Thursday, 29 October 2015

Soup Kitchen Spear Street Manchester 26th October 2015

I have been meaning to pop into Soup Kitchen for ages and wish I had done sooner, as I loved it on my first visit.   It is a really relaxed kind of place, with long bench type communal tables, loads of people coming and going, with blackboards explaining what dishes were available and plenty of vegan options.

You order food at the counter, so I opted for a roasted vegetable and houmous sandwich, with a mug of roasted butternut squash and sage soup, which at £6.50 was a bargain.   The lunch was delicious with loads of filling in the sandwich, which was probably one of the best sandwiches I have eaten recently.

I could not manage any cake for afters, but there were vegan peanut butter brownies and veggie fritterz available.

I will certainly be revisiting Soup Kitchen and will make sure I have room for whatever vegan cakes are on that day.

Wahaca Corn Exchange Manchester 26th October 2015

I have wanted to try Wahaca, since it opened in the Corn Exchange and so visited with my husband on what was a busy Monday night.

I actually did not like the interior of the place at all and where we sat was so dark, you could hardly read the menus.   Our waitress Maddie was really helpful though, when I asked about vegan options and went through the menu with me, as to which dishes were suitable, so top marks on the service front, the same cannot be said for the food.

I ordered nibbles of guacamole and tomato salsa, both served with corn chips to share, which were quickly brought (the photos throughout this review are a little hazy, as the lighting was so low).   However before we had time to enjoy our nibbles with a nice glass of wine, our main courses arrived, which I found a little annoying.

Mains was supercharged salad which included roasted cauliflower, avocado, spelt and pumpkin seeds, served in a huge inedible deep-fried tortilla bowl, which was such a waste, as it was that hard, it would have been impossible to eat it, even if I wanted to.   It does say on the menu that for a lighter option you can ask for it without the tortilla bowl, why not just serve it like that all the time.   I also ordered sweet potato chunks as a side order.

I was so disappointed with the food, it was under-seasoned and bland, bland, bland even when I added some of the vegan friendly chipotle sauce.

Would I go back, I'm afraid not as it certainly did not meet my expectations.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Koffee Pot Oldham Street Manchester 18th October 2015

I had heard about The Koffee Pot from Manchester Confidential so headed on down for Sunday breakfast.   It has an American diner vibe, in fact the place was buzzing with a diverse mix of customers, families, couples, groups of girls and boys, I loved soaking up the atmosphere.

I was starving after a night out in Manchester the previous evening and a full vegan breakfast was badly needed and a bargain at £6.50.

It did not disappoint and came with two rounds of toast and excellent coffee which was so good I had to have another for the caffeine fix!

This is a great place, service was friendly and spot on and being a Sunday morning, people were waiting to get a table, definitely one to revisit when next in need of a hangover cure!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Atul Kochhar's Sindhu Restaurant onboard P&O Cruises Arcadia

I contacted Atul Kochhar via Twitter way back in June, when I asked if I could dine in his Sindhu restaurant, which was launching on Arcadia during our September cruise.   Fair play to Atul, he replied back to every one of my tweets and confirmed that vegan would be no problem and told me the dates he would be on-board, which when I booked the cruise were unavailable.

On embarkation day I made sure I booked a table for the first night, as Atul was hosting the venue and would be speaking to diners, as well as heading up the galley.

I had a chat with Sindhu's Head Chef Razel, as to what vegan options I could have, bearing in mind I am allergic to most beans and lentils, a real challenge especially when it comes to Indian food, where pulses are a main component.   Razel was happy to accommodate though, tweaking both a starter and main course to suit and I went away happy with my vegan menu choices.

The venue itself is modern, but warm and welcoming and we got a great table by the window, with views over the ocean, a great start to the evening.   We were given poppadums and chutneys to start, whilst perusing the menu.

My starter was Karari Gobhi - tandoori cauliflower parcel with piccalilli and smoked tomato chutney, this was a light and tasty dish beautifully presented.

Main course was Khumb Khichidi - stir fried wild mushrooms with chickpeas, seasonal truffle and rice kedgeree, this was a delicately spiced dish and miles away from the spicy food I usually like, but was thoroughly delicious and enjoyable.

Accompaniments were various breads, additional rice, lentils (which hubby tried to demolish) and the best okra dish I have every eaten in my life.

I was so full I could only manage some fruit salad for dessert and even then I failed to finish it all.

The highlight of the evening was Atul visiting each table, but he is not how I expected a celebrity chef to be, he is down to earth, a real gentleman and happy to chat and said that if Indian Restaurants cannot make vegan or vegetarian food then shame on them.

The following day we went to see him being interviewed about his life and passion for food, inspired by his grandparents and parents as a young lad and interestingly one of his passions is vegetables and how to cook them.   I would love to visit Benares, his London Mayfair restaurant and hope to visit there some day.

Cruise J514 Arcadia 20th September 7th October 2015

I have sailed with P&O many times and reviewed my dining experiences on Adonia in May this year.   Arcadia is a much bigger ship and on-boarding I received an informative letter from Senior Restaurant Manager Edrich Correia, explaining in detail about dietary requirements, which is a new procedure and most welcome especially so for new cruisers.

I had been in touch with shore-side diet reservations and Karen had kindly arranged for almond milk to be on board, as I can no longer tolerate soya milk and this was available for me on the first sea-day after embarkation.

Sometimes first night dinner can be difficult, as I would normally pre-order the night before and of course you are ordering off a menu with no specific vegan options.   I was impressed by our waiters Dinesh and Shriram, who took it upon themselves to speak with diet chef Sandeep, as to a suitable main course, as Head Waiter Loyola, who would normally organise my menus, was looking after other passengers.   From that night onwards, I cannot fault the service by the four of them, nothing was too much trouble, any requests I made were accommodated, which as a vegan with a number of allergies, is a challenge in itself.

I met Sandeep, who was catering for 150 covers over two sittings, with only an assistant to help him, so you can imagine how busy his section of the galley is.   I had no complaints, his food was delicious, well presented and perfect portion control and his curries, spiced up for my tastes were fantastic.   I had so many different dishes, it would be impossible to post them all here, but here is a selection.

Warm tomato confit and avocado bruschetta

Smokey chickpea goulash

 Mushroom and pimento salad with balsamic syrup

Spicy potato and spinach curry 

Wild mushroom filo parcel with Colcannon

Courgettes stuffed with ratatouille

Wild mushroom timbale with asparagus

Chickpea and vegetable tagine with harissa couscous

Warm vegetable salad

Spicy cannellini bean stew

I had a different soup every night, including celery, sweet potato, vegetable with chickpea croutons, roasted red pepper, vegetable consomme, tomato and many more.   I am not a huge dessert fan, in fact by the time I had eaten starter, soup and main course, all I could manage was whatever the sorbet of the day was, which were all delicious.   Loyola, Dinesh and Shriram were concerned I was not eating enough and I had to decline their offers of other dessert options.

Our wine steward Amy, a very professional young lady, was a vegetarian and asked me how I managed as regards vegan friendly wines.   I explained I had done some research prior to our cruise, to find out which wines by the glass were vegan and the choice was vast.

I always say after each cruise, that the restaurant team cannot be bettered, but Loyola, Dinesh, Shriram, Sandeep and Ammy have set the bar high, they were exceptional, professional but so friendly.   I was quite sad to say goodbye and hope they realise, if they happen to read this review at some point, that I really appreciated all they did and hope to meet them again sometime.

 Waiters Dinesh and Shriram

Wine Steward Amy

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Makrovega Leština Ulica Split 30th September 2015

I found Makrovega on Happy Cow and it got rave reviews, so when we docked in Split on a cruise, I headed off for lunch.   If you visit Makrovega do not be put off as to its location, its a little off the beaten track, but certainly worth it.

Makrovega has a daily lunch menu for 60 kuna, which is roughly £6, although you can omit the soup course if you wish, for a small reduction which is what I did.   They were very helpful, when I asked if the dish could be made without soya and husband swopped his steamed vegetables for my bean casserole, made with pinto beans which I am sadly also allergic to.

My husband loved the vegetable soup, which was light, fresh and full of flavour and a good sized portion.

The main course was really good, I really enjoyed my first taste of gomashio and you could tell the food was freshly made, as my husband's seitan had tofu layered with it and was served with tofunaise.   Mine however was a thicker piece of seitan with no tofunaise, crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle.   I loved the place and its food and it had a lovely chilled out atmosphere.

Makrovega is really popular, with a diverse customer base, women were lunching on their own, families dining together, workmen in overalls coming in for a takeaway, which was a brisk trade at lunchtime and as for the cake display, I was swooning but far too full, to take advantage.   If in Split you have to visit Makrovega.

Nishta Restaurant Prijeko bb Dubrovnik 28th September 2015

I had done some research, as to vegan options in Dubrovnik and Nishta was definitely the place to go, after reading reviews on both Happy Cow and Tripadvisor.   It is easy to find in the old town and I am glad we got there early for lunch, as it is a busy, busy place, with tables reserved for later diners.

The menu is vast with many vegan options, so it was hard to decide what to have, but I went for the Bar Bea seitan burger with naan bread and sweet potato sticks and it did not disappoint, it was fantastic.

I was far too full for a dessert, but if the main course was anything to go by, I do not doubt the desserts would be as good.   If in Dubrovnik, do not miss out on a visit to Nishta, or you will regret it and as for the price, well a meal for two with delicious local sparkling water was 182.00 kuna, which I worked out to be about £18.00.

Rosy's Bakery Paleologou Corfu Town 27th September 2015

I stumbled across Rosy Soussis's two bakeries on 37 & 71 Paleologou by chance, whilst visiting Corfu Town on a cruise.   I first of all saw the sign below and so had to go in and have a chat, as I could not believe I had found vegan baclava.

I was most impressed by Rosy's knowledge of the vegan diet, she explained her vegan baclava was made with olive oil and sugar syrup, to replace butter and honey.   I also enquired as to why she had begun making a vegan version in the first place and she just said "why not" explaining that she had been asked so many times by visitors and it was a big seller.

If you are ever in Corfu Town, you have to visit Rosy's Bakery and sample the baclava, it is awesome.