Hummus Bros (Holborn, London)

I've been subconsciously avoiding Hummus Bros since it opened. Not because I don't like hummus (I do), but because I eat enough of it already - both at home with decent bread (ciabtta, focaccia, pitta etc) and as the staple "I'm desperate" option with a pack of long life pitta - two things I'm sure to find in the middle of nowhere's village shop.

I've eaten a lot of good hummus in 14 years of veganism, including some that I've made myself. Inevitably I've also had my equal share of bad (cheap supermarket) hummus too.

Hummus Bros is a hummus cafe - every dish revolves around a generous bowl of the stuff. You add the toppings of your choice and eat it with pitta bread. It's a simple formula but difficult to get excited about.

I like hummus however, so eventually I gave it a go. If anyone's going to serve good hummus it's a cafe that specializes in it, right?

It turned out that the most expensive hummus I've ever bought was also the least garlicy, salty, olive oily I've ever tasted. In fact I couldn't really taste anything, other than chickpea and tahini. Very disappointing!

Their toppings include omni items - though vegan options are listed on their website and staff pretty clued up it's a shame they're not marked on the menu in store. It's also a shame that their falafel isn't vegan (what's with that?)

I opted for mushrooms and sundried tomatoes as toppings - both of which were good.

No complaints about the fresh pitta either, other than that there wasn't enough of it to eat all of the hummus with!

All in all, it could have been better.

I'll try a different branch at some point (they're a chain) and hope their hummus has more flavour (assuming it's made in house that is).

The Coach & Horses (Soho, London)

I've known about The Coach & Horses since it opened a couple of years ago, but was put off trying by crappy reviews.

Having visited a couple of times recently I can definitely see where they're coming from - whilst it's great to see an all vegetarian pub in London with oodles of character, the quality of food could be better.

The dining room is above the pub - you have to ask downstairs whether there's space, then ascend a staircase behind the bar. It's all a bit rough around the edges, but in a charming sort of way. The pub itself serves non-vegetarian drinks and is rammed most evenings. The dining room's a bit more relaxed and oozes character - high ceilings, curved wall, open fireplace, bare floorboards etc. Mostly candle lit too, so I apologise for the quality of the photos!

They seem to have a good clientele - foreign tourists during the afternoon for 'afternoon tea' (which looks good but bought in) and the usual vegetarian restaurant sort of folk in the evening.

On my first visit I had their infamous tofuish and chips - the second a burger.

Where else can you get vegan fish and chips with a pint of cider? (no where that I'm aware of). First impressions very good - shame the peas aren't mushed with mint, but it's the Coach and Horses not Mildreds.

On closer inspection however, the chips were crap (bought in, poor quality potatoes, not well cooked) and the tofu unpleasantly fishy tasting. I've had tofu fish elsewhere that's been battered tofu with a hint of nori, but this was a full on fishy taste that was more of an endurance than pleasure to eat (I must confess I that failed to eat it all).

Dessert was carrot cake, which tasted a lot better. Dense and not enough frosting, but a reasonable effort (without wanting to spoil the rest of this post it's the best thing I've eaten there).

The second time I visited I went for their burger. Same crap chips but a decent enough looking bun.

Ever the eagle eyed vegan that I am I checked that they'd not included hallumi, which of course they had:

Yuck! I'm glad I check these things..... Having waited for another meal to be made I was more concerned about missing my train than eating dinner, so skipped the free dessert they offered me. Mistakes happen and I appreciated the gesture.

The burger itself wasn't that great. Having blogged 2 excellent burgers today I know I'm not just being picky. It was mediocre at best - like the tofuish I left half.

To summarize: I like everything about The Coach and Horses, except for the food. As a restaurant above a non-vegan pub (there are better places to drink in the area) that doesn't make for a compelling reason to revisit. I'll give it another go in a year or two - hopefully they up their game in the meantime. Until then however there are better places to eat within a short walk.

Boston Tea Party (Birmingham)

The general rule is that I don't (willingly) do non-vegetarian places that don't already have vegan items marked on their menus. Whilst I've had some fantastic food in omni places that don't, more often than not it's disappointing.

I've known about BTP for some time, but was put off by conversions with people who've worked in other chains such as Wetherspoons, who've told me categorically not to eat there. Veganisable in theory or not, just don't even try.

I was pleasantly surprised by BTP's efforts to cater for vegans however - not only do they have things marked as vegan on their menu but seem to be options in their own right (i.e. not a vegetarian dish with ingredients removed). They've redwoods rashers & sausages for their breakfasts and have soya spread available for toast. The staff seem clued up and as Birmingham's not exactly brimming with vegan choice, the more the merrier really.

Decor's impressive and unique. Some of it's a bit odd, but on the whole they've done a decent job of creating a brand.

Our burgers were homemade and tasty, fries also good (we're told cooked separately). I'm not a total fan of their beetroot burger, but it's good to try something unique. They do veganisable kids options too and there were plenty of families around.

Spectacularly we managed to miss the fact that they've a vegan cake option - not sure what happened there!

Overall I was impressed - I've eaten far worse vegan food in vegetarian places; it's good to see mainstream places taking veganism seriously and doing a good job. Would definitely recommend it and will revisit when the opportunity arises.

Stereo (Glasgow)

I'm still not convinced that Glasgow is the most vegan friendly city in the UK. It doesn't take a statistician to realize that London has more v*gan cafes and restaurants than Glasgow, or for that matter Brighton too. Peta aren't known for being right about many things - perhaps they got it wrong this time too?

What I do like about Glasgow is several all vegan places*, as opposed to mostly vegetarian with vegan options (which may or may not bare any resemblance to the description). Edinburgh definitely fits more in this bracket.

Stereo's a good looking bar in the centre of Glasgow with an all vegan food menu, vegan drinks (Sam Smiths etc) and *the standard non-vegetarian ones (Guinness etc).

Service was friendly but chaotic - it wasn't clear whether it was table service or not. Still, it was good to see an all vegan eatery mostly full on a week night - other cities could do with something similar.

The food itself was alright but could have been better. The menu is focused more around tapas than the usual starter / main course, which is understandable given the type of venue. I chose a couple of tapas items to start then went for a pizza for main:
Vegetable Tempura - crispy battered seasonal veg with ponzu dip - £3.75
Garlic Bread - 2 pieces freshly made with our Stereo baked bread - £2.60
Haggis Pizza - with muhammara (spiced red pepper and walnut), tomato sauce & olives - £8.00
I took the liberty asking for vegan cheese on my pizza - a snip at 60p extra.

The tempura was rustic. A slice of sweet potato, mushroom, red pepper and half a carrot - deep fried in chip shop batter. The carrot was still quite crunchy and it wasn't that great. Rind in the ponzu gave an overpowering, slightly unpleasant aroma and taste. I wouldn't order this again.

The garlic bread's bread was lovely. You could tell it'd been made with love rather than by a machine. That said though it was basically toast with vegan margarine and the very slightest hint of garlic. It could easily be improved with a bit more garlic and seasoning - it's possible I just got unlucky.

I've got to be honest - the pizza could have looked more appetizing. Their pizzas are served 'flat bread' style - i.e. not traditional dough but tasty all the same. The real star of the pizza though was the muhammara, which was simply stunning. Really good flavour with a sensible amount of spice.

It could be improved however (both aesthetically and in terms of flavour) by adding cheese, which ironically I had ordered and paid for but didn't get. If I order this again I'll make sure it comes with cheese.

There was a choice of 3 desserts - 2 cheesecakes and a sticky toffee pudding. I went with a chocolate raspberry cheesecake & icecream for £3.50:

This I also liked. It wasn't on the same level as cheesecake from Dandelion & Burdock, but then vegan cheesecake generally isn't. Personally I'd happily pay a pound extra for a taller slice.

I like Stereo as a venue but wasn't blown away by its food. I may have caught them on a bad day, as it it could be pretty good with not a lot of tweaking. Next time I'm up in Glasgow I'll try someplace different, but would give Stereo another go if staying nearby.

V Revolution (Manchester)

V Revolution is like what V Bites would be, if it were good.

Products you can buy from any healthfood store and cook yourself at home for a fraction of the price - why pay someone else to do something you can effortlessly do yourself?

It's a reasonable question, but if done right in a place with friendly staff and good atmosphere then I'm all for it. It's good to leave the house (from time to time), meet people etc. Not everyone who goes there will be vegan or for that matter inclined / able cook themselves (they could be at work or out shopping).

The problem I have with V Bites is that it isn't done right. So how's V Revolution any better?

V Revolution's a cafe to the north of Manchester City Centre. Parking's easy (although expensive) and the area not unpleasant. They've pitched it as a record store, deli and cafe, though in reality it's a cafe with some chillers, shelves and a few records at the back. They've concentrated their deli selection on hard to find, high ticket value items rather than replicate H&B. It's like Vx but less cramped and with more cheerful, friendly, northern speaking staff.

The menu's similar to Red Veg (what's with the whole revolution / red thing?), but without the fries, onion rings and full on fast food experience (burgers wrapped in paper, fries in cardboard, plastic tray etc). Unlike Red Veg however there's place to sit (without elbowing the person next to you), 50s diner inspired decor, sofas and decent lighting. It's also still trading, which is always good.

I think they could be missing a trick by not going for the full Red Veg menu / experience, but they were busy enough when I visited and perhaps this is planned in time.

The food I had was good - no complaints. I had a chocolate milkshake (rich and icecreamy) for £3.50 and a (Frys) burger for £4 (which I ordered with extra cheese (Violife?), bacon (Redwoods) & a 2nd patty (I'm greedy like that)).

I've eaten the same a million times before (we've a section of our freezer affectionately known as the Fry's drawer), but I don't think £4's unreasonable (I've eaten many crap burgers at other cafes costing way more).

The only slight disappointment was that they were out of their special of the day (double chicken burger), which is confusing considering that they had plenty of packs of Frys chicken burgers in the chiller. They also had 4 of their 6 milkshakes unavailable and even more tragically - no cake. Fellow bloggers & locals report this as being a regular occurrence, which is kind of sucky. I hope teething problems more than an underlying issue.

I Like V Revolution - I'd definitely go again and wholeheartedly it to others (especially as Bistro 1847 was so shonky). I hope they sort out their stock issues and sell more things with time (fries, rings, breaded mushrooms etc) - there's no reason why they couldn't become the chain that Red Veg intended (but sadly never managed) to be. Next branch in Birmingham please!

Basilico (Limehouse, London)

18" wood fired vegan pizza? Yes please!

Basilico's a chain of non-vegetarian pizza delivery shops across London. They've 2 vegan options marked on their menu - a margarita and a roasted vegetable pizza (we opted for the latter).

Forty five minutes after ordering we had an 18" with 2 drinks delivered to The Isle of Dogs for under £20 - enough for two hungry adults and one hungry toddler (with a slice left for breakfast!).

The base was fantastic; actual glutenous Italian bread with great flavour. The toppings were fairly generous, though not as generous (or adventurous) as Mr Singh's. It was good to see the cheese go right the way to the edge of the crust (as oposed to within several inches of it like Pizza Face). The brand they use (Violife) is alright warm, but tasted fantastic cold the following morning.

Overall we were really impressed. We'll definitely order from them again and recommend that Londeners give them a go. Despite the lack of options it's my favourite takeaway vegan pizza in the UK so far. Basilico takes Pizza Face, bends it over and gives it a good spanking!

Amico Bio (Holborn, London)

As if one mediocre Italian restaurant wasn't enough, last year a 2nd branch of Amico Bio popped up on New Oxford Street (half way between Holborn and Tottenham Court Road tubes).

I visited shortly after it opened in May and liked it even less than the Cloth Fair branch. Oppressive decor, loud electrical buzzing throughout the meal and a clueless waiter who explained to everyone that it was his first day. The starter was disgusting:

What was supposed to be "Potato gnocchi with aubergines and rice milk mozzarella" was like eating glue. It had next to no flavour, other than the harsh taste of herbs.

Second course tasted alright:

But bore little resemblance to its description of "Mixed vegetables & seitan kebab, yoghurt & cucumber dip".

The veg had been chopped too finely to have been cooked as a kebab; tasting more like an underseasoned fajita as a result. The yoghurt & cucumber dip was nowhere to be seen - for a restaurant with vegan meat, cheese and cream I'm unsure as to why they don't have soya yoghurt.

When I returned in July things had improved slightly. I decided to keep things simple and go with their "Pizza with tomato and mozzarella" which actually looked pretty good:

I know that some vegans like the mozzarella they use, but for me it's just a bit too yucky.

Dessert of "Peach with red wine, limoncello liqueor and carrot cake" however I actually enjoyed:

The carrot cake is the best thing I've ever tasted at Amico Bio - it was really nice! If only the portion wasn't tiny, I could have happily eaten a man sized portion. The peaches in wine was a little weird, but tasted alright and I'm led to believe is traditional.

I love Italian food and I can see what Amico are trying to achieve. London needs a good vegan Italian restaurant - there's no reason why Amico couldn't be it. In two visits to each branch so far however it's been underwhelming to say the least.

I hope the situation improves and will pop back sometime in the next few months. I'll blog an update if things are better.

Blazing Salads (Dublin, Ireland)

Blazing Salads is a cross between deli and well stocked health food shop. Within a minute's walk of Cornucopia it's a good option if you're pushed for time or want takeaway.

I picked up a slice of pizza and piece of apple pie from there the last time I was in Dublin. Both survived 9 hours in a laptop bag admirably - the pics below were taken just before shoveling them into my gob and going through security at the airport.

The pizza was great, but much more quiche like than pizza. How it didn't get mashed to pieces in my bag I'll never know, but it's a testament to it's suitability as excellent picnic food.

The apple pie didn't look so great (which I'll put down to my handling rather than Blazing Salads' prep), but also tasted good.

I'll definitely give them another go when staying in Dublin next - I may even push my luck further and buy the day before for breakfast at my hotel.

Scoop (Soho, London)

Scoop is a chain of 3 "gelato parlours" (that's icecream shop to you or I) in Covent Garden, South Kensington and Soho. Having been to the Covent Garden branch previously I was tempted in through the door of Soho on the promise of vegan churros.

I ended up going a few times last year - a short walk from wfm / Picadilly tube it's convenient for grabbing something cool in hot weather (which does happen occasionally in London). It's also an alternative dessert destination after visiting somewhere like Beatroot around the corner that doesn't really do pudding.

As is often the case at such places it's the sorbets that are vegan rather than icecream. It is good quality sorbet though, so you won't feel too hard done by. Cross contamination's a definite possibility so it's worth staying vigilant whilst they're serving your order - I've heard from other vegans that they've messed up in the past.

Their churros are good, but like most places I was told the chocolate sauce isn't vegan. Thus I've opted for chocolate sorbet instead when I've had them:

I like Scoop. It's one of Soho's better places. Vegan icecream, toppings and better separation would be very much welcomed in the future, unless someone opens the London branch of Lula's Sweet Apothecary here in the meantime!

Wild Food Cafe (Covent Garden, London)

Wild Food Cafe's a half raw, half vegan cafe up a set of stairs in Neal's Yard, Covent Garden. Having visited shortly after they opened in 2011 and had the most revolting raw soup ever, I decided not to blog about them until I'd given them a chance to redeem themselves.

I wasn't overly excited about returning though, so it took about 2 years before I gave them another go. Pushed for time I ordered:
Olive & Shiitake Burger - 10.5
shiitake, olive & jeruselem artichoke burger with dairy free pumpkin seed cheese, superfood ketchup, tomatillo salsa verde, baba ganush, Dijon mustard, lettuce in a sourdough focaccia burger bun served with baby leaf salad
The kitchen's open plan and seating cramped, with tables set up canteen style. The people sitting next me spent forever talking about crystals, which nicely sums up the (aging) hippy vibe of the place.

I couldn't see the point of eating cooked bread with raw filling, so paid £1 extra for a raw cracker instead:

Instantly I wished that I hadn't - whilst it was well presented it meant you couldn't pick it up and eat it like those dining around me. Also, I love sourdough focaccia - what was I thinking?!

I would go back and try different things, particularly if I was with someone who wanted raw food. London's better food for less however in walking distance of Covent Garden, so it might take a while before I'm in the mood again.