Guest Posts, Veg*n UK

Veg*n UK: Zen Garden Restaurant at Carey’s Manor, New Forest, Hampshire.

This is a guest post written by my new pal Alex Bell of Tickle & Pink. Alex and I met at a freelance writing workshop last month and, well. When vegetarians get together, they usually end up smack talkin’ grub. Thanks again for this post, Alex! (Don’t forget to check out her online shop cos it’s rad.)

carey's manor 001Earlier this week I headed to the Zen Garden Restaurant at Carey’s Manor – a four star hotel in the heart of the New Forest. This Thai palace inspired restaurant is attached to their SenSpa and continues the soothing Zen theme, with gold murals, a bamboo ceiling, plenty of Buddha statues and the kind of tranquil music that makes you want to settle down and take a nice long nap after you’ve eaten.

carey's manor 002The food is traditional Thai cuisine, and whilst there are meat and fish options on the menu, they have a large selection of vegetarian options too, and the focus is on healthy eating, locally-sourced produce and fresh ingredients. Their ethical food policy also means that all the eggs they use are free range (when I used to waitress here, I poked around the larder and checked!). They also have an impressive smoothie menu.

So, first up was my favourite starter here – the spring rolls stuffed with mixed vegetables, glass noodles and plum sauce:

Spring RollsThese are so delicious that they pretty much spoil you for any other spring rolls in your life, ever. I am also, personally, very much a fan of carrots being crafted into flowers.

And for the main courses we have Vegetable Phad Thai Ja – wok-friend noodles with Thai special sauce, bean sprouts, crunchy green veggies and ground cashew nuts:

Phad Thai JaAnd the organic green curry – a selection of bamboo shoots and fresh veggies in a delicious coconut sauce:

Green CurryI always mean to try something new but I love these dishes so much that I always end up ordering them. Perhaps next time I’ll finally order the papaya salad and sweet and sour tofu . . .

About Alex

Alex Bell is a writer of books and short stories as well as articles on fair trade and ethical fashion. When not writing she enjoys buying pretty things for her gifts and accessories boutique Tickle & Pink and volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau. Favourite things include Great Danes, afternoon tea and vintage teacups.

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Veg*n London, Veg*n UK

Veg*n London: Ms. Cupcake, Brixton.

My friend Christina and I decided to have lunch at Ms. Cupcake around a week in advance. As a food blogger, I thought it best not to bother charging my camera so I could capture our first meal at the new vegan bakery, because why the fuck would I do that? So thank you to Christina for letting me borrow her fancy-pants camera.

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Christina had told me about Ms. Cupcake before, but it wasn’t until I saw Fat Gay Vegan’s post about the new range of sandwiches that I realised the inexplicable draw to Brixton that I felt in my loins was actually the siren’s song from the small fridge of Ms. Cupcake.

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We had the choice between coronation chicken, ham or cheese – not as exciting as I was expecting following the FGV post that mentioned hoisin duck and Thai green chicken sandwiches. We both rocked with coronation chicken, and weren’t disappointed. Vegan pre-packed sandwiches: highlight of my week.

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The sandwich was pretty filling, but half an hour of natter and I was ready to take on my cupcake. The icing was just thick, creamy, sugary joy piped onto a moist yellow cupcake. It tasted of strawberry with a hint of coconut and it was easily the best vegan cupcake I’ve ever had. Whilst we ate, I watched one of the bakers icing a cake and it reminded me of watching ice skating on the TV because she make it look so easy yet I knew if I tried it at that speed I’d probably break my face.

I’m going to post my top five joints for vegan desert in London on Monday, so hold onto your hats chaps.

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 UK

Veg*n UK: Pulse and Biddy’s, Norwich.

Norwich is beautiful at the worst of times, but in the snow it’s magical. The night before my train ride, my pal Jenny came to stay. We stayed up until the wee hours supping vodka and watching a gentle snow fall across my back garden. As an inhabitant of Sweden, Jenny was all “whatever” about the few flakes England was squeezing out, so I filled in the awkward gaps in conversation by tweeting a pretend narrative.

“Jenny is pleasantly surprised by London’s impressive snow fall. She has used the words “winter wonderland” and “Narnia” more than once.”

“Each time we step outside, Jenny tilts her face towards the sky to experience the fresh purity of British snow.”

“She says it’s like being kissed by a thousand tiny little wet wipes.”

The next day afternoon we headed to Norwich. A few flakes in London translated to inches of slush and snow in Norwich.

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Pulse is tucked down an alleyway, above Rainbow Wholefoods, a great health food store. Their menu is absolutely fab – a big choice between sandwiches, salads and hearty mains, with creative sides and delectable cakes. I used to eat here every so often with my pal Brett of My Boyfriend’s Kitchen when we were studying in Norwich together, and my favourite was always the tofu club sandwich. This time around, I went for a bbq tofu sandwich with salad and a warming spicy tea of some description (LOOK AT ME, DOING FOOD BLOGGING. Sorry if this is like reading a postcard to my mother).

P1010907Exciting specials and a raw food event!

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Brett sent me a message before my trip, warning me that if I didn’t visit the Deerly Beloved Bakery our friendship would be compromised. I made it to Biddy’s Tea Room although I missed all the amazing vegan cakes downstairs in favour of a slice of rose and pistachio cake and rose lemonade in the tea room.

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It was perfectly lovely, and I absolutely adored the kitsch vibe in Biddy’s, but I wish the cake had a bit more flavour to it. Perhaps if I hadn’t smoked about four thousand cigarettes and drank a litre of vodka the morning before with Jenny, my taste buds might have had a bit more pep.

P1010923I wish I’d got a decent photo of the cakes. The rose and pistachio was the only vegan option in the tea room, but the bubblegum and raspberry one looks really awesome! All thick blue icing and red-black crumbs.

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.