Sunday, 25 September 2016

Tharavadu Mill Hill Leeds 24th September 2016

Tharavadu is an Indian restaurant, with umpteen awards and included in numerous food guides, such as Michelin and Hardens.   Tharavadu offers traditional Kerala cooking, so I contacted them via Twitter, to check how vegan friendly they are and their response prompted me to book a table for dinner.

Keralan cuisine is quite spicy, so after checking about vegan options, kicked off with snacks and pickles, consisting of pappada vada papadams dipped in rice batter, pakkavadakaya made from rice and gram flour, varuthathu made from deep fried plantain chips and pappadoms.   Alongside these were served three chutneys, coconut and chilli, lemon and mango, my favourite was the coconut (see photo) delicious, creamy and spicy.

I passed on starters, but Steven ordered vegetable dosa, which could easily have fed four and which I could not try, as it contained lentils, but it smelled and looked fantastic, he failed to finish it.

Main course was kadala masala, chickpeas cooked in a light tomato sauce (requested extra hot) and koon mezhukku varatty, mushrooms sauteed with onion, garlic and coconut and boiled rice.

The dishes were totally delicious and really fresh, with plenty green chillies in the chickpea dish, although no one in our party could tolerate it, in fact it made Steven's eyes water, his mouth was on fire and his hair wet.   I love my spice and this was just how I like my curry.

Tharavadu is not your typical Indian restaurant, with such intersting dishes on the menu, a welcome change from the humdrum Madras, Rojan Josh dishes etc and if it was nearer, I would be a regular customer.   I can understand why it so highly regarded.

Ambiente Tapas Call's Landing Leeds 24th September 2016

I was meeting up with friends in Leeds and as we all love tapas, I contacted Ambiente Tapas who also have sites in York, to ask about vegan options and felt happy I would be well fed, so booked for Saturday lunch.

Ambiente has a chilled atmosphere, great decor and was light, bright and airy and very inviting from the outside too.

I chose a Fuenteseca Sauvignon Blanc wine, having had it before, knew it was vegan and an excellent wine to boot.   Although the wine list labelled wines vegetarian, maybe Ambiente could extend it to include vegan ones too, sure their vegan customers would appreciate it.

I ordered the vegetarian platter, without the non vegan empanadas, with a vegan portion of patavas bravas.   The platter included charred artichoke hearts, piquillo peppers, palm hearts, olive tapenade and tomato chutney, bread, olives and almonds.   The presentation was fantastic, made me want to tuck in, even more so, when the equally delicious looking bravas arrived on the table.

I loved the food and had no complaints and apart from the fact that I was fit to burst, would have partaken of the vegan dessert, strangely enough the only dish labelled vegan on the menu, and the strange title of Moroccan Snake Bread.

Overall the experience was great, service throughout was friendly, helpful and efficient and the food was really delicious so I will definitely revisit.

Carluccio's Spinningfields Manchester 23rd September 2016

Carluccio's has been another place on my to visit radar, so I booked for dinner, whilst on an evening out in Manchester.   The main city venue is in Spinningfields, with another outlet at Piccadilly station.

The added bonus is their vegan menu, offering only a small selection of options, but compared to other Italian outlets is most welcome.

Inside it is modern, light and airy and we had a lovely table for four, so plenty of room, for just the two of us.

I kicked off with a Campari and soda and some delicious giant Sicilian green olives, with a name like mine, I am a bit of an olive expert and these were delicious.

To start I chose caponata an aubergine sweet and sour stew, served chilled with focaccia bread, this was a lovely tasty dish.

Main course was spaghetti pomodoro, which was the weakest dish of the night, the tomato sauce was quite dry and needed a big glug of olive oil and was severely under seasoned.   Spaghetti pomodoro, a dish made of simple ingredients should be stunning, but sadly not on this occasion.

I chose a sides of broccolini, with chilli, garlic and almonds, a star dish and far superior to the pasta, in fact the components in larger quantities, would make a great topping for pasta.

Service by Alberto our waiter, was friendly, helpful and any request quickly dealt with, so I was well looked after.   I enjoyed the evening, but with so many places offering vegan options, competition is hot and I am not sure I would rush back.   Italian cuisine is my favourite and I have been lucky enough to dine out all over Italy, so know the vegan offerings could be so much more exciting at Carluccios'.

Brewdog Peter Street Manchester 23rd September 2016

Brewdog has been on my radar for ages, as I was dying to try their vegan Hail Seitan burger and a Friday lunchtime visit to Manchester was the day.   I made an enquiry a week before our visit, to ask about gluten free bread for my husband, with the positive reply being they would ensure something was available.

I also wanted to check out their Vegan Society trademark range of beers, which is a huge step forward, by a major brewer (see here).   I chose Dead Pony Club, a strange name for a vegan beer, but nothing strange about the taste, I am not even a beer drinker, but I loved it.

I love the vibe of Brewdog, punk style with attitude, minimalist but totally chilled, all the staff on the day I visited, were fantastic to deal with, friendly, helpful and smiling.

There are two vegan options on the menu, the Hail Seitan burger and the Soy Division tofu dog (vegan option available).

I chose the burger and Steven the tofu dog, as a gluten free option and it would have been rude not to have fries.

I could use all kinds of superlatives, to describe the Hail Seitan burger, but will only use one 'Stupendous' it was meaty in texture, tasty, tender, delicious and plenty of it, on a lovely light wholemeal bun with thin fries.    Dead Pony Club alongside to wash it down and it was a 100% perfect vegan lunch.

The tofu dog was equally delicious and we loved its quirky presentation, on very light gluten free buns.   Our plates were clean when the waiter came to clear the table and I mentioned how good the seitan was and my failures to make anything like edible at home. He told us the seitan was homemade and even explained the process, which was about five hours, so maybe I need to give it another go.

I loved Brewdog and it is always good to know, where you can find vegan options, so I will be back.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Food By Breda Murphy Station Road Whalley 20th September 2016

Food By Breda Murphy is a restaurant, delicatessen and offsite caterers, with the railway station immediately opposite, so I arrived virtually on the doorstep, though there is a small car park for customer parking.

I rang to enquire about the vegan curry (clearly marked on the menu), to check for things I am allergic to.   The lady I spoke to was very helpful and I was relieved to hear the dish contained no soya or pulses I am allergic to, but chickpeas which thankfully are not one of them.

The place is modern, light and bright, with a deli counter, though not much for vegans, but everything looked fresh.   They also sell a small range of gifts, candles, glassware and ceramics.

The waitress looking after us, said that alongside curry, their breads were suitable for vegans and they could make a houmous sandwich with various salads, but I never pass on a curry.

When my lunch arrived, the presentation was great, but it was not a particularly big portion. I do not want huge plates of food, but even I thought it was small priced at £13, which I think is a bit steep.

The dish was served with mini poppadum, but as I was unsure if they were made with lentils, decided to leave them.   I should have asked really, but sometimes I just do not like making a fuss, especially when I am with a friend.   The curry was absolutely delicious, full of flavour and better than many Indian restaurants, although next time I may ask for it hotter, being a proper chilli head.

Overall I really enjoyed Food by Breda Murphy, who use quality ingredients and serve delicious food, however the curry is on the skimpy side, my husband would not find it substantial enough.   Maybe the addition of chips or bread would feed hungry vegans like me, but I would love to return to see what else they can offer.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Roasted Cauliflower & Cannellini Pesto Mash

I wanted a new cauliflower dish to try and found this recipe, courtesy of Jamie Oliver.   I changed it slightly, as I was missing some ingredients, but rest assured this dish is divine, an absolute cracker.

1 onion thinly sliced
1 cauliflower
3 tbsp olive oil
400 g can cannellini beans
15 g almonds
50 g cooked spinach
Pinch of chilli powder
1 tsp lemon zest
Salt and pepper

Serves 2

Pre-heat the oven to 180°.   Remove all the leaves from the cauliflower and trim the stalk.   Cook the whole cauliflower in boiling water for 3 mins, drain and refresh in cold water.

Cut the cauliflower into 2 cm thick slices and place on a baking tray.   Some florets will fall off, but arrange them on the tray alongside the slices.   Mix 1 tbsp oil with the chilli powder and brush onto the cauliflower and cook in the oven, until browned and tender, when pierced with a knife.

Put 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan and cook the onion, until browned and crisp, then set aside on kitchen roll, to remove excess oil.

Toast the almonds in a dry pan until golden brown, being careful not to burn them.

Blitz the spinach, lemon zest, almonds, remaining oil and plenty salt and pepper, until you get a smooth green pesto.

Drain the cannellini beans, reserving 2 tbsp of their liquid, place in a pan and mash with a potato masher, then mix in the pesto and warm through.

Divide half the pesto mash onto two plates, top with the cauliflower, remaining pesto mash and the crispy onions.   I also added small baked potatoes and roasted carrots and it made a heavenly dinner.