In October I turned the big 30, and I’ve been waiting on the present from the hub for a while – a trip to Venice. I knew it would be amazing, but I had it in the same category as Paris – some beautiful sights, but ultimately, a normal city like any other. This wasn’t the case. It took a few hours to shake the feeling that we were in a film set, or a themed area of Disneyland. It was too beautiful to be real.
Everybody yurts, sometimes (well, they should)
Have you ever stayed in a yurt? I hadn’t until last month, and wasn’t really sure what they were. Is glamping hipster? Or has it become cliche now? How much glam does a campsite require to evolve into a glampsite? These existential questions must prey on all our minds from time to time, but I would urge you to leave your worries at the tiny little hobbit door and enter the world of yurting (note: I don’t think that’s a real verb).
We stayed at Cae Wennol yurts, about 20 minutes drive from Betws-y-coed and 40 minutes from Snowdon. The site has three yurts, as well as an outdoor pizza oven, individual bbq areas and an open-air communal kitchen. There are ponds with dragonflies, rabbits peeping their little noses about, and cheeky magpies thinking they own the place. It’s a weirdly magical place.
All of the yurts have names, and ours was called Seren. It was equipped with a double bed and futon, as well as drawers, a chair and tables, and a wood burner complete with chimney. The floor is made of wood with rugs to keep your feet warm. It was decorated in a middle-eastern inspired “rustic” theme that made it feel like a real home. It definitely didn’t feel like a tent, more like when you are a child and you dream of making your wendy house into a real house to live in your garden forever.
On the first night we made a valiant effort with the outdoor pizza oven, with mixed results. We had trouble getting it hot enough, and in the end resorted to creating a thin garlic flatbread, using our pizza ingredients to create a pasta instead. I made the pizza dough from scratch without scales, weights or measurements, rolling my sleeves up in the open air kitchen with a G&T at my side and using a pint glass as a rolling pin. It was just perfect.
On the second night, after an exhausting trek up Snowdon and a second (this time successful) visit to the Swallow Falls we had a simpler BBQ/salad outside our yurt before collapsing into bed. That night I was so happy we weren’t sleeping on the floor of a tent, and my weary legs really valued the support and softness of a real bed! Although the yurt had a log burner inside, we found it really warm, and were throwing blankets off the bed rather than needing to worry about keeping warm. Those padded walls are really insulating.
Each of the three yurts has its own individual “loo shed”, with a real basin and a compost toilet. There was also an eco shower, complete with hot water running off into pebbles under your feet. The whole site felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland meets Eden – one morning when I woke up and came out of the yurt, I saw six baby bunnies sprinting across the path in front of me, as if playing that now the humans are awake, it’s time to run! Another morning, as I entered the open air kitchen, a magpie flew out with a whole slice of bread in his beak – I entered to find that someone had left a new loaf on the sideboard rather than in a cupboard, and the magpie has worked his way in through the plastic to steal a cheeky snack.
It felt magical to have these home comforts of real beds, hot water and pizza ovens while running round barefoot and huddling around a fire. I’d return in a heartbeat and would recommend the site to anyone else staying in the area.
Vegan Pizzas of Manchester
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.