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Veggie London: Gujarati Rasoi, Dalston.

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If you’re one of those people that likes to flap your gums on Twitter about how tedious you find, pastel filters, pretty desserts, cat photos and happiness, this post probably isn’t for you. You’ll feel more at home over on Thug Kitchen for a bit, cos shit around here is about to get seriously fucking twee. I’m going to use the words “pop up” and “magical” and post hazy-hued Instagram pics of pretty dishes and that’s just the way it’s going down today.

My boyfriend and I have a soft spot for Tayaabs in Whitechapel, but we decided it was too far to take his dad and partner when they were in town. Brendan found Gujarati Rasoi online, and with its chipboard walls and colourful bunting, I fell in love.

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Gujarati Rasoi started out as a family-run business, known for their traditional Indian sauces and spice blends. The mother-son business duo serve up home cooked vegetarian dishes along with their signature sauces at Borough Market (Monday – Saturday) and Broadway Market (Saturdays only). The pair established a restaurant in 2012, and that is where we found ourselves dining one drizzly December evening.

Gujarati Rasoi has a minimalist interior with clean candlelit tables and a few homey touches, like the sunset bunting draped above the diners’ heads, to cosy up the space. The menu matches the pared down interior: spanning just one side of A4, Gujarati Rasoi offer a handful of starters and sides, three veggie main courses and a couple of desserts to choose between. 

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Luckily, each dish is perfect like a kitten’s sneeze or the sound of someone offering to go the bar. The menu is ever-changing, so you won’t necessarily be having a taste-party with saag paneer, coconut kulfi or Sooji Ka Halwa as pictured, but everything we tasted was divine, so you may as well take a roll of the dice.

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London's Best Boozers, Veggie Friendly London

Veggie Friendly London: Garlic & Shots, Soho.

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My friends love to eat. All of them. Food is so important. It nourishes us, it gives us something to do with our hands, something to discuss, something to remember. Food tickles every sense: it’s tactile, aromatic, flavourful, colourful, and if you order the right dish, it might even snap, crackle or pop. The sizzle of bibimbop, the jewel tones of veggie thali, the aroma of hot garlic curling from a plate of spaghettini aglio e olio. Sharing a meal is a pleasure I’d deny no one, and sharing a meal with a friend you’ve not seen for months and months and months has to be one of life’s greatest simple pleasures.

(This may be a good place to note that this post is not vegan.)

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So, the blog has been quiet for the last fortnight. I expected to do a lot of eating (which I did) and a lot of drinking (ditto) and a lot of blogging (…) whilst my pal B was in town, but actually there was simply no time for blogging between all the eating, drinking and reminiscing. I’ve eaten some cracking dishes though so no regrets.

Anyway my pal and I are both obsessed with garlic, so Garlic & Shots in Soho seemed to be a logical place for an early evening dinner on a week night. We sat outside in the courtyard garden and surveyed the all-garlic menu: deep fried garlic potato skins, whole baked garlic bulbs, garlic pops, garlic salad … literally every dish contains a hearty helping of garlic.

P1030218Garlic pops.

P1030220Garlic cream cheese and jalapeño balls with snakebite salsa.

Right off the bat though, it became apparent that we seriously misordered. We thought we were in the mood for some serious grease,  so we went for the garlic cream cheese and jalapeño balls with a portion of garlic pops – battered cloves of garlic – to start with. The garlic pops were … a bit weird, to be perfectly honest. Hard, crunchy and quite bland, with a shock of hot oil and not much else to taste. They needed a dipping sauce and less time in the fryer.

The garlic cream cheese and jalapeño balls were great though: a golden, crispy shell with an ooey gooey centre spiked with a little sweet heat from the jalapeños.

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There wasn’t a swathe of veggie options for the main course, and so I rolled with the veggie burger of the day. It was a curried fritta the size of a hub cap, served with garlic fries, snakebite salsa, aioli and a pinkie sauce of indeterminate content. My main beef with this dish was the sheer size of it – my pal had a chicken quesadilla, served on a dainty plate. My burger came on a thali plate, and the portion size was almost embarrassing. I mean, I know one doesn’t order a burger when one wants to muck about with dainty cutlery and doilies, but come on, Garlic & Shots! Stick it on a less flamboyant platter.  Or just go all out and stick it in a trough.

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Next time (and there will be a next time, despite the criticism, because who the fuck am I, eh?) I’ll definitely try something lighter – a garlic salad, or the marinated feta – and one of the garlic-infused deserts. Oh, and one of the awesome looking shots…!

Garlic & Shots | 14 Frith Street, Soho.

Browse more in Soho.

Veggie Friendly London

Veggie Friendly London: Honest Burgers, Soho.

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London has so many restaurants and cafés that actually make the effort to provide interesting and well-prepared veggie options, I’m going to start celebrating them under the “Veggie Friendly London” category. These might not always be vegan, but we’ll see how my ever-strong vegan resolve lasts.

My mom (Smokin’ Mofo – everyone say hi!) and I do a thing called Mommy Mondays (pronounced in the thickest Brummy accent imaginable. Really work to elongate those syllables: Mommoiiiiiiiii Muuuuundaaaaayyyyyze).

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During Mommy Mondays, we go for lunch and spend the whole journey there and the whole journey back discussing how brilliant lunch is. Basically, we think we’re living the Sex and the City dream (but instead of talking about anal and blow jobs we talk about our majestic cat Ronnie and to be honest, I think we’re both happier that way). Anyway, I think we’re aiming to eat our way around London so this is a Mommy Monday post from our last lunch at Honest Burgers.

Honest Burgers is a straight up hipster burger joint recommended to me by my pal Bethany of My Arched Eyebrow. The veggie option is a curried cauliflower fritter served with crispy golden chips spanked with a generous sprinkle of rosemary salt. Bethany said the chips were the best thing she’d ever had in her mouth (paraphrasing) and yeah, it was love at first suck for me too. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Soho, it’s a small place with a simple menu that they just do really fucking well.

When we got home, I showed my mother the photos of my Bubblebath Martini, so we attempted to recreate it in our garden shed:

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Veg*n London, Veggie Friendly London

Veg*n London: Ms Cupcake, Brixton (Take Two).

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P1020535I live on one end of the Victoria line and Ms Cupcake, this amazing vegan bakery, lives on the other. This is the closest I’ve ever come to a long distance relationship and it’s pretty tough, but we’re making it work.

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My boyfriend and I ventured to Brixton the other day for a cupcake date. On the tube there I reread a rather significant chunk of Anna Stothard’s The Pink Hotel, which is one of my favourite books. It’s like Rebecca if the nameless narrator was a klepto, with the sleazy bars and hazy heat of Venice Beach as an alternative backdrop to Cornwall. This isn’t relevant at all to Ms Cupcake, it’s just an amazing book and I think you should read it.

Anyway, I had a New Yorker sandwich, which basically tasted like the kind of sandwich a carnivore might grab from a Manhattan deli: lovely chewy seitan beef, red onion, iceberg lettuce, sliced tomato, pickles, mustard and vegan mayo. Important to note: Ms Cupcake occasionally stock bags of vital wheat gluten so you can make your own seitan. I still have a bag from my last trip which I haven’t used yet because it intimidates me. Every time I open my kitchen cupboard, I feel it leering at me in the darkness, judging me for my kitchen cowardice.

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We couldn’t pick just two flavours, and as Ms Cupcake is an epic jaunt across the city we decided to buy four flavours and had cupcakes two days in a row like absolute heroes. Clockwise L-R: Chocolate Vanilla, Orange Creamsicle, Peanut Butter and Bacon (srsly) and Jaffa Cake.

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Brendan’s serious cupcake face is serious for serious cupcake seriousness.

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Ms Cupcake cupcakes are semi-spiritual: as I bit into that pillow of orange creamsicle frosting, I experienced a kind of zen similar to the expression my cat pulls when he catches a fly (something that happens basically never).

No photos of the bacon cupcake because it was eaten late at night like a dirty snack except it was cholesterol free because it was vegan. The cake itself had a deep smoky flavour, the way clothes smell after bonfire night. The peanut butter icing was thick and er… peanutty, and it was topped with vegan baco bits. Okay, it was a bit on the weird side but it works, and we must always salute vegan businesses that are doing exciting flavour experiments because what’s life without whimsy? Trust me when I say, Ms Cupcake is the kind of really special joint that’s worth a pilgrimage to Brixton*.

Whilst I was there, I also picked up Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine by Bryant Terry from the bountiful selection of vegan cookbooks on sale, and I got another bottle of Uncle Roy’s natural essence (cherry flavour!) from their awesome baking supplies.

Ms Cupcake Website | Ms Cupcake on HappyCow

*Disclaimer: distances may have been exaggerated to justify double cupcake expenditure.

Veg*n London, Veg*n UK, Veggie Friendly London

Veg*n London: Mildreds, Soho.

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Located on seedy lookin’ Lexington Street, Mildreds is a bustling veggie restaurant in the heart of Soho. Mildreds was the first veggie restaurant I ever dined in, around five years ago now, so it holds a special place in my heart … even though if I’m totally honest I don’t think the food can look the hype in the eye without breaking out in a cold sweat

Mildreds don’t take reservations, so we were lucky to get seats one busy weekday lunchtime. We were perched on high chairs on a shelf-style table by the door, our backs to the queue waiting to be seated. The lighting sucked, hence the weirdly bright neon colours of the food. My pal Sian (aka Bramble Granville, a guest star on Cake Theory) ordered some kind of mad risotto cake afloat on a sea of tomatoey-orangey sauce. We ate this meal months ago, but you may or may not recall my laptop had a meeting of minds with a cup of squash a few months ago. I have now rescued all the old photos from the hard drive so expect lots of vaguely terrible blogging for the next few weeks. You’re welcome.

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Green olive and baby aubergine tagine. Green olives are brilliant: they’re like chowing down on little meaty salty flavour punches every few bites. These dishes were from the autumn menu – the winter menu looks a bit more exciting.

Travel, Veg*n London, Veg*n UK, Veggie Friendly London, We Are Adventuring: World Food

Veg*n London: Maoz, Soho.

“I think we need to have a serious conversation about Maoz.”

“I think we need to have a sers converzashion about Mawowz.”

“I thinkh we needteh havr srsh converzashen abuet Mawoshz.”

This is just a cross-section of the colourful circumstances in which I’ve found myself chowing down on a falafel pitta from Maoz over the years. There are twelve – twelve! – of these veggie “kebab” houses dotted around the globe, and I’ve found myself dining in three: Soho, drunk. Amsterdam, never you mind. And Paris, Paris totally fucked up after a week-long cheese crepe bender.

P1010811Every branch in every country in Europe is the same: an eclectic salad bar promising couscous, pickled carrots, fried cauliflower, dill-covered cucumber, green olives, red cabbage, sweetcorn and all sorts of other shit like gherkins and tahini and coriander salsa.

For around a fiver, patrons load up either a wholemeal pitta bread or a salad box with falafel and a choice of toppings, from buttery avocado and crumbled feta to melt-in-the-mouth hummus, baba ganoush or grilled aubergine. Choose from a wide range of sides – chips, chips with ketchup, chips with mayo, chips with ketchup and mayo, or minty lemonade – and enjoy. Can’t go wrong with Maoz – especially on New Year’s Day when you’re struggling to function and you accidentally made your friend “trudge” (her word) around Soho looking for a vegetarian pub that you may have just dreamed about.* For example.

(*Coach and Horses on Greek Street. Not a dream, just hard to find in the midst of a hangover).

Veg*n London, Veg*n UK, Veggie Friendly London

Veg*n London: Mama’s Jerk Station Pop Up Kitchen at the Black Heart, Camden.

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Now, between you and I, I do like the odd gin and tonic on a hot summer’s day. I also like binge drinking in Camden every Friday night and turning up hungover to my weekend retail job every Saturday morning. When my brother’s in town, he looks at me with his beard and Untapped app on his phone and judges my fondness for mass-produced, chemically flavoured faceless cider. He judges my ‘bow, he judges the way I can’t describe the kind of ale I dislike (“sort of orange and bitter like an orange but not as orange”), he judges the way I mispronounce Wychwood. But he loves me, so he perseveres in his quest to convert me to full time real ale drinking.

Camden, the alternative centre of London, is great for veggie food (five – FIVE!!! – vegan eateries – Manna, InSpiral Loungethe Ha Ha Veggie Bar, Cookies and Scream and a branch of Loving Hut – posts for latter three coming soon). It’s also great for ale, with a number of beer-friendly bars catering to the real ale and craft beer crowd. As well as a branch of Brewdog, which serves up unique craft beers in an industrial setting, there’s a great little bar called the Black Heart. There, my brother spent £27 on two bottles of ale that I described as “fizzy” and “brown”, and I got us some bar snacks.

The Black Heart used to serve pizzas from a local pizza place – a bit samey as local competition Brewdog, who also have a minimalist menu consisting of just pizzas and burgers served up three ways. Now, the Black Heart seems to be running a pop-up kitchen, with different businesses operating a simplified signature menu each month.

December plays host to Mama’s Jerk Station, Caribbean street food aficionados with a passion for all things jerk. We ordered two sides – Mama’s fried plantain and jerk sweet potato wedges, served with tropical mayo and mama’s homemade hot pepper sauce.

Jerk seasoning is brilliant: a hint of sweetness from ginger, fire from the chilli … and then the cooling non-vegan tropical mayo (spiked with lime? mango?) was the perfect antidote to sooth the burn. Although Mama’s Jerk Station is going to be replaced by Kimchi Cult – a Korean street food vendor – soon, Mama’s jerkin’ good grub can be found at several locations around London, including Camden Market. The menu includes several other veggie-friendly options, including a jerk veggie bean wrap, jerk veg and dumpling soup (not vegan) and salads. Jerkin’ brilliant. I’m going to try to check out as many of these pop-up kitchens as I can, so watch this space. Unfortunately, Kimchi Cult came to one of my locals and I don’t seem to recall feeling tempted by the veggie options, if indeed such options existed. Oh well, I’ll do some prowling.