach, though they were a little bland. We were in agreement that the tofu ones had a better texture too.

When we go back though, we’ll probably ignore the classic menu altogether though and go straight for the more expensive “specials”. There are again two vegan options: robi and spinach, and robi and tofu. I can’t remember if robi is uniquely Czech, but it’s a kind of mock meat made from beetroot, and it’s very good indeed. These little morsels had a lot of flavour and were, as the name suggests, rather special. We’ll definitely be back for more!

And there’s only one dessert on the menu, and it’s vegan! The cookies were not the perfect bake (a little too hard), but they were tasty and the chocolate was especially good. I don’t think there are enough cookies in restaurants, so this was a welcome treat.

So while this was not exactly the dim sum I was dreaming of, I’m very happy to have such a good option close by. Who needs international travel anyway?!

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Vegan in Granada: El Piano

There used to be a branch of El Piano in York which people raved about: Dr HH and I went there once and found it a bit overrated. I was intrigued to see that they also had a branch in Granada, and was curious as to how similar the two would be. Alas, our take on the Spanish branch was much the same, though I will say that their crockery was top notch!

Dr HH was substantially hungrier than I was, so he opted for a set lunch which started with a slice of quiche. At the counter it looked quite tempting, but it turned out to be sorely lacking in base, which is always a disappointment. Everybody loves some nice, crisp pastry!

And he was powerless to resist a plate of deep-fried goodies! The plate included falafel, pakora and bhajis, and Dr HH found them pleasantly crispy but not the most flavoursome he’d ever had.

I was very much in the mood for tortilla while I was in Spain, so I was pleased with this mighty slab. It was really nice – I liked the texture, but thought it could have done with a touch more seasoning for flavour. Still, I’m happy I ordered it.

Even though it was a big wedge of tortilla, I still had room for chocolate cake! It was extremely rich and chocolatey, which is just what I’d wanted. Dr HH was less keen on his orange cake, which was nicely baked but had bitter orange rind on top that was tricky to deal with. Neither of the lived up to the chocolate orange cake I tried down the road in Sevilla!

We washed down our meals with a mug of Granada chai, which I would not recommend. It was good frothy milk, but the flavour was just weird. I’m not really sure what it was supposed to be, but I was hoping for the warming, familiar spices of a chai latte and that was definitely not what we got!

All in all the food was solid but unspectacular. We ate quite heartily and it was a nice relaxing atmosphere, which was just what we needed after a long morning exploring the Alhambra.

And just look at those tiles! Every holiday snap can be elevated by a stylish tiled background, can’t it?! The Alhambra was really beautiful, and we were fortunate to see it on a day with perfect blue sky and blazing October sunshine. We can safely say that the Granada sights are significantly better than Granada chai!

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