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, 22 January 2017

Cucina 73 King Street Whalley 21st January & 11th May 2017

I visited Cucina 73 last year and booked again, for a belated birthday celebration.   I had positive contact with owners Raffaella, who runs front of house and chef Fabbio her brother, who oversees the kitchen, so I was looking forward to our visit.   This is not the kind of place, you would just turn up and expect a vegan option, as the emphasis is on homemade authentic cooking, mainly based on meat and fish, with the pasta normally made with egg.

The restaurant derives its name from its address 73 King Street and Cucina means kitchen in Italian and on sunny days, it must be nice to sit outside, in the walled front garden.   Luckily we had what I think is the best table, in the front window, which is better for taking photos, with slightly better light, as the low light in the restaurant, although perfect for dining, is not ideal for crystal clear pics, but they came out better this visit.

I kicked off with my favourite drink of the moment, a large Aperol and soda and Steven had a Negroni, which due to Martini not being vegan friendly, is off limits for me sadly.

A small complimentary basket of bread is offered, with balsamic and olive oil, which we ate, whilst Steven perused the menu, its an advantage knowing what you are having, no decisions to make.

I am a creature of habit and so I ordered a bottle of Villa Dei Fiori Fiano white wine from Puglia, which I was told was vegan on our last visit.   I prefer drinking white wine these days, rather than red which gives me a bad head!

My soup starter was made with farro, an ancient Italian grain and an ingredient I have heard of, but never tried before.   Fabbio makes a mean soup, it was delicious, creamy rich, with perfectly cooked farro, served with garlic crostini and drizzled with olive oil, it was a warming winter dish.

Main course was orecchiette pasta, typical of the region of Apulia in southern Italy, made without egg, its name originates from the word orecchia meaning 'ear' and etta meaning 'small', I love the name.   The pasta was served with broccoli, savoy cabbage, mushroom and chilli, its a simple dish, but I love it and could eat it time and time again, its my ideal pasta dish.  The homemade pasta is much nicer than bought, has a solid texture, not dense or hard, but holds its shape and I demolished the lot.

I was far too full for anything else, so finished the meal with a refreshing pot of peppermint tea.  Service was professional, helpful and really friendly from everyone.   We had a chat with Raffaella, about the benefits of herbal teas and our caffeine detox, as I was dying for my usual double espresso or two and her brother Stefano, who also works front of house, has a great sense of humour, so there is always good banter.

Cucina 73 have started offering pizza on Wednesday and Thursdays, so I revisited last night the 11th May, as I cannot resist pizza.

I chose not to have a starter, as I wanted to do justice to my pizza, but I ordered olives and pickled vegetables, to nibble on.   These were fantastic, especially the pickled vegetables, just the right amount of pickling, al dente not soggy, I could have eaten loads of them, you could tell they were homemade.

Chef Fabbio veganised their Rustica pizza, omitting the cheese and egg and cooking my spinach without anchovies and interestingly the pizza had potato on.   When the pizza arrived, not only did it look fantastic, the aroma emanating from the plate, was mouth watering.

The potatoes were well cooked and crispy, soft spinach and red onion that melted in the mouth, I hate places who plonk raw spinach on top.   I could not fault the pizza, it is one of the best I have eaten and I will be stealing the idea of potatoes on pizza, it worked so well.

Cucina 73 is a friendly family run establishment and they really look after the dietary needs of their customers and although the menu is compact, I can understand why, as they make as much on site as possible and do not want to compromise on quality.