Recently I saw a list of the top thirty vegetarian restaurants in the country. My initial reaction was, of course, to drool Homer Simpson-style at all the feasts that awaited me. My second reaction was one of outrage: why no Waiting Room? Being a vegetarian teenager in Teesside wasn’t particularly a challenge: there weren’t exactly exciting offerings, but the majority of places at least provided a solid veggie option. Now that I’m living in Manchester and enjoying the range of entirely meat-free restaurants and the prominence of marked vegan dishes on menus, I can see what a struggle it would be to still live in Middlesbrough with my current diet. It was slim pickings, but there was always this ray of sunshine: The Waiting Room, situated right by the train station in Eaglescliffe.
It is such a good place, in fact, that I made a day trip back to the north east to catch up with a dear friend there rather than opting for our usual middle ground of York. The Waiting Room is fairly unassuming from the outside, simply inhabiting the ground floor of a terraced house, and the decor is similarly low-key: a selection of mismatched tables dotted through what would have been the living room, a pretty old fireplace, the menu displayed on a large blackboard (an extension at the back of the property houses a more modern looking section). It’s easy to feel at home there.
Vegan options aren’t marked, but are readily provided by the helpful staff: there were two vegan options for each course, and a couple of savoury dishes that could be adapted. I chose the cashew, carrot and apple loaf, as it was a Sunday and I fancied something traditional. It had to be served without the non-vegan white wine sauce, but as someone who is partial to dry food it wasn’t a problem. The loaf was very tasty and moist, accompanied by roasted vegetables and some beautiful sesame seed-coated roast potatoes. It was filling yet sufficiently light: the perfect Sunday dinner balance.
We needed a bit of a breather before tackling dessert, but there was no doubt that it would be done. I went for the summer pudding- the first time I’ve ever had one. The layer of fruit in the middle was zingy and refreshing, bursting with tart berries. It was sublime. Even with the rain falling outside, it tasted of summer.
The Waiting Room may be the best veggie restaurant in Teesside by virtue of being the only one, but it is also pretty stellar by any standards and definitely deserves a place in any top thirty list.