Monday, 18 April 2016

Zizzi Corn Exchange Manchester 18th April 2016

My Twitter feed has been buzzing about the new vegan menu, recently introduced by the Zizzi restaurant group, so the Manchester branch in the refurbished Corn Exchange, has been on my to visit list since.   Zizzi have recognised the massive increase in demand for vegan options, which appeals to dairy and lactose intolerant diners and for this, they have to be commended.   Their competitors have really missed the boat.

The restaurant is cosy and welcoming, with nice lighting and exceptionally friendly front of house staff, headed up by Ben, who I think may have been the Manager.

The vegan menu has plenty of choice, with two kinds of olives, garlic bread, bruschetta, pasta, side dishes and of course Margherita pizza, which can be customised with extra toppings, in addition to the mozzarella alternative made by Mozzarisella.   The cheese is made from germinated brown rice, so suitable for diners with gluten intolerance and as Zizzi also have a gluten free pizza base available, no diners are left out.   There is a vegan dessert of nectarini filled with coconut and mango swirl, with optional caramelised pecans and vegan wines are clearly highlighted on the menu too.

With a name like VeganOlive1, olives are a must, so I ordered Nocellara olives to start, which were really tasty.

Main course was vegan Margherita with artichokes, spinach and green chillies, which was served clearly marked with a vegan sticker for clarity, which I really like and shows Zizzi's commitment and attention to detail.

The pizza was pretty perfect, the base was just the right thickness, well cooked and dusted with polenta underneath to stop the base going soggy.   The tomato sauce and the toppings, not too much, not too little, were spot on, so much so, I devoured every morsel.

The cheese is not stringy like normal mozzarella, but I was won over, even though I am not a fan of vegan cheese alternatives, I thought it was excellent.   Sadly I was too full for dessert, maybe next time!

I had a chat with Ben, who said that since introducing the vegan menu, there had been a noticeable increase in diners, particularly large groups, as the vegan menu encompassed so many dietary requirements.   The Corn Exchange has three other Italian/pizza restaurants and if I wanted pizza, then Zizzi would definitely be my choice, purely based on their vegan menu.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Jim's Vegetarian Cafe Newmarket Street Colne 2nd April 2016

Jim's Vegetarian Cafe is a legend in its own right in Colne and I think its been there nearly thirty years.   They host music nights, hence its also known as an accoustic cafe and is one of the venues during the Colne Blues Festival, held in August every year.   I have not visited for years, no particular reason why, other than we moved area, so it was not as convenient, but after last nights visit, the trip to get there is definitely worth it.

Jim's is located on Newmarket Street, which runs off the main road going through the centre of Colne and looks warm and inviting from outside.

The place has not really changed much, its ecletic and bohemian, the furnishings must have been collected over the years, there are a couple of pot bellied stoves and nothing matches, but that just adds to the charm.   An interior designer would fail miserably trying to re-create its individuality and quirkiness, or the atmosphere, you feel totally relaxed as soon as you walk through the door.   My interior photos are sadly a bit inferior, due to the low lighting, but that's another thing I loved about it, who wants to dine under a blazing light bulb, the lighting was spot on.

The music playlist of classic artists such as Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, played through the evening compliments the whole place, it really is hard to describe the atmosphere, you would have to visit.

The place was packed, with people of all ages, from teenagers through to people in their seventies, so Jim's appeals to all.   The menu is not vast, has plenty of vegan options and many that can be adapted and I recognised most of the dishes, from times gone by, but as they say 'if it ain't broke don't fix it'.

I ordered a houmous salad and chilli pitta pocket, one of my favourite combinations and it was really tasty and I could easily have eaten it again.

My husband had fried potatoes with some of the hottest chilli sauce he has eaten, the potatoes were piping hot but totally delicious, think we will have to share next time.   Mains were vegetable and mushroom curry with basmati rice and salad, this was as good as I remember, better than many Indian restaurants.

There is a small drinks list including beers, lagers and wine, all very reasonably priced, so our bill including a few beers, a bottle of wine and one ice-cream with nuts and chocolate came to £50 for two.

Our waiter a young chap was really friendly and helpful, but even the service has its quirky side, the starters and main courses came at slightly different times, for which he apologised, although it was not a problem.   The red wine we ordered was a little cold, so we put it on the stove to warm through a bit, none of the wine glasses matched, but that is what I love about the place and if they changed things, the place would just not be the same, it may not suit everyone, but looking at how busy it was, people love the place.

Would I go back, hell yes and I feel annoyed that I left it so long since our last visit, but Jim we will be back.