Sunday, 29 January 2017

Kasbah Cafe Bold Street Liverpool 28th January 2017

Kasbah is on Bold Street and it is always busy, as we walked past it several times, so went in to book for a Saturday night, just in case, good job we did.

I did not manage a photo from the front, as there was work going on and lots of scaffolding, but inside, it is a multitude of colours, textures, smells and great ambience.

On the menu outside, it has vegan options, all clearly marked, which makes for easy ordering.

Kasbah is not licensed, so no alcohol served, but with such good food, its not something we missed, we enjoyed it that much.

When we arrived on a busy Saturday night, the place was buzzing and vibrant, we were shown to our table and ordered drinks, Moroccan lemonade, such a refreshing drink with plenty of mint.

We started with barba mcharmela, a beetroot salad and zaalouk, an aubergine dish of roast aubergine, tomato, cumin and smoked paprika, served with flatbread.   I loved the simplicity of these two dishes, just the kind of food I adore, it was a great start to the meal.

Main course was berkani tagine of chickpeas and spinach, with saffron rice, it was piping hot, so much so I had to leave it 5 mins too cool, before I could even attempt to eat it.

The tagine was perfectly spiced and seasoned, so easy to ruin a dish with the spices clashing, but with the saffron rice, it was a perfect warming winter dish.

I was far too full for a dessert, which was oranges with cinnamon and rosewater, so instead chose Moroccan mint tea, which was served in a lovely teapot and glass cup.

Kasbah is a wonderful place, apparent by the number of people coming in to eat, quite late on, I would definitely return, when back in Liverpool

Maray Bold Street Liverpool 27th January 2017

Maray is located on busy Bold Street and as I was unable to get a table, the last time I was in Liverpool, I made a reservation before we went away.   Maray serves eclectic and seasonal food, concentrating on sharing plates, with an excellent vegan menu offered.

Maray is small, but has a great vibe and music, with low lighting perfect for dining, though not ideal for photos so my pics do not do justice to the food.

We had a lovely table for two in the window, so whilst we perused the menus, I ordered a bottle of red Bodegas Ochoa wine from Navarra Spain, after the winemaker confirmed it was vegan friendly, via email correspondence.

I contacted Maray, prior to our visit, asking which wines were vegan and was delighted to find that they are in the process of labelling vegan friendly wines on the list, a great move in my opinion.

Our waitress Lau suggested we order two or three dishes each, plus side orders, depending on how hungry we were, so we kicked off with Nocellara olives with chilli, orange and sea salt, I am a sucker for olives, they were delicious.

I love the unusual combinations, the chefs have created, which work so well, so the first dish was sprouts, medjool dates, lime and sesame.   I adore brussel sprouts and with the sweetness of dates, the acidity of lime and crunch of sesame, I could have eaten this dish on my own, it was wonderful.

Next was salt baked beets, with orange and endive, a light refreshing dish and beetroot and orange is a classic marriage, again I could have eaten it on my own.

This was followed by tenderstem broccoli, dukkah and tahini, another fabulous dish, some of my favourite ingredients all on one plate.

Steven ordered artichoke, miso, coconut and pickles, as he loves artichoke, but it was Jerusalem artichokes, but even so he loved it.

Our two final dishes, were two of the best, half a cauliflower, flaked almonds, pomegranate, tahini and fresh herbs, what a mega dish, the humble cauliflower elevated to a dish of total deliciousness.

Finally fries with houmous and green chilli sauce, not for the faint hearted, as the chillies really packed a punch, but we could easily have polished off two portions, they were that good.

A small break, whilst we finished our wine and then it was impossible to resist the carrot and cardamon baklava served with coconut cream.

An inventive dessert and a far cry from boring sorbet offered, in so many places, it was not dense or too sticky, like most baklava and the coconut cream set it off perfectly.

We thought Maray was a brilliant venue, a relaxed ambience, friendly and cheerful service, if only I lived in Liverpool, maybe they will open a branch in Manchester.   Highly recommended for vegans and interestingly enough, the reason for the vegan menu, is due to the demand from their customers, so great to see the guys at Maray listening to customer feedback.

Meeting House Cafe School Lane Liverpool 27th January 2017

Meeting House Cafe is situated inside the Liverpool Quaker Meeting House and provides vegetarian and vegan food and is a perfect place for a light lunch.

There is a small courtyard to the rear, with outside seating and you can enter the cafe from here, as well as off School Lane itself.

The cafe is bright and airy inside and you order at the counter, where they have a clearly labelled vegan menu.

I love jacket potatoes and with houmous, its the perfect light lunch, though this jacket potato did defeat me, it was huge, but really tasty.

I was too full for cake, but spotted a vegan and gluten free raspberry Victoria sponge cake, in the chiller cabinet,  it was mighty tempting.

I really liked the Meeting House Cafe, really chilled atmosphere, lovely fresh food and plenty vegan options.

All Bar One Derby Square Liverpool 28th January 2017

All Bar One is a group of stylish city bars, with around fifty venues throughout the UK, owned by parent company Mitchells and Butlers, who also own amongst others, Harvester and Toby Carvery, who have vegan options on their menus.  I was really pleased that All Bar One were taking part in Veganuary, by introducing a vegan menu and were really marketing this to the general public on their website and in their venues.

I was visiting Liverpool for a belated birthday weekend away and Emma from All Bar One's social media team, kindly sent me a voucher, to sample their vegan offerings.   I never turn down the offer of food, so took Steven for lunch.

The Liverpool site has plenty outside seating for warmer weather and inside is modern and contemporary, light and bright and very busy on a Saturday lunchtime.   We were shown to our table by Jonny the Assistant Manager and given menus, whilst we waited for our drinks.

I must be honest, my experience of food at chain restaurants, is not brilliant, so hence I do not visit them often, mainly because I have high expectations of the food and have had so many let downs, so this visit I went with an open mind.

There is an interesting selection of vegan dishes, so I chose patatas bravas and avocado and tomato bruschetta, the presentation was excellent, you eat with your eyes first, so you just wanted to dive in.

Both dishes were fresh and delicious, the patatas bravas were crisp and not oily and the sauce was perfect, I was impressed.

Main courses were miso rice bowl for Steven and kale pakora on flatbread, with houmous and tahini for me.

Steven, who although not vegan, absolutely loved the miso rice bowl and said it was not something he would think of ordering, but this dish changed his mind, he loved it.   The kale pakora dish was superb, so many flavours and textures and as for the jackfruit chutney, I should have asked for the recipe.

We were quite full, but could not resist dessert, so Steven chose the coconut and vanilla rice pudding and chocolate, chilli and cardamon cake with Belgian chocolate sauce for me.

It shows how much I loved the chocolate cake, as I posted all the photos I took, it was one of the most lush, indulgent chocolate desserts I have eaten, if they take this off the menu, its a crime.   The rice pudding went down well with Steven too and although he had a spoon or two of my cake, it was a generous slice and it defeated me, as I was popping.

Jonny was friendly and helpful and we had a brief chat, about the vegan menu, which seems to be going down well.   I have contacted All Bar One (@allbarone) and their parent company Mitchells and Butlers (@eatdrinkmb) on Twitter, to ask if the vegan menu will be a permanent fixture, so anyone reading this, if you feel the same, let them know.

I was sceptical about the food, but my visit completely changed my mind, they are well thought out dishes, well cooked.   I will definitely look out for All Bar One, when out and about on my travels.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The Allotment Vegan Restaurant Vernon Street Stockport 14th January 2017

The Allotment is the brainchild of plant based chef Matthew Nutter, who on his website says:

"We don't do boring at The Allotment, we're here to bring veganism into your life without sacrificing taste.   Tucked away down the cobbles of Stockport's Old Town, we create locally sourced, high quality vegan and gluten free food like you've never tasted before"

I love The Allotment's frontage, with its clear leaf logo, on the frosted windows.

I did not take photos of the interior, as due to low lighting I would need to use flash, which was inappropriate on a busy Saturday night, intruding on customer dining experiences, but I loved its cosy atmosphere.   The lighting though perfect for dining (I hate bright in your face lights) impacted on the quality of my photos and as some of the dishes were served on dark plates, they do not do justice to the food at all.

There is a choice of a Tasting Menu priced at £55 per person or A La Carte with three choices for each course, with optional side dishes.

The Allotment is not licensed, so have a Bring Your Own policy, with a minimal corkage charge of £5 per table, so I took a bottle of organic Miguel Torres Rose wine, with its clear vegan labelling.

We were shown to a table in the window and given menus, whilst our wine was whisked off, opened and brought back in a wine chiller.   We were given a small amuse bouche, to kick off the meal, pickled onions in a very light batter with beetroot gel, it was delicious.

My starter was apple and sage, crispy parsnip and roasted celeriac, a refreshing starter, beautiful presentation and maybe my taste buds were playing games, but I got the warmth of wasabi.

Steven chose the fennel, pear and avocado tartare, a delicate tasty dish, a perfect start to the meal.

I chose chilli chocolate and aubergine for mains, served with cornbread and sour cream.   I have always been sceptical of chocolate in a savoury dish, its a fine line that can be easily crossed, this was spot on.   Cornbread can be stodgy and heavy, but not this rendition, it was so light and just the job for mopping up the chocolate sauce.   The aubergine, one of my favourite vegetables, was hickory smoked and the components of the dish all complimented each other so well.

Steven chose the cheese and onion mains, comprising roasted garlic cashew cheese, which he thought was a revelation, complimented by confit shallots and creamy mash, it was his highlight dish of the evening, he loved it.

We shared a side order of cauliflower hot wings, with pickled scotch bonnet chillies.   This was a knock out dish, they were fantastic, with a crisp batter and a spicy kick from the chillies.

We were then served pre-dessert, a palate cleansing lemongrass sorbet with coconut sugar and edible flower, ideal before pudding.

We had a rest at this stage of the meal, to finish our wine, whilst we decided on desserts, the Spanish Turkish delight for me and lemon cheesecake for Steven.   I loved the textures of chocolate coated honeycomb, blood orange jelly, citrus sorbet and the candle in recognition of my birthday.   Orange and chocolate is a classic combination, think Terry's chocolate orange on a plate, it was heaven.

Stevens lemon and Yuzu cheesecake, with star anise pear and chilli crumble, was served deconstructed, and was his least favourite dish of his meal, but he wolfed it down nevertheless.

Service was friendly and efficient, from the young front of house team, and when asked about the demographic of their customers, we were told only about 40% of diners were vegan or vegetarian.   Chef Matthew Nutter and his team are knocking out top notch, creative plant based dishes, its accomplished cooking.   I cannot think of anywhere else like The Alloment, they are breaking new ground on the vegan scene and long may it continue.

My only issues were the chairs, maybe its an age thing, but we found them extremely uncomfortable, especially if you leaned onto the chair back, with a hard piece of wood digging into you.   The second was the use of small green hand towels, in the unisex toilets, I really did not like this at all, paper towels or a hand dryer would be much more hygenic.   I did not use the towels, I wiped my hands on a clean paper hanky, which luckily I had in my bag.

I would love to revisit and try their Sunday vegan roast at some point, but as a vegan of thirty years, visiting somewhere like The Allotment, is a dream come true for me.

Note:   I received a reply from The Allotment to let me know, that they were aware of the chair issue and were looking at replacing them and would take on board my comment about towels.