Vegan Eats on tour: Birmingham

IMG_5435[1]

I recently took a trip to Birmingham with work; one of the nicer parts about my job is getting out of the office to meet our customers and authors, and it also means I get to visit some different parts of the UK and sample some of the vegan food they have to offer.

Thanks to the wonderful Happy Cow website (I really must download the app, this thing is a lifesaver when you’re in an area you don’t know very well), I was able to plan a couple of my must-try places in advance. On the first night, I visited Natural Healthy Foods on Suffolk Street, which opened earlier this year. As I approached the front door, I could already smell one of their hot dishes being cooked, and it smelled so good that it really made me excited about eating there.

IMG_5436[1]When you enter the store you find yourself in a vegan supermarket. This place is like heaven. You could pick up all your staple store-cupboard goods here, sweet treats, perishable items like cheese, as well as cleaning products and toiletries. I spent a little while having a browse before heading into the restaurant area. I loved the atmosphere here, the look and feel of the place is really welcoming and enticing. The food is all laid out on a bench to the side of the tills, with hot dishes on one side, and raw dishes on the other. You pay by weight, so you pick yourself a plate and take as much or as little as you like, also presumably helping to reduce food waste which is a huge bonus. I took quite a while surveying all the dishes and seeing what food was on offer, long enough for a friendly server to come over and ask me if I’d been before and if I knew how everything worked, which I appreciated. She introduced me to the different dishes, and advised on how spicy the ones marked ‘hot’ were. I decided to take the ‘little bit of everything’ approach. I’ve not really eaten much ‘raw’ food prepared like this before, so was interested to see what everything was like. I enjoyed some of the things I picked more than others – the leafy greens in a chinese style sauce was particularly delicious – but of course this will come down to personal preference, and you can be as adventurous here as you like. My large plate of wholesome food came to around £12, so if you have a bigger appetite obviously this could end up being a bit of an expensive option, but it worked out really well for me. There are also a handful of raw desserts on offer, but due to the budget I decided to just pick up some Ombar chocolate buttons (my new fave) to enjoy back in my hotel room.

IMG_5453[1]The next morning, I decided to go for a hearty breakfast at Cherry Reds. I came here a couple of times last year, for breakfast and dinner, and knew I wanted to visit again due to their wonderful food. A vegan fry up is always going to be a winner with me! The Cherry Reds vegan breakfast comes with fried tofu, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, veggie sausage, baked beans, hash browns, and piles of toast. I actually skipped lunch that day because I was so full from eating all this! It was super tasty, and dare I say it, practically healthy, because it’s mostly vegetables… right?

I ordered the vegan falafel burger on a previous visit which came with the most perfect sweet potato fries, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole meal. I’d also recommend looking in their cake cabinet at their vegan fare (spoilt for choice with a handful of options each time I’ve visited). Each time I’ve got food here, I’ve been on my own, and the chilled out and friendly atmosphere has made me feel welcome and not awkward at all. Being a cafe/bar, it gets quite lively in the evenings though, so it’s the perfect place for both a relaxed breakfast or a sociable evening out.

img_5463So you definitely won’t go hungry as a vegan in Birmingham. I also went out for a curry with my colleagues at Barajee, an Indian restaurant on Broad Street, right on the canal. The staff were really helpful when advising which meals could be veganised, and cooked a properly delicious veggie korahi using oil instead of ghee on request. Overall, I had a great vegan eating experience in the city, and Cherry Red’s and Natural Healthy Foods, both short walks from Birmingham New Street station, are definitely my top tips for visiting if you’re taking a trip.

IMG_5452[1]

Review: Spurtle and Spoon at Barefoot Oxford

IMG_4475

I need to make a retraction. I wrote only a handful of posts ago that reviewing a bowl of oatmeal would be ‘a bit much’. I was wrong. This week I went for breakfast with some friends from work at the newly launched Spurtle and Spoon pop-up breakfast bar, hosted at Barefoot Oxford in Jericho, and the experience was definitely good enough to share.

The kitchen opened at 8am, and mostly due to being at the mercy of the timings of public transport, we were those super keen people waiting outside the shop front before they were quite ready. In any case, it gave us some time to consider what we were going to order – on offer from Spurtle and Spoon was a variety of overnight oat bowls, homemade granola, or sourdough toast with a couple of choices of toppings. Barefoot also have an absolutely beautiful display of freshly baked cakes, and when is cake for breakfast not a great idea? So that was an option too, and I believe they always have at least one vegan option, that morning’s being a very pretty looking courgette cake (see, it would’ve even almost been healthy!).

IMG_4480After a little deliberation, I went for an overnight oats bowl made with dairy-free milk, topped with raspberries, toasted coconut and a spoonful of nut butter. It said on the menu that it came with cashews, but I had an epiphany about four hours later when looking at my photos, that the cashews were in fact nowhere to be found. However, they were pretty generous with the toppings and as it completely passed me by at the time, I think I can let them off. The bowls were particularly Instagram-worthy, coming with a sprinkle of freeze dried raspberries and rose petals too.

IMG_4478It was a really tasty and comforting bowl of food, perfect for these spring/summer days when the weather isn’t quite sure what it’s doing. The oats themselves tasted like they weren’t sweetened, and when I make overnight oats myself I usually grate an apple or add a bit of dairy-free yoghurt, so it tasted slightly different from what I’m used to. The ample toppings mixed in gave it plenty of flavour though, and Becky said that hers topped with banana and cacao was really tasty too. These were huge bowls of oatmeal, enough to keep me going until 2pm (apart from a handful of strawberries as a mid-morning office snack, which I ate because they were there, despite feeling ridiculously full). I have a pretty fast metabolism, also known as greediness, so that’s quite unheard of for me.

With the oats and a pot of breakfast tea, my order came to a very reasonable £6.50. We all said we’d like to go back again as the food was great and we’d like to try some of the other options on the menu. I think we might make going out for breakfast a more regular occurrence, because it’s the best meal of the day in my opinion, and what nicer way to start off a day that has to be spent in the office?

IMG_4492

Review: Prezzo

IMG_4306

My boyfriend, Jamie, had a £20 voucher for Prezzo which was due to run out, and I’d found a code on their website for 25% off food, so we decided to visit their Oxford Castle Quarter branch for dinner last weekend after listening to a conversation with Toby Jones at the Oxford Literary Festival (which is fantastic, by the way, I encourage everyone to have a look at the line up when the time comes again next year, because it is a great event in our city’s calendar)!

I wasn’t actually planning on reviewing a chain restaurant so soon, but sadly I was pretty disappointed with my meal here, so I wanted to share my experience. There are many chain restaurants in town that offer fairly decent vegan options (Bella Italia, Ask, Zizzi, to name a few), so if that’s the kind of food you’re looking for, I’d probably suggest to steer clear of Prezzo unfortunately. Although Jamie didn’t order vegan food, he said he felt the same, so perhaps it’s the overall Prezzo experience that isn’t that great, rather than their vegan offering alone. I’ve been to other Prezzo locations and I don’t remember thinking it was quite this bad so maybe it’s not all branches, but certainly the Oxford one is probably one to avoid.

IMG_4300We arrived just before 5.30pm so the restaurant was extremely quiet. It was definitely partly the fact it was so early, but the atmosphere was uncomfortable, and having looked at the menu beforehand to find all of the main meals at £12+, we were kind of surprised that it felt pretty much the same inside as a cheap Pizza Hut – even though technically we weren’t really paying for the meal as it was on a gift card, it still somehow felt like a rip off. There were two other tables in the restaurant occupied and everyone was very subdued, it was just a bit weird.

I already knew I was going to order the vegan pappardelle, described on the menu as being served with ‘our mix of chargrilled vegetables, roasted red pepper tapenade, parsley, rocket and smoked balsamic dressing’. I can only guess that the couple of specks of grey grease on top of my rocket was supposed to be the smoked dressing! At the time I was concerned some sauce had dripped onto my dish from something else. I couldn’t really taste it. I didn’t get much flavour from the tapenade either. The pasta tasted and felt like it had been submerged for some time in a neutral flavoured oil. The ‘mix’ of chargrilled veg was in fact just aubergine and two slices of sweet potato, the latter which I’ve never had with pasta before and probably never will again. On paper the dish sounded really nice, so it’s a shame the execution left so much to be desired. I was still a bit hungry but we decided not to get dessert, as everything seemed overpriced for the quality of the food, so I ended up snacking when I got home!

I do want to say that the service was great – the servers were very friendly, attentive, and as you might expect at this time of day, the food came out really quickly. That being said, the food is definitely the most important thing for me, so the good service probably isn’t quite enough for me to give Prezzo a second chance 😦

I’d be really interested to know if anyone has visited the Oxford Castle Quarter Prezzo, or any other, and maybe had a different experience though – let me know in the comments what you think!

IMG_4303

Vegan Eats Oxford

Hello, thanks for visiting my blog 🙂

I’m Heather, a 24 year old vegan foodie living in Oxford. Having spent a lot of time trawling the internet trying to find recommendations for decent vegan-friendly places to eat in our beautiful city, I came to the realisation that this information can be actually quite difficult to find. Cue the best excuse to try out lots of delicious food..

I have a long list of food establishments in Oxford in my head that serve vegan food. In the hope that I can make your lives easier and this blog can become your go-to guide to vegan food in Oxford, and purely for research reasons of course (nothing to do with the fact that I need a way to justify going out for food multiple times a week), I’m planning to visit and review every restaurant, and let you know whether it’s worth a visit! Feel free to bookmark this post because each time I write a review, I’ll come back here and update the list with the link below.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin