Although Stockport is minutes away from Manchester, I’m not very good at breaking the routine and going somewhere new. Last time I head that way was the Robinson’s brewery tour (well worth it) a few years ago. This time it was The Allotment that brought me back, teased by the the chef, Matthew Nutter’s, bold claim that “I can make aubergine taste better than steak“. I’m not particularly looking for something that tastes like steak but I love the cheek of that statement. Continue reading “Dinner at the Allotment vegan restaurant in Stockport”
Deaf Institute has been pretty vegan friendly for a while – they did a vegan club sandwich special a few months ago that I still have dreams about. But recently, they started up the vegan hangover club with a weekly changing menu of vegan specials. I couldn’t bloody wait.
Originally built in 1878 as a deaf institute (surprisingly enough), the stonework outside is pretty epic. Inside, it’s a classic mix of antlers and kitchy wallpaper, but they get away with it without it feeling painfully hipster or too on trend. Anyway, I digress – check out their gigs and general listings, they have so much going on and it’s a great venue.
Back to brunch
I’d heard rumours of pancakes but we got a very savoury menu. If you’re vegan or veggie yourself you’ll know the ‘pain’ of suddenly having to actually choose something instead of just scanning for the V that tells you the 1 thing you’re allowed. It was an intense and desperate 5 minutes choosing from these bad boys:
We chose the seitan burger with cashew cheese, cashew cheese quesadillas (something I’ve really missed as a vegan) with pimped fries to share on the side. Yes the burger already came with fries so it looks a bit carb heavy but this is HANGOVER BRUNCH so get on board. Or go and look at these salad ideas.
The quesadillas were amazing, thin and crispy with a little bean chili inside, and guac and sweet corn salsa on the side. £6.50 well spent. The cashew cheese is the drizzle on top rather than melty inside like a traditional quesadilla – as amazing as that would be, I am picky with vegan cheese (violife sucks) so I’m not disappointed by this – would order again in a heartbeat.
Next, seitan burger. This was probably the ‘worst’ plate. The burger itself was pale and quite bland – if you’re used to the very meaty-style seitan burgers at Brewdog, this is nothing like that, more like an old school Quorn chicken burger. But it was fine, and the toppings made up for it, with the cashew cheese again, aubergine, salad, sweetcorn and generous fries on the side.
Finally, the pimped fries:
Good god. Smothered in bbq sauce, cashew cheese, jalapeños, smoky aubergine, tomato and fresh coriander they were perfect. 10/10. I’ll remember them forever. I had wondered if we were being greedy with the whole double fries thing but WOW no regrets.
Brunch opens at 3 on a Sunday and runs until late. There will be flyer littered around with celebs faces on – if you can tell the bar staff which of the celebs are vegan, you get free popcorn. SPOILER ALERT – they are all vegan, or were at some point in their lives.
Always been a fan of Deaf Institute, and now I love them ever more. If you’ve been on a different day let me know what the menu was!
Last weekend, I played tourist in my own town. Manchester has so much going on, it’s easy to live here for years and still say, ‘oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to go there, I heard it’s good’. Add that to the new things that are opening all the time, new pop up shops, restaurants, gigs and art nights, and you could stay up all night every night and still not see the whole city.
On this occasion, we started with the Makers Market. This is a regular event that tours round parts of Manchester, including the Northern Quarter, Spinningfields, Didsbury and more recently, Chorlton. There’s a good mix of food and drink vs other arts and crafts, and all the traders are excited to talk to you about what they’ve made… and share some samples. I had a pumpkin samosa with sweet potato fries on the side (carb heaven) to wash down some amazing rhubarb gin tasters. There were loads and sweet treats, cookies and brownies, but not much for the vegan sweet tooth waaaa.
I’d only recently been complaining that all my jewellery is cheap, years old and is getting a bit tarnished. I don’t really have much ‘grown up’ jewellery. I like the unusual, but not too gimmicky – which is why I found and fell in love with the Nordic Muse stand. Based on geometry and using a combination of metals it’s really simple and really striking. I treated myself to a little gift from me to me.
After nosing our way around every stall, from Beauty and the Beast style rose-in-glassware necklace, to paintings and postcards of local artists, we crept our way out of the drizzle and to Pot Kettle Black on Deansgate. The only thing missing from the Makers Market was vegan brownies (*sigh*) and after seeing just about every other brownie variant there I had a hankering. I like good coffee, and though I don’t pretend to know much about it, if you tell me you love Starbucks, I will judge you. The guys at PKB are lovely, knowledgeable and do a great brew if real coffee. The whole experience is considered, with your espresso served with a wafer and lemon water, and it’s all situated in the grand Barton Arcade, just off Deansgate. As it was a Saturday afternoon, we went for espresso martinis. Yes, they have an alcohol licence. Ready to take your money.
From PKB we went culturing – I’d never been to the John Ryland’s Library even though I must have walked past it more than a 1000 times. Even though it’s a functional library, you can visit as a tourist to see the exhibitions and the architecture, it’s not just for taking out a book and sneakily checking out the vaulted ceilings. Anyway, at the moment they have an exhibition on magic, demons and witches through history, as well as history of printing. After years of living here and never having stepped inside it didn’t disappoint, with gargoyles on the walls, artwork on show, and a scrap of paper from the earliest copy of the New Testament ever discovered, dated between 2 and 3 AD. I’m not religious, but that’s pretty cool. Free entry too guys. And their gift shop is full of macabre, weird and wonderful stationery, candles and books.
As we left, the rain kicked in again (classic Manchester) and we moved on to Nexus Art Cafe in the Northern Quarter, which is also home to the Salford Zine Library (not in Salford). A zine, in case you don’t know, is basically a self-published magazine. The library has more than 1500 on all sorts of topics, typically a5 and printed in black and white for ease of self-publishing. Check out some of the titles and topics on their site.
Anyway, we were fortunate enough to get the Nexus tea garden to ourselves – even though it was raining (still), there was a covered section which was perfectly dry. While we sat there, a church choir were singing across the way, which felt very surreal.
Final stop was Dough. I’ve written about Dough before, they’re great for catering to every dietary requirement you could possibly have, but they’re just not actually that great at the dough part, which is ironic. If you like a very thin & crispy pizza you’ll love it. But I’m more of a chewy dough gal.
I’d love to hear your recommendations on best things to do – the more unusual and undiscovered the better! Bonus points for vegan brownies. xxx
One of the reasons I didn’t go vegan sooner was because I love pizza. That perfect combination of cheese, tomato, basil and bread – my mouth is watering right now. When me & the hub moved in together back in the middle ages (2009) we had to implement a ‘one pizza a week’ rule as we both started piling on the pounds.
Anyway – I’m not a fan of many vegan cheeses, but it turns out you can have delicious, morish, never-want-that-slice-to-end pizzas even as a vegan. And amazingly, Manchester is home to many authentic and highly regarded pizza places (as well as great vegan friendly non-pizza places). I’ve made it my mission to sample as many as possible just to report back to you, beautiful readers #NotAllHeroesWearCapes.
If you’re a pizza fan, you’ll have at least heard of Rudy’s. Located in the middle of nowhere (or 10 minutes away from Pie&Ale) you need a brazen heart and willing stomach to venture that far. No, I’m kidding, it’s fine, you can make it, I believe in you. They have a genuine vegan option on the menu (Marinara) and they were happy for us to customise it, adding some bad ass broccoli. Service was very much on the slow side, but the pizza is amazing. Crust is thin & chewy, sauce is rich & flavourful. The venue feels like some guys found an abandoned building and threw a pizza oven in it – there’s some random graffiti on the walls here & there and the layout is a bit odd like it’s a short term pop up. We can only pray that it stays. Also they serve San Pellegrino orange & lemon as well as the usual alcohols.
If you were scared if venturing to Rudy’s you’re going to struggle with this one. However, the standard Manchester pizza debate is Honest Crust vs Rudy’s so if you visit one you’re sort of legally obliged to visit the other if you ever want to be a real Mancunian. Located in Altrincham market, they also have the Marinara as a ready made vegan option. They recommend I didn’t add any extra toppings, as ‘the beauty is in the simplicity’. How could I go against such advice. It took a while to come as Alty market is super hot right now and everyone who goes wants a pizza, so their little oven was on a backlog. We kept ourselves busy with some big fat olives in the meantime. When the pizza itself came it had really thin slices of garlic nestled in the sauce which was delicious. And obviously, the crust and base were perfect, thin and chewy. Honest Crust is in the middle of Alty market so you’ve got loads of wine & beer options there. Bonus points as I saw Sally Webster from Corrie there, so definitely worth the schlep on the metrolink.
You may or may not have heard of Ply. It’s got a really cool, but unexpected vibe. It feels a bit like you’re hanging around a shop at first, very modern and design-led. It has long Bier Hall style tables that you just crowd in on, and a variety of US craft beers, such as Samuel Adams. There’s a glitterball-styled stone oven sat behind the bar like the most normal thing in the world. We went on a busy Friday about 9pm and received our pizza relatively quickly. There’s no specific vegan option, but I asked for the Roast Vegetables (tomato, red pepper, courgette, aubergine) without mozzarella and they handled it like the simple request that it is. If you’re quick to join the membership programme, you can claim 50% off pizzas until the end of June (Go – Now!)
Dough, Northern Quarter
Dough is a great place to eat. They let you book in large groups, it’s next door and sort of related to Apotheca for delicious cocktails, and they’re super accommodating for any dietary needs. Out of all the places on this list, they’re the only venue that actually offers vegan cheese on your pizza which is an incredible breakthrough.
Unfortunately, vegan cheese isn’t that great (the No-Muh piquant is the only one I’ve bought more than once). And considering that the name of the restaurant is Dough – the pizza bases just don’t compare when you’ve got Honest Crust and Rudy’s in the same round up. They’re fine, much better than anything frozen you’ll find, but it’s a much ‘breadier’ base than a chewy base, if that makes sense. I go for the Goat’s Cheese without the cheese which sounds odd, but I’m a sucker for caramelised onion and tomato tapenade. In addition, they do a vegan sorbet as a dessert, so they’re the only local venue on this list that can do you a pudding too. Also, they have a crazy varied list of pizza toppings so any meat eaters you’re with will be suitably entertained with that rather than delivering 500 questions about why don’t you just have proper cheese. (Short answer: because I’m not a calf).
Dough Pizza Kitchen
Pizza Express, Basically anywhere
I’ve got to include Pizza Express as they’ve made the effort of adding a specific vegan pizza on the menu – the Pianta. Unlike the local options, it comes with loads of veg as toppings including spinach, mushroom, pine nuts, artichoke, tomato, rocket and finished off with garlic oil. I LOVE that they have made the effort and they also include lots of gluten free options for celiacs and people-who-suddenly-avoid-gluten-because-they-think-it’s-cool. It’s fine, it’s nice, and there’s almost always an offer on, and at the end of the day Pizza Express aren’t pretending to be the leaders in pizza. Or maybe they are, but no-one believes them. Anyway, I kick-started mine with some dough balls, you can easily swap the garlic butter for oil&balsamic, or even a tomato/olive tapenade thing. ALso, the raspberry sorbet is vegan too.
Zizzi’s, almost everywhere
Honourable mention because they also just launched a vegan pizza but I haven’t tried it yet.
If you’ve made it to the bottom of this list: Congrats! You are a hardcore pizza fan! All your friends love you and your life will be successful and full of glory.
If there’s anywhere I’ve missed that you think deserves a mention please so let me know, always happy to investigate new pizza discoveries!
Edit: This post previously had a review of No1 Watson Street, who have since confirmed that their pizza dough contains milk.
Yesterday was International Day of Yoga! Yogis from all over the world bent and breathed in public places to celebrate this amazing activity.
I started yoga to improve flexibility for my pole fitness. As well as this, I’ve found improvements in core strength (when you’re wobbling about in a wide Warrior pose it’s surprisingly abs-strengthy) and I’ve also found it helps practise Mindfulness – shocker. My favourite move for this is tree pose, standing on one leg, perfectly still, arms above your head, it requires so much concentration you forget about what you’re having for tea or what you did at work today. It completely clears the head.
Becoming more aware of your body, or every toe and every little ligament and sinew puts you more in touch with you as a full body, and less of a head attached to a body. That’s a weird thing to think about but I read a study that said people who think in that way are happier. It brings more self awareness, more self love. The pictures above are from a long weekend in Snowdonia we just took to celebrate the hub finishing his PhD thesis. As well as these photos taken when out and about, I took a few moments to practise yogic breathing barefoot in the grass in our campsite in the early morning with noone around except for birds and bunnies. It was so peaceful.
I believe that being vegan, veggie, plant-based or environmentalist, we should all do the best we can, and not feel guilty when we’re not perfect. We all make occasional slip ups, forget to ask the question, or forget how certain products even have a chance of animal ingredients in them (pork in your mascara, anyone?)
Anyway, even when I was vegetarian, I often turned a blind eye to animal ingredients in my booze. I had my excuses: “I’m doing enough already/they’re only waste products/it’s not actually in the drink, just used in processing” etc, etc. The real reason was, that I couldn’t be arsed – I love a boozey Friday and I didn’t want anything getting in the way of that. Finally, I realised I was no different to the people who claimed it’s too hard/inconvenient/expensive to give up meat, and if I’m going to call myself a vegan it’s time to drink responsibly.
Putting theory into practise: time to drink some beer
To celebrate a new level of discipline I headed down to Runaway brewery‘s monthly Grub Fair. Runaway are pretty awesome, they set up in 2014 to brew great beer how they wanted it, and set up in the Green Quarter in Manchester. The third Saturday of every month in association with GRUB, they get local food traders in and set up gazebos and benches in their car park for the Grub Food Fair. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, where you can while away the afternoon in a beer and food coma. Which is how I spent my Saturday this week.
The event caters to all, and looks to make sure their mix of traders includes veggie, vegan and gluten free options, Yes there’s also a lot of meat, but at least you can bring the whole family without any complaints. This month I sampled the leek and aubergine stir fry stew from Maiden Taiwan, followed by some fresh mini vegan donut bites with cinnamon sugar from Fritto Italian Street Food.
Vegan beer at home
Unfortunately, we can’t spend all our weirdly warm but rainy days in Manchester beer gardens. So for the other days of the week, I found this excellent resource called Barnivore that collates information from most beer, wine and spirits brands on whether animal products are used. I’m a big ale lover: I love a strong German Weissbeer, a gentle session bitter, or a lovely blonde (LIKE ME!) I’ve collated below a list some of my regular UK beers that turn out to be vegan (phew). These aren’t particularly the best (although many are delicious), they’re just easy to find, the sort you can stock up on in advance, grab from your local, or always have on hand:
- Stella Artois
- Carlsberg Export
- Brewdog This is Lager
- Robinson’s Dizzy Blonde (my favourite and my namesake)
- Brewdog Dead Pony (ironically)
- Black Sheep Golden Sheep (BOTTLE is ok, cask is NOT OK)
- Marble Beers (not the honey versions obv)
- JW Lees: everything except the standard Cask Bitter
- Obviously Runaway brewery
I have heard that as a rule of thumb, smaller microbreweries are less likely to feel the need to use random animal parts in brewing – this may or may not be true.
The above list has a strong Manchester skew as I love to support our local brewers, but the Barnivore search list is completely global.
All this has made me thirsty now: long legs, green heart, full glass…
Do share your favourite vegan beer finds or non vegan warnings if you have any!
We’re very lucky in Manchester to have some amazing vegan options, some healthy, some not so healthy. I’m in my fourth month of vegan-ing and I’ve not struggled too badly anywhere. I thought I’d share some of the amazing finds I’ve had around the city lately:
Pho have places all over the country, the Manchester branch is located in the Corn Exchange (previously the Triangle, and previously a bit crap). Pho are great because they declare pretty openly that virtually all their vegetarian labled dishes are also vegan, rather than hiding it away on a secret menu, and when queried the server I had was ready to answer vegan questions.
I had the bun chay hoey – hot and spicy noodle soup. You get the main soup in one giant bowl, the vegan option being tofu and mushroom, and a tray of fresh ingredients on the side to add as you like – lemongrass, coriander, beans sprouts, lime and mint. I’m normally pretty good with spicy things, and I optimistically added all the chillis I was given. A bit of a ‘nose runner’ shall we say.
The tofu wasn’t a texture I’d had before, to be honest, it reminded me of croutons, sort of ‘bready’. In spite of this surprise, it was delicious and I’d definitely have it again.
Evelyn’s is in the Northern Quarter, on Tib St. It has a pretty varied menu for meat eaters, and TWO vegan options. Apparently it’s a great breakfast/brunch spot, but it did appear quite egg-centric (not even a pun).
Another day, another new tofu format, this time breadcrumbed. It was amazing, pretty sure it was silken tofu as the inside was very soft and smooth, and the breadcrumbs were really crispy, what a contrast. Served with loads of spinach and blackened cauliflower, on sort of lentil Dahl thing. It was incredible. I could have eaten it twice, which I guess makes portion size the only slight negative.
Go Falafel is like vegan Greg’s. It’s fast, it’s delicious… Oh no wait, except that it’s incredibly healthy rather than greasy beige. There are rumours that a new one is opening on Deansgate which would be amazing, the current one is just off Piccadilly gardens. They serve all sorts of fruit smoothies too. Entirely vegan.
You’ll notice there’s something missing in the salad bowl above. I was actually not too hungry so I just went for the salad bowl rather than any actual falafel. But look at it, it’s beautiful. I ate this on my own on a bench on a sunny day I’m February listening to a guy play guitar. Highly recommend that ambience.
Deaf Institute has snook in a bit here as the meal I had was a special rather than on their normal menu. However, it was one of those sandwiches you think about for days afterwards so I couldn’t leave it out. Maybe if we all go and demand it they’ll make it regular.
This sandwich had the three As – avocado, artichoke and aubergine. Plus loads of red onion and grilled peppers. So fit. Look at the size of it. Needs a wooden stake to hold it together.
I’ve been telling everyone I know about Cowherds.Unfortunately I keep getting overwhelmed by the glory of their food and eating it before I can take a pic. They have a regular daily hit food item (Mondays are Thai green curry – try it) plus various snacks and All The Juices. I actually won one of their regular Facebook competitions a few weeks back and got 12 bottles of juices, and I never felt healthier. The green one below looks like pondwater yes, but it’s cut with apple besides all the kale, spinach and whatever else so tastes amazing. The orange one is ginger and carrot – if you weren’t a big fan of ginger I’d say it’s not the juice for you. It’s a great lick you up though!
Cowherds also serve Tyler & Hall chocolate vegan protein brownies – you would think that being vegan and protein heavy they’d taste like crap but you’d be SO WRONG. They’re so rich, almost like praline. Highly recommended.
Cowherds is currently just a van behind the cathedral, but they’re imminently getting a new portakabin type thing where you can also sit inside. They do a lot of community work too and are generally wonderful people.
That’s today’s round up complete – please do let me know of anything else you discover!
To start testing how this whole blogging thing works, here’s a post about when the sun shines in Manchester. Many people who think of Manchester think of industry and greyness, and more than likely, rain. Actually we do get (some) sunny days and I’m lucky enough to live near Chorlton Water Park – a beautiful outdoor space and nature reserve.
We were lucky enough to get some sun on Good Friday so I dragged the hub away from his PhD for a few hours to walk along the Mersey and the artificial lake. Apparently the lake was built in the 1970s from an old gravel pit, and now is home to swans, geese, cormorants, herons, moorhens, coots and more. I was even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a kingfisher darting by.
Also I obviously had to take the obligatory pole picture!
To see how all the wildlife comes alive in sunny weather just like humans do is beyond cute. I love being outdoors and feeling part of nature – refreshes the soul for those of us with indoor jobs!