Sunday, 24 February 2019

The Koffee Pot Oldham Street Manchester 23rd February 2019

Koffee Pot is a Manchester legend, renowned for its hangover breakfasts and since my last visit have increased their choice of vegan options.   I was way overdue to go, as my last attempt was back in October, but there was an hour wait and I had a train to catch, but yesterday on a glorious sunny morning, I was there just after nine.



The place has changed quite a bit since my last visit and I love the vibe so chilled and relaxed and with some great wall art to brighten your day.



Koffee Pot serve brunch, breakfast and lunch dishes, with vegan cocktails on the menu for the hair of the dog if need be.



They have a policy at weekends of not swapping items or making up dishes off menu to avoid complications and wrong orders.   We chose vegan royales but being allergic to haricot beans I asked to replace them with an extra brown hash and was charged fifty pence for doing so, which I think is mean.   I also ordered an Americano coffee which for £2 was tiny and lukewarm, so my second coffee was filter, nice and hot in a big mug instead of a cup.




I was hoping the black pudding would be V Pud, but I think it was a rival version made with black beans, which sadly I also cannot eat, so swapped it for one of Steven's sausages.   Steven said I was not missing much, as the black pudding was nowhere near as good as V Pud, with less flavour and a rubbery texture.   I really liked the vegan sausages though, made by Goodlife from vegetables and rice, so I was happy with the swap.   We both also really enjoyed the roast butternut squash and red pepper, an unusual breakfast item, but it worked well.


You have the option of vegan margarine for your toast, which is great, as so many places do not offer this choice.


I really enjoyed my breakfast, as did Steven, a perfect pick me up after a few too many glasses of wine the night before.   Koffee Pot is very popular especially at weekends, so expect to queue or go early and even with the fifty pence charge, I was still a very happy vegan and will be back.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Yee Kwan Ice Cream

Yee Kwan credits her parents for her passion for ice cream and after travelling with her husband, on returning to England, she set up a business making ice creams, inspired by her Chinese heritage and flavours.  Yee Kwan was a participant on Dragon's Den and won, getting investment from Debra Meaden, who continues to be her mentor.

Yee Kwan recently invested in a range of vegan ice creams and sorbets and sent me samples, but sadly I cannot eat most of them as they contain soya.   However Steven stepped up to the mark, being happy to try them on my behalf and gave his honest opinion


Chocolate Miso 

Salted Caramel

 Matcha

Mango

Yuzu Sorbet

Pink Guava & Passionfruit Sorbet

The ice creams are delicious, though edging more towards a sorbet not a creamy ice cream, which was a surprise, as they contain coconut cream.   The flavours are good, but need more punch, with Steven's favourites being toasted coconut, mango, then chocolate miso, with matcha in last place, although matcha fans will love it.   I like my sorbets with tongue tickling fruit flavours and these were a little subtle for me, a tad grainy and not as smooth as expected.

However compared to other brands on the market, Yee Kwan certainly hold their own against fierce competition and certainly do not disappointment and can be found in Harvey Nichols, Wholefood Market, Wing Yip and independents.

Disclaimer:   I received free samples of these products and have not been paid for this review and all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Northern Bloc Ice Cream Tasting

I reviewed Northern Bloc back in March last year and I have enjoyed their ice creams ever since.   I was kindly invited to their Leeds factory to see how they make their products and taste new vegan sorbets and ice creams, to be released later this year.


Northern Bloc's story is interesting, founders Dirk and Josh set up the business with a van and a passion to make luxury artisan ice creams and went to street food events.   As fate would have it, Manolo a fourth generation ice cream maker from Italy, visited their stand one day and the rest as they say is history.

The company name originated as they are based in the north and Bloc refers to the days when to make ice cream, large blocks of ice were transported down the Leeds-Liverpool canal, which happens to go right past their office.

Manolo is chief creator, passionate about perfection, so testing is stringent and critical, it took ten attempts for example, to get their chocolate and orange blossom ice cream to pass muster.

Northern Bloc made a decision to introduce vegan ice creams registered with The Vegan Society trademark having to pass strict criteria to get registration and I love the commitment for their vegan products.


So onto the tasting and what a treat that turned out to be, I felt honoured to be asked to give my verdict, after all their hard work to create new flavours.   I was interested to compare their existing chocolate and orange blossom and strawberry flavours, with their new creations.

The flavours starting from the back and working from left to right across each row are:

Pink grapefruit and bergamot, Sicilian lemon, raspberry and sorrel sorbet

Chocolate and orange blossom, salted caramel, chocolate and honeycomb ice cream

Strawberry, rhubarb and raspberry ice cream

Missing from the photo is Madagascan vanilla ice cream



The one word to describe their ice creams is 'creamy' cropping up several times during tasting, amazing its the first word comes to mind and with fabulous textures and depth of flavour, it begs the question, why the need for dairy.   I love their ethos of using natural ingredients like chicory root fibre and carob seed, with no additives or preservatives.   A big plus for me is all the products are soya free, except for soya lecithin in the chocolate varieties, a by product of the soya oil process, which for some strange reason I can tolerate (lucky for me as it is in all kinds of products).

Salted Caramel

 Chocolate & Honeycomb

Rhubarb & Raspberry

Strawberry

The existing range includes strawberry and yuzu and chocolate and orange blossom ice cream, but I think new flavours, plain strawberry and chocolate and honeycomb win on flavour.   I am not decrying the existing ice creams, they are excellent, its just the new ones are on a different level and just to confirm the honeycomb is 100% vegan.

The sorbets are quite phenomenal too, zingy, zesty, refreshing and palate cleansing, the Sicilian lemon was my favourite, closely followed by the other two on level pegging and I was so enjoying myself, I forgot to take individual photos.

What was my favourite ice cream, well if push came to shove it would be salted caramel, a flavour I am unfamiliar with, it was plain gorgeous.   The chocolate and honeycomb, strawberry, vanilla and rhubarb and raspberry were close contenders, in no particular order of preference.   The ice creams improved in flavour and texture the longer they were out of the freezer, without melting into a puddle like commercial ice cream, a little like a fine wine left to breathe.

Northern Bloc make luxury, decadent ice creams, the best I have had the pleasure of eating and I foresee the future when the whole range will be vegan friendly and dairy is a distant memory.

Northern Bloc is currently available in select Co-Op stores, Ocado, wholesalers and independents, so keep your eyes peeled for them in the freezer section.   Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Humpit Hummus & Pita Bar Corn Exchange Leeds 12th February 2019

Humpit Hummus is in the iconic Corn Exchange building and is a perfect lunch stop when in Leeds and having read awesome reviews on Tripadvisor and Happycow, I had to visit which turned out to be the right decision.


Humpit is 100% vegan and originated because owners Jonathan and Simon could not find traditional hummus anywhere, so set up their own business.


I chose filled pita with mint tea to have in and when it landed my eyes lit up, it was so big it was a meal in itself.   I scoffed the large pickle before I remembered to take a photo, but it also had this massive chilli on top.   I was in pita heaven literally, it was rammed with falafels, fresh salad, houmous, chilli sauce, all wrapped in a paper bag, so you could pick it up and munch.    I have eaten many a version of this kind of dish, Humpit Hummus is by far the winner, scrumptious, substantial and comforting, all for the price of £5.50, an absolute bargain.






Steven chose shakshuka with gluten free pita bread, with a green tea and was equally impressed.   The dish was cooked aubergine slices (bearing in mind this is one vegetable he is not keen on unless they are done to perfection like these), with a fantastic tomato sauce, tahini dressing, borlotti beans and a pita so authentic, he challenges anyone to realise it was gluten free




This is one place everyone should visit when in Leeds and it looked like they did, we managed to sit at one of the communal tables and watched a long queue form, as people came and went, either eating in or getting takeaways.   Humpit Hummus offer excellent meal deals too and if I worked or lived round the corner, I would be visiting a few times a week.   Highly recommended.


Wednesday, 6 February 2019

The Clink Cafe Chepstow Street Manchester 5th February 2019

The Clink charity offers training programmes for prisoners, ex offenders and the homeless to learn skills and self discipline, to give them confidence to get back into the workplace.   The Clink Cafe is one such project located on the ground floor of the imposing Canada House building, a lovely space to enjoy something to eat or drink.





They offer plant milks, along with breakfast and brunch options, sandwiches, salads and hot dishes, with cakes on offer too.







I chose porridge made with coconut milk served with maple syrup and extra hot milk, with a cup of coffee.




The porridge was delicious with maple syrup drizzled on top and the coffee was top notch, lovely and hot, a nice big cup and so much better than the one at Idle Hands the morning before.

I think The Clink is a fabulous place, with tasty food in a nice environment, along with doing commendable work in the community and I will certainly be revisiting, as I have my eye on their vegan brownies.   Highly recommended.


The Anthologist St Peters Square Manchester 4th February 2019

The Anthologist is a modern vibrant bar in Manchester city centre and part of the Drake & Morgan restaurant group. 




The Anthologist offers excellent vegan options and wines on their menus, all clearly labelled on the menu by a cute apple symbol, which makes life so much easier.











My photos are not brilliant, due to low lighting and having to resurrect my old mobile, after dropping my new one with its excellent camera down the loo last week!

I ordered avocado houmous with gluten free flatbread, which was very tasty and loved the crunch and texture dukkah and pomegranate brought to the dish.


Mains were risotto for me and roast Jerusalem artichokes with Puy lentils for Steven.   I always order risotto with trepidation, having been served some awful renditions in the past, but this was not bad.   The rice was cooked al dente, butternut squash puree added flavour and with chunks of squash and vegan cheese added into the mix, I rather enjoyed it.



The Puy lentil dish would not win prizes for looks, a very difficult dish to make pretty, but Steven really enjoyed it with chips and quickly polished it off.



We were pushed for time and had to forego desserts, as we had tickets for a concert at Bridgewater Hall, although I was quite full anyway.

I enjoyed The Anthologist, its a great place to meet up, with the added bonus of having vegan options so no having to make enquiries first and a good selection of dishes available too.   I would definitely revisit.