Saf (London)

A few Sundays ago we drove down to London for lunch at Saf, then a wander round some shops (which inevitably meant Heals). We'd booked for 1pm and arrived about 50 minutes early, which we spent in its entirety looking for on-road parking (eventually we found free parking on Leonard Street).

For some reason I thought it'd be packed, but I felt a little silly saying we'd booked when there was clearly only 2 other people there eating! Thankfully a few more turned up whilst we were there, but it was certainly a different vibe from last year when it was rammed.

The weather was beautiful, so we sat outside at the back. Either they need to level the ground or adjust the tables - one of the two. After trying several we eventually decided upon one (a benefit of having the place to yourself!).

We ordered starters (* means cooked):
Saf Cheese Trio £7.45
Smoked paprika, olive & pesto cheeses served with tomato jam & raw crackers

Mushroom Gyoza* £6.50
Shitake & Woodear mushrooms with organic tofu & caramelised onion wrapped in rice pastry served with black vinaigrette
My starter was very good indeed (I had a feeling it would be). Definitely the highlight of the day (it was all downhill from here!):

I was really pleased to see a sensible number of crackers this time. Even the tomato garnish tasted fabulous.

The filling in the mushroom gyoza was equally good, but pastry a bit of a let down. It was chewy and not quite right. For a moment I thought it must in fact be some clever raw pastry, but apparently it was just crap cooked stuff :)

We weren't taken enough by any of the mains to pay £15 for them, so ordered a sandwich each:
Tempeh Salad Sandwich* £7.50
Shoyo & ginger marinated tempeh salad with baby gem leaves, vegan mayonnaise served in kentish flute bread

Portabello Mushroom Burger* £6.50
Roasted Portabello with grilled red onion, gherkin, tomato & fig jam served in ciabattini
I'm not a great tempeh fan, so can't really comment on this one. The mushroom burger however was pretty disappointing. I'd have been disappointed by it anywhere, but it was especially disappointing at Saf!

It really was a mushroom, pretending to be a burger. The bread was stiff and I ended up eating it with a knife and fork. Overall, it sucked.

Desserts were thankfully a little better:
Sour Cherry Trifle £6.95
Layers of chocolate sponge, vanilla cashew cream, sour cherry coulis & chocolate cigars

Tiramisu £8.45
Layered Saf mascarpone & coffee-walnut savioardi
I hate to say this on my blog, but I really have to: the cashew cream looked like someone had just wanked on top!

Can you see any chocolate cigars? Shavings sure, but no cigar.

It was OK, but not special enough to cost over £4. See this post for info on making far, far better sundaes.

The Tiramisu tasted pretty good, but it wasn't tiramisu. It's probably the best attempt I've tasted (certainly better than Inspiral and Zilli), but I'm still waiting for the holy grail of vegan tiramisu that tastes remotely like dairy tiramisu.

In summary? I love Saf and am definitely going again, but next time not for Sunday lunch! It is a little expensive, but it is special and I'm really glad it exists.

Moaz (London)

I'll be honest: falafel doesn't excite me much. There is a place in my heart however for exceptionally good falafel served at a sensible price from a cafe in central London. Moaz however isn't it.

I've heard lots of good reports of Moaz over the years, but I've always been too tempted by other places in the area that I know to be good (such as Beetroot) to try it out. I'm glad I waited.

I'll start with what's good: the price. For its location, their pricing is pretty reasonable (£5.90 for a "Meal Deal").

That's about where it ends.

When we arrived we stood in front of the counter for a good few minutes before either of the people behind it acknowledged our presence. We then sat an an unclean table for around 10 minutes waiting for our "fast food" to appear.

I had a meal deal. The chips were the 2nd worst I've ever had (the worst were at a festival and undercooked). I had a few and left the rest (this doesn't normally happen with me). The falafel itself was OK (cauldron standard, possibly slightly nicer), but I didn't like the pitta itself (not fresh enough), humous or the "free salad bar" toppings.

Few things make my eyes light up more than a big bowl of olives. Few things make me die inside quite as much as finding they taste like they've been in brine for 20 years and still have their stones in.

I wouldn't go back.

(in case you're wondering what I do constitute as good falafal, I highly rate the stuff that Goodness Gracious sell at festivals).

Brighton 2011

Life is currently treating me very well indeed.

Lots of good things have been happening recently: @cherrivalentine moved in, I got a better job and have been off galavanting around the world!

Before this all happened, @cherrivalentine booked us a weekend in Brighton to celebrate my 30th. I started blogging about a few of the places we ate at a while ago, so this final post wraps up the rest.

We stayed at Paskins Townhouse, just off the seafront. The room was very pleasant, complete with 4 poster bed and sea view (just about, if you stick your head out the window!).

We'd heard good things about their vegan breakfast, but we weren't impressed enough to bother going down on the second morning and opted for a lie in instead:

We'd planned to check out VBites on the way down, but were running short on time so ate some redwoods food straight from the packet in the car instead ;)

We revisited Terre-a-terre on the first evening, and I'm pleased to say that service was a lot better than last year. Unfortunately the menu selection not so good. We ended up having Tapas for main course, due to a complete lack of vegan mains we fancied eating.

The starters we ordered were:
Arepas Chilli Candy (v/gf) 8.95
Deep fried corn cakes rolled in spice dust served with chilly chelly jelly, avocado and lime mayonnaise, chilled pokey gazpacho hash and a candied chilli.

Good Thyme Trifle and Baby Beets (v/gf) 8.95
Warm carrot cream custard layered with macadamia lemon thyme crumble, sweet pickled baby beets and radishes, micro salad and herbs, served with linseed crackers. Delicious!
The corn cakes looked great, but seriously lacked flavour. Carefully rationing out the stingy amount of chilli jelly you get with them however improves the overall effect no end. The carrot custard was the highlight of the dishes - it was one of the best things I tried over the weekend.

Tapas was tapas - pretty much the same as last year's and unfortunately for us a rehash of starters!

The corn cakes came this time with chilli sauce, which worked a lot better. Again we got more custard, which was welcomed but it would have been good to try a few more things! Our favourite part was the noodles, which we'd certainly order again.

The desserts were pants. Seriously Terre-a-Terre, if you're reading this: go across the road to Aloka and try their raw vegan desserts - no competition! At the very least, keep your gorgeous frangipane on the menu at all times.

Everyone loves the churros, except me. I like a good donut as much as the next person, but these are no better than those you can get in co-op at 5 for 69p (often 10 for £1). Adding insult to injury they don't give you enough churros for the amount of chocolate sauce. Finally, what's with the cherries in vodka? We ate one each and left the rest. Am I missing something?

The other dessert we had was well presented, but essentially fruit salad & sorbet (grown).

Terre-a-Terre's still a great place to visit and I'll continue to rank it highly, but it really is a shame they don't ensure a good selection of vegan options at all times.

Going back I wouldn't feel confident I'd get 3 courses of fabulous food, please sort it out!