Saturday, 19 April 2014

Pico Lounge

One of Glossop's latest cafe bars to open is Pico Lounge and it's the first place to serve a vegan breakfast. We left it a few months to settle in but seeing as I've now been a Glossop resident for a week, this morning we made our first visit. We'd read mixed reviews in the past, some excellent and some that mentioned long wait times so we made sure we got there early. In fact we were the first customers athough by the time we left it was nicely full.

Our wait time was around 18 minutes and the service was good. The staff were friendly and checked back with us to see if everything was ok and empty plates were swiftly cleared. From the outside Pico Lounge is really unassuming. It's a large unit on a new retail park housed next to the likes of M and S Food, Edinburgh Woollen Mill and a Wetherspoons. Once inside though the back windows face out onto a lovely riverside setting.

The exterior does not at all prepare you for the interior! Although Pico Lounge is part of the Lounges chain it's not your typical type of chain and they've deliberately gone for a vintage, eclectic look for the decor and it's done really well. The place is crammed with vintage and upcycled decor and furniture. Check out this wall of paintings that anyone who lived through the 70's will be familiar with. I fell in love with this painted table.

We'd seen on the website that they served vegan food and were a bit alarmed when there didn't seem to be anything on the menu. Never fear, the vegan and gluten free menus are kept at the bar.

We went for the vegan breakfast for our first visit as it always feels like the breakfast should be a good benchmark of a place. For drinks, Matt had coffee which he declared good and I went for a pot of tea which I got around three cups out of. Soya milk is also available.

Onto the breakfast, I was a little alarmed when it was brought out as for £6.95 it looked small compared to the vegan breakfasts I'm used to from the likes of Mod's Cafe and Fuel. However, it was on a very large plate and I must add that it did keep me going until lunchtime. Fair play to Pico for also trying something different. The purists may not agree me with but I'm not the biggest fan of veggie sausages and was quite pleased to try something different. The protein in this breakfast comes from humus served alongside spinach, fried potatoes, tomato, baked beans and a slice of unbuttered toast. The humus was just the style I like, home made and slightly grainy with lemon rather than garlic being the dominant flavour. It was great spread on the toast topped with the spinach. The only thing I wasn't keen on was the mushrooms that were a bit watery and tasteless. We didn't have a lot of time today but I can see us coming back for breakfast and spending a good couple of hours there with the papers. There's quite a few other vegan choices on the menu including the holy grail of a vegan dessert that isn't fruit in the form of a chocolate torte and also a selection of vegan friendly tapas. Tuesday are Tapas Tuesday where you can get 3 tapas and a glass of house wine for £9.95 so we'll definitely be back to try that out.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Pudding Club

Last night I attended my first ever Pudding Club event. It was organised by Manchester LGBT Centre and held in their Sidney Street Cafe. If you're not aware of Sidney Street, the cafe is just behind The Eighth Day. It's a great space and manages to combine really reasonable prices with high quality ingredients in the food that they sell. This was their second pudding club event and the puddings on offer were exclusively vegan.

We started off the evening with a bowl of Manchester Trifle. What made this a Manchester Trifle was that the jelly in it was made up with Vimto! If you're not familiar with Vimto, it's a fruity cordial that originates from Manchester and is especially good served as a hot drink!

I had arrived with a tupperware in my bag and a promise to Matt that I would bring him some samples back to try. I didn't think the trifle would survive the train journey so I ate all of that but he fared better with some chocolate torte. This was excellent with a crunchy base, and a rich dark chocolate filling set off with a garnish of mixed berries and raspberry coulis. A classic textbook vegan chocolate torte.

The next course was one of the surprises of the evening for me as I'm not a big ice cream person. The centre has an allotment and the sorbet was made with home grown rhubarb accompanied by custard ice cream. This was truly a perfect match, I would love an unlimited access to this pudding! My photo of the final pudding of the night turned out too dark to print and do it justice but it was probably the best Sticky Toffee Pudding I've ever tasted. The sponge was delightfully light with lashings of rich, sweet, creamy caramelly sauce. We were all sent home with copies of the recipes so I hope to be able to make some of them again. All in all it was a lovely evening and I really hope they hold another vegan version of the Pudding Club in the future.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Ayubowan - Contemporary Sri Lankan Cuisine

We were celebrating at the weekend. I've sold my flat at last and we've had an offer accepted on a house so I'm going to be leaving Manchester and moving to Glossop. I'll still work in the Northern Quarter in Manchester but I won't be deprived of vegan food at home as Glossop is pretty good for vegans too. The Globe pub serves an exclusively vegan menu, the Hare and Hounds has a vegetarian and vegan menu, The Oakwood pub and The Soup Seller do some vegan stews and curries and several cafes have soy milk. The Peak of Health is a great healthfood shop, Sowerbutts is an amazing greengrocers and there's an M and S Food. Not bad for a small town with just a few shopping streets. There's also 2 new more recently opened businesses with vegan offers. We've yet to check out Pico Lounge but last Saturday we made it to Ayubowan.

We'd heard nothing but great reviews of this place that serves contemporary Sri Lankan cuisine. We found that all the staff we spoke to were clued up on veganism, indeed one of the waitresses is vegan and she explained what we could order from the menu. Of the starters there are two dishes that are suitable for vegans so we ordered them both. Above is Matt's Pariphpu Vardi which was spicy fritters of red lentils and curry leaves and below is my Kanda Bhaji. For deep fried food these both tasted delightfully fresh and light and we loved the little dishes of chutney that accompanied them.

There are five vegetarian main course curries and we were delighted to hear that they are all vegan. I was also delighted to hear that they are all mild which was great news for me with my chilli intolerance although the restaurant are also happy to make things spicier on request. There's a choice of Cashew and Green Pea, Jackfruit and Chickpea, White Potato, Spinach and Parripa and Banana Flower. We went for the first two alongside a Roti bread and Kaju Bhath which was an amazing rice dishes flavoured with cashews, cinnamon, cardommon, cloves, raisins and crispy fried onions.

We had hoped that the traditional dessert of Wattalappam might be vegan from reading the menu but it turned out that it contained egg. Our waitress told us that they had featured a vegan brownie for a while but no vegan desserts were currently available. To be honest I was too full to want dessert anyway by this point! We were really impressed by both the food and the service. There was a wait for the food. We arrived at 7.30 and didn't get our mains until 9 but the food was so beautifully fresh and well presented that I don't mind a bit of a wait when it's this good a standard. It was also Saturday night and the restaurant was full. I'm already looking forward to another visit and trying the rest of the curries!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Vegan Village

I love Vegan Village. Nine years ago when I first started to drift towards veganism I was looking for recipes containing certain foods to help with some health problems. Two websites that I found really great were Post Punk Kitchen and Vegan Village and I return to both for recipes to this day. If you're not familiar with it Vegan Village is a UK website that covers all sorts of information for vegans as well as a great listings noticeboard. If you're holding an event or looking for a vegan friendly houseshare or job make sure you check this out. They also have a recipe section.

Over the years I've come back again and again to certain recipes. The Mushroom and Ale Pie and Goan Tofu Curry are particular favourites and the Mushroom and Chestnut Wellington has been part of many a Christmas dinner! In the picture above is something I've just made for the first time - Mushroom Crustade and in typical Vegan Village style it tasty, easy to make comfort food.
Another reason I want to give a shout out to Vegan Village is that it's my go to website to refer non-vegans to when they ask me for advice on something to cook for a vegan friend. The recipes aren't complicated, they are clearly set out and they use UK measures. Much as I love my measuring cups and North American recipes I know these can be a bit daunting for some UK cooks especially on top of not being used to cooking for vegans.
I served the Mushroom Crustade with steamed veggies and the paprika, rosemary roasted potatoes from Vegan Brunch. It's an other VV recipe that I'll definitely be making again.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The Teatime Collective

A few weeks ago Matt and I both managed to have a Friday off work. We decided to use it to go somewhere we'd been meaning to try for a while. The Teatime Collective is one of Manchester's newest vegan eateries and we'd heard nothing but good reviews from friends who'd visited. It's situated over in Hulme which is just South of the city centre. The cafe doesn't have many seats but they've recently also aquired a shipping container next to it which they've turned into a lovely cosy area which has given them about 3 times more space.

We decided for our first visit to check out their big breakfast and were impressed to get tofu scramble, beans, tomatoes, sausages, hash browns, mushrooms, black pudding, toast and a potato cake. They also do things like club sandwiches, burgers and pizzas, basically all homemade comfort food and of course vegan cake. In addition there's a nice range of fairtrade tea and coffee and vegan soft drinks. I have to also mention how lovely and friendly the staff are.

We were stuffed after the breakfast but we couldn't leave without sampling something from Manchester's first vegan icecream parlour! The icecreams are all homemade and have various different bases, soya milk, coconut milk and cashew. We got four scoops for £5 and took them home for later. You can also have four scoops with sauces and whipped cream for the same price.

There were around 8 to choose from and they all sounded great. We narrowed down to these four - cherry and raspberry, gingerbread, pistachio and mint choc chip. Wow, they were amazing and I'm not usually much of an icecream person so that is high praise! When I was young my favourite flavour was always mint choc chip so I was especially excited to try that flavour and it didn't disappoint with lovely fresh mint flavours and loads of choc chips. I'm already looking forward to my next visit to Teatime Collective to sample more.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Next Cake Liberation Front Meet Up

Just a quick plug for the next Cake Liberation Front meet up. It will be on Thursday 30 January from 6.30-8pm at V Revolution in Manchester. Bring along vegan baked goods to share, sweet or savoury. Non vegans are welcome too!

There's a Facebook event for it here. I recommend eating a light salad for an early tea and then come on down and fill your boots!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Pay It Forward - Vegan bloggers

Many moons ago I took part in an initiative called Pay It Forward. I saw it on the Pixie Rose Dresses blog and signed up. Myself and two others bloggers then got sent a lovely gift. We didn't know when the gift was going to arrive, just that it would be some time in the next 12 months so it was a lovely surprise.

One day I got home from work and there was this fab parcel waiting for me with a homemade pin cushion and lavender heart and a bonus of one of my favourite raw chocolate bars.

The next stage is for the recipients of the gifts to do their own Pay It Forwards. I made my gifts and fully intended to do this during Vegan Mofo and then totally forgot about it. But better late than never eh! 

Here's the rules:
You must be a UK blogger.
I will choose the first 3 people who leave a comment below. Please note that I need to be able to email you to get your address.
You must pledge to feature Pay It Forward on your blog and be able to make something to post out to 3 people. This could be crafts or baked goods, as long as it's homemade. Please aim to post this out within the next 12 months.