The Gate (Islington, London)

Although The Gate's been around as long as I can remember, its infamous status amongst vegans (lack of options) and location out in the sticks (Zone 2!) have kept me from trying. The menu on their website's done nothing to make vegans think otherwise, although it's slightly more inviting than Vanilla Black's open policy of not catering for vegans at all without prior notice.

Now that they've opened a branch in Zone 1 (just!) I thought it was worth the risk - I'm pleased to say it was. Not only did they have a much larger vegan selection (all set menu items were either v or vo) but the food wasn't bad either. It could be slightly more adventurous dessert wise, but that's a complaint that I have of a lot of vegetarian places. Food at restaurants' meant to be more adventurous than you'd make at home (for a fraction of the price), surely?

Their main courses aren't cheap so I went with their reasonably priced 2 course set menu (£12.50, as opposed to over £20 if bought separately), bread and dessert from the standard menu:
Basket of Bread £3

Sweet Corn, red pepper & chipotle chillies soup v g
Served with tortilla chips.

Corn cake v g
corn & polenta,pan-friend & seasoned with chilli,coriander & thyme,served with roasted aubergine, tomato,sweet potato
served with a red pepper & black bean salsa (their punctuation not mine!)

Apple & calvados crumble vo £5.50
Served with creme anglais or vegan vanilla ice cream
Service was friendly but if anything slightly over efficient (a first!) - plates whisked away within seconds of the last mouthful.

As a self confessed carb-o-holic the bread was very good indeed - even the rye bread lurking beneath was tasty. The starter was equally good:

The tortilla chips tasted home made (suitably fatty without being oily); the soup fresh and well seasoned. It was *almost* as good as Veggie World's sweetcorn soup (almost) - I'd return just for this dish.

Main course looked promising, but didn't deliver for me in way of taste and enjoyment. I wanted to like something looking this beautiful, but the corn cake wasn't crispy and stack of veg not quite delicious enough.

Desserts were fruit based, but it was good to see vegan icecream other than Swedish Glace (or Swedish Glace in disguise, MannaV):

I couldn't taste the calvados, the crumble layer was too thin and the fruit still a bit too al dente for my liking. The syrup was a good addition though - overall it was pretty average.

With a reasonable number of vegan options available and the bar set high by my starter, I'll certainly return. It's not gone instantly into my top 10, but I'm hopeful of finding other good dishes there in the future.

Mestizo (Euston, London)

Even though I’m running out of new places in central London to try and am regularly in the area; I’ve been subconsciously avoiding Drummond Street’s Indian veg restaurants for several years now after a highly underwhelming curry there.

Finally managing to overcome my apathy I asked twitter for recommendations, instantly changing my mind to Mexican round the corner following a suggestion from @messycook. The deal was sealed with the kind offer of free Margarita from @mestizomx’s twitter account, which I appreciated but didn’t redeem – where’s the fun in reviewing a place you’ve received free goods from?

I’ll be claiming my drink next time however when I undoubtedly return - food was good, location convenient, service friendly, prices reasonable.

I don’t generally do non-vegetarian restaurants out of choice – I eat too often at crap ones with colleagues. Occasionally I make an exception, but only if I can be convinced first that they know what vegan means, have more than one item marked on their menus and aren’t simply removing all offending ingredients until there’s no remaining flavour / texture / reason for eating it (even vegetarian restaurants are guilty of this sometimes).

Mestizo clearly have put some thought into the matter though – they’ve a separate vegan menu on their website and printed if you ask. I only had time for one course, but look forward to trying more things next time.

It’s both difficult not to compare them to Chesters in Worcester (non-vegetarian Mexcian with huge vegan choice) and difficult all at the same time (totally different atmosphere and style of food).

Whilst Chesters shares a special place in my heart it’s definitely Tex-Mex meets Glasgow – fake cheese, deep frying and salt. Having never lived in Mexico I can’t vouch for Mestizo’s authenticity, but it seems more in the foreign flavour camp than Chesters or tex-mex I’ve eaten in the US. Spanish speaking diners are always a good sign.

I went for the mole option of:
ENCHILADAS DE PAPA (2) Rolled corn or flour tortillas
stufffed with potato, smothered in a roja (red), tomatillo
(green), mole (n) - the one with chocolate and 25+ other
spices, chiles and herbs, or Cancun (achiote, orange juice,
onion & garlic) sauce, served with rice & beans 9.80
It's difficult to photograph this without it looking like brown sludge, but I came close to licking the plate clean. I'm already a converted fan of chocolate in chilli (done properly as opposed to a gimmick) and this didn't disappoint.

Not a lot more to say for now until I've been again, but am looking forward to the opportunity to do so. The cocktails menu is vast and impressive - I could easily spend a few hours there in the right company :)

Cookies and Scream (Camden)

I don't really do Camden these days and don't really do gluten free. Gluten is found in almost all my favourite foods - bread, cake, biscuits, pasta, noodles etc. Camden just doesn't hold the appeal that it once did when I was a teenager - there's too much overpriced imported tack for my liking.

It's not looking good for a gluten free bakery in Camden! Though I've been aware of it for a while I've not passed through the area or felt the need to make a special trip.

I'm pleased to say that I eventually get to try it though - some of their things are very impressive indeed. Gluten free is normally a bit crap - doves farm biscuits and the like that have weird texture and taste like you're punishing yourself.

Conversely their cookies are easily the best gluten free biscuits I've ever tried:I got an icecream sandwich to go and a frosting sandwich to take home. Both worked well - not totally the same as their gluten counterpart but slightly moist and highly edible.

As a self confessed lover of peanut butter and chocolate, the PB slices looked excellent:

They are however a bit rich, even for me. I didn't think it'd be possible for something to be too sweet, but it was like eating icing sugar out the bag.

The brownie tasted like brownie but texture wise was more like cake:

That isn't necessarily a bad thing though - I've eaten far less convincing brownies containing gluten and again this was the best gluten free chocolate cake I've ever tried.

Due to its location I'm not sure I'll become a regular, but if I found myself passing again I'd have no problems stocking up. Pricing is very reasonable and I hope they get their products into other shops.

Brighton 2012

The weather this summer's been pretty crap in the UK. Occasionally there's a bright spell, but it's mostly been grey, wet and uncomfortably warm. Still, we chanced it anyway and had a couple of breaks on the South coast - a very wet and miserable week in Dorset and a slightly more favorable weekend in Brighton.

I've blogged about Brighton's vegan friendliness at least once before, so this post is more a photo montage of new stuff than a rehash of old.

Not only did we stay in the same B&B as last year, but randomly (due to it being the only 4 poster room available) the exact same room too. Even more randomly, I'm not the only uk vegan blogger that's slept in the that very same bed, multiple times! Decor's been improved slightly, but desperately needs a new mattress:

Other than lots of shopping; we took an impulse ride on the Brighton Wheel:

Ate Aloka mint choc chip icecream on the beach:

Drank booze and ate lemon cheesecake on the beach:

Continued the booze-a-thon in Terre a Terre (highly recommend Vintage Roots Fleury rose champagne):

Had lunch at Wai Kika Moo Kau (remembering not to order the ridiculously huge chilli burger this time):

Ate raw desserts at Aloka:

Had we known that Aloka was about to close we'd have had a full meal there :(

I've posted a couple of reviews of other places we visited whilst in Brighton for the weekend - see below!