Thursday, 8 December 2016

Lolo's Vegan Restaurant & Bar Market Street Ramsbottom 7th December 2016

Lolo's has been on my radar for ages and I knew if I did not put a date in my dairy, I would never get there, so I chose the 7th December.   Lolo's is in Ramsbottom, not far from Bury and describes itself as a 1920's style vegan restaurant and cocktail bar.   I loved its art deco retro style and complimentary sound tracks of the era, making for a very relaxed atmosphere for dining.

Lolo's use organic and local produce where possible, offering fresh cooked dishes, along with some vegan junk food and cakes made on site.   Their commitment to being environmentally friendly and sustainable, includes using renewable electricity, recyclable and biodegradeable products, with all cleaning products and things like hand soaps all vegan.

Lolo's were runner up in The Observer Monthly Food Awards for best ethical restaurant of 2016 and listed in Manchester Evening News best vegan restaurant list 2017.

They are open Wednesday to Saturday, for lunch and dinner, with a wide range of beers, organic wines and delicious sounding cocktails, have events like Jazz evenings and the venue is available for private hire.

The lunch menu is varied and how brilliant I could order anything I fancied, so I ordered an Earl Grey tea and Steven a Fentimans ginger beer, whilst we made our choices.

I chose the spinach tart, with Mediterranean salad and basil dressing, the three potato hash for Steven and a side order of raw green salad to share.

The food was delicious, my salad included many favourite ingredients, artichokes, pine nuts, olives, basil and Steven loved the hash, with three kinds of potato including purple, which added a vibrant colour to the dish, fried tofu, sour cream and avocado. The simplicity of the raw green salad, with live sprouts could have been bland, but I could have eaten a large portion on my own, it was so tasty.   If it were not for the fact, that we had to leave due to other commitments, we would have tucked into one of their desserts or cakes.

Service was friendly and efficient and I had a brief chat with our waitress Natasha, a vegan of twelve months, who was very enthusiastic and explained that all the chefs were vegan, how comforting for their vegan diners.

We both immediately said, we would have to revisit in the New Year for dinner and to sample some cocktails.  I am hoping to arrange to meet up with my vegan Twitter friend Chris Balmer (@ThePlayandRatel) a local lad, who I am sure can recommend which cocktails to dive into first.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Nino's At The Fighting Cocks Inn Red Leeds Road Burnley 4th December 2016

Nino's At The Fighting Cocks is an Italian restaurant, with breath-taking views over the countryside, owned by the Pilliteri family, who have built up a thriving business.   The building itself is quite imposing and inside has been beautifully furnished and is spacious, with plenty of seating.   Every Friday and Saturday evening, there is live music and they have outdoor seating, with a barbecue area, for alfresco dining, in the summer months.

Our visit was for lunch, to meet up with friends, who had asked Steven and I to be godparents, to their young baby son.   There are no specific vegan dishes on the menu, so I asked our waiter a couple of questions and was happy that I could be catered for.   However beware, I nearly opened the packet of breadsticks, read the label and realised they had lard in.

I kicked off with tomato bruschetta, drizzled with loads of olive oil, with pea shoots, which I love and with a good grind of black pepper, is a favourite dish of mine.

I love pasta and was relieved the spaghetti and linguine are egg free, so I ordered spaghetti alla Norma, made with aubergine, chilli and tomato and a side salad.

I love all the ingredients in this dish, the pasta was perfectly cooked, nicely cooked aubergine, great tomato sauce, fresh side salad, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I was too full for pudding, not that there is a vegan alternative, so I finished with a large espresso coffee, which I normally avoid later in the day, as it always keeps me awake, but I was driving, so that was a good thing.

I would definitely revisit Nino's, the food was excellent, service was friendly and efficient, so maybe next time I will try one of their pizza.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Emporium Moor Lane Clitheroe 12th April 2017

The Emporium was the first venue, in the family of what is now James' Places Group, housed in a three storey Methodist Chapel, converted to create an informal place to eat, drink and shop, in the market town of Clitheroe.

Originally a coffee shop, The Emporium has evolved over the years, to encompass a wine bar, brasserie and interior design shop, with furnishings on show, available to purchase.   I love its warm, inviting, relaxed atmosphere and as described on the website its Parisian Grand Cafe style, appeals to all.

They introduced a vegan menu last year (see below), but when I visited last night, this was not available, as they are in the process of creating a new extended version, as it has proved so popular.   I will add the new menu, when it is available.   Last night I was handed a paper copy, with their apologies, as the new menu was at the printers, so off the top of my head, dishes included:  

Vegan breakfast
Avocado on toast
Porridge made with soya milk or water
Bread and oils
Nachos (little or large)
Onion fritters with mango and lime dressing
Club sandwich
Vegan plank including houmous, falafels, pitta bread, salad, artichokes, olives
Asparagus and pea risotto
Vegan pizza
Pineapple carpaccio

I kicked off with a small nachos with salsa, chillies and guacamole, I wonder how big the large is, as it was a good sized portion.   The nachos were fabulous, with a good kick of spice and delicious guacamole, they made a great starter.

Main course was asparagus and pea risotto, again a generous portion and very tasty, however I took some Good Carma vegan Parmesan with me to sprinkle over.   Maybe The Emporium could add this or nutritional yeast, to their store cupboard, to add cheesy flavours to their vegan dishes.

I ordered an Emiliana Adobe Viognier white wine to drink, suitable for vegans and a perfect accompaniment to my risotto.   There are a good number of vegan wines, on the list, perhaps these will be highlighted in the future, for their vegan and vegetarian customers, who like me do not want to drink wines, fined with the likes of isinglass.

I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner and look forward to visiting again, to try other dishes on the menu, as the onion fritters in particular caught my eye.

The photos below show a couple of other dishes, I have eaten on previous visits and as you can see, you do not go hungry, unlike some places, where they think vegans have the appetite of a mouse.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Wensleydale Heifer Main Street West Witton 26th November 2016

On their website The Wensleydale Heifer describes itself, as a boutique hotel and restaurant, in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.   We chose to meet up with friends for dinner there, as an early Christmas celebration, as we live so far apart and were all busy over the festive period.   The Wensleydale Heifer caters for many dietary requirements, including vegans, with a full menu offered.   I have dined at many similar places, one being a fabulous experience only two days prior to our visit, so my expectations were high.

I made an enquiry as to vegan wines and had a lovely email back from Emily on Reception, listing all the suitable ones, after contacting their wine supplier.   I also did my own research and found a few more to add to the list, so I had a good choice.

On arrival I was a little underwhelmed, the frontage did not shout luxury, but country pub and the inside, though cosy was country cottage rather than boutique hotel.

The rooms are themed, so we were in The Four Poster, a little small, but with a large bathroom, tea and coffee making facilities, two apples, bottles of Wensleydale bottled water and a small decanter of sherry, but at £200 for the night, I would not expect anything less.

Our friends suggested we have lunch, so met up in the lounge for a drink and placed our order.  We were shown into the bar area, so our friends two well behaved dogs could be accommodated and were brought bread, houmous and some balsamic oil for me, as for some strange reason, the houmous was not vegan.   I ordered an excellent Delas Vigonier, which was a perfect lunchtime wine.

The vegan main courses were pricey at £15.50, so when my Indian pakora with sweet chilli and cucumber salad arrived, I was disappointed, it was a starter kind of dish, not a main course.   The pakoras were tasty, but the dish did not warrant the price tag.   Steven's vegan Thai curry, was a more complete meal, as can be seen from the photos, served with a jug of extra sauce, so I pinched some of his rice.

Our friends commented, that it was like sitting in the staff canteen though, as members of staff sat at the bar drinking, or wandering in for a chat, or with a box of vegetables for another, so rather distracting.

When we returned to our room, we found complimentary goodies, what a shame there was nothing for me, a little lacking in attention to detail, but I had my apple I suppose.

Our dinner reservation was 20.30 pm so arrived at 19.30 pm for drinks, but as 20.00 pm came and went, no sign of our dinner order being taken.   At 20.40 pm, by which time food and wine orders had been taken, we enquired and were told diners were still sitting on our table.   By 21.00 pm we were getting impatient, finally sitting down at 21.10 pm, on what was the worst table, slap bang in between the two kitchen doors either side, with one door slightly screened off.   It was apparent they were rammed, so even if we had asked to be moved, where to.   There was a constant stream of staff either entering the kitchen, by kicking the door if carrying things or leaving the kitchen with plates of food.   We sat for ten minutes, wondering where our wine and water was and our waiter seemed oblivious we had ordered either and went away to investigate, returned and found our wine on the table across from us, hidden behind a pile of pots and glasses.

Finally we had a glass of wine to chill and relax, one I sampled last month in Ambleside, Mezzacorona Castel Firmian Pinot Grigio, highly recommended if you see it on a list anywhere.

We were brought bread, houmous and four complimentary nibbles, unsuitable for me, until two small pieces of melon and two slices of strawberry arrived in a bowl, how creative!

So onto starters, a roast tomato, pepper and fennel soup with extra virgin olive oil, very nice it was too, but at £8.50 probably the most expensive soup I have eaten.

I ordered a Delas Cote de Rhone wine to accompany the mains, mine being wild mushroom, spinach and truffle risotto, with crispy shallots and dressed rocket, which arrived at nearly 22.00 pm, with apologies from the kitchen.   It was a more robust dish than lunchtime and I was asked for feedback, as it was a new addition to the vegan menu, so I did.   Unfortunately the lack of mushroom and truffle flavour was astounding, yet the rice was perfectly cooked, the dish well seasoned, so I thought my taste buds were playing games, so Steven tried it and agreed.   Interestingly both Steven and one friend had dishes with truffle on, both saying it was overpowering, maybe they got mine.

It was nearly 22.30 pm by this time and we were past wanting desserts, so we had a quick drink in the bar and retired to bed.   However dessert was sorbets or delicious sounding caramelised banana and pineapple, toasted coconut and rum syrup.

Breakfast the following morning, was much more relaxing, a better table and not as frenetic, with a good selection of cereals, fruits, juices and smoothies to start.   I kicked off with fruits, nuts and seeds and then an excellent bowl of porridge, served with golden syrup and lovely coffee.

When it came to ordering hot breakfast, in my case fried potatoes, mushrooms and tomatoes, the waitress assured me it would be cooked separately in olive oil, which I thought was attention to detail.   The breakfast was really nice and I could have eaten the potatoes twice over, would have been great with my pakoras, they were wonderful.

I am in two minds about The Wensleydale Heifer, they understand a vegan diet and offer a nice vegan menu, however I feel that it is overpriced, as did Steven and our friends.   One thing I cannot fault though is the staff, who were polite, welcoming and helpful, although under pressure I think that night.

I dine out regularly, be it fine dining or coffee and cake and everything in between and feel The Wensleydale Heifer is charging fine dining prices, in a pub atmosphere.   It has a big following, apparent by how busy it was, its Tripadvisor reviews and is in an area, devoid of much competition, so gets away with top end pricing.   If visiting the area again and wanting a fine dining experience, I would be heading off to the Michelin starred Yorke Arms at Ramsgill.   Would I return to The Wensleydale Heifer, well sadly the answer would be no.