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”
A vegan trip to the Lake District: walking in Ambleside
On the first real sunny weekend of the year we escaped to the Lakes. The sunshine was a happy coincidence rather than specifically running away to the sun, and it turned out to be the perfect weekend, with great vegan food, beautiful scenery and a gorgeous quiet little b&b to make our base. I’d never been to Ambleside before, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. Continue reading “A vegan trip to the Lake District: walking in Ambleside”
Eating vegan in Vegas
Las Vegas is a city of steak – and as a tourist it can be overwhelming trying to find vegan food to suit what you’re in the mood for, whether it’s something quick, cheap and on the go, or somewhere special to sit down and enjoy.
I recently spent a week in Vegas with my family, including a day at the World Pole Expo (<3). It took us a few days to find the best places, but here’s a run down:
Vegan Food in Las Vegas
First thing to note – Steve Wynn, owner of the Wynn and the Encore is vegan. I found it a little odd that a vegan would serve foie gras in his own establishment, but there you go. Anyway, it means that supposedly every food outlet in the Wynn provides at least one vegan option, so at least Steve doesn’t go hungry. We sampled chocolate chip muffins at “The Cafe” (divine) as well as a vegan pizza and a fake chicken thing with noodles at the Allegro, which is classed as casual dining but is pretty fancy for a cheeky dinner. In the US their version of Quorn appears to be Gardein Chick’n – which is much less dry and tough and overall better. The Wynn isn’t a cheap dinner, but it was delicious.
Chipotle is a Mexican fast food outlet that’s all over the US, kind of like a Subway but for burritos. I guess the UK is getting more and more Barburrito now – it’s similar. We visited a few times while we were there as it was a quick lunch for on the go and there was one over the road from the Mirage where we were staying. Turns out I only have a photo of the burrito bowl – this was great for a bit of fresh salad after a few too many cocktails the night before! You can also get Sofritas in your burrito, which is shredded, spiced tofu – so good.
Hussong’s Cantina (Mandalay Bay)
Hussong’s was our last night in Vegas, and we were absolutely gutted not to have found it sooner. Seriously, we were only there a week but I’d have been happy to eat there 2 or even 3 nights. I LOVE Mexican food, and the comprehensive vegan menu included sour cream and Daiya cheese (which NEEDS to launch in the UK – best vegan cheese I’ve ever had). You can choose from Gardein Chick’n or Beefless Tips, of just plain fried veggies. As there were four vegans at our table we pretty much sampled every option between us, and it was all amazing. Casual, fun experience and even a mariachi band.
Slice of Vegas (Mandalay Bay)
This one is a kind of cheat to include, and a bit bittersweet. We arrived at Hussong’s early for our reservation, so popped next door for a beer while we waited, which is where we found Slice of Vegas, a kind of casual sports bar. This is where we discovered a whole vegan pizza menu, but we had no more nights left to spend here. So here’s the menu, it looked great, but I can’t vouch for it. Let me know if you’ve been! (or don’t, it might upset me…)
More eating vegan in Vegas
Aside from the above, you’ve also got Denny’s, which offers a vegan burger. You can find one on Freemont Street if you’re down for the light show. Walgreen’s are ok for an overpriced banana and some hummus if you find yourself in a bind. Brits know where they stand with Subway (veggie delite, obviously). And many of Auntie Anne‘s pretzels are vegan, as long as you request no butter. Stay away from Panda Express which cooks everything in animal stock, and California Pizza Kitchen which covered out cheese-free pizza in Parmesan!
My trip was more about beers with family than fine dining, and it turned out that eating vegan in Vegas was easier than I thought – much easier than on the flight with Thomas Cook anyway! I’d love to return with a bit more cash in my pocket and try some of the more luxurious options, particularly at the Wynn and Encore (and to try the pizza at Slice of Vegas at least!) If you have any additions to this list, do let me know ❤
Vegan make up review: feat Kat von D, Pixi, Make Up Revolution
Being a pretty casual person when it comes to beauty and make up (I stick to what I know) it’s not something I talk about a lot. However, I’ve discovered some great new products lately, so thought it was time for my second ever round up (first one here).
Kat von D has been the name on every vegan girl’s lips lately, but her range has been only available online in the UK so far. And who wants to buy without a try? Lucky for me, Sephora, the US version of Boots (except better) does stock it in store , and while I was over in Vegas I found her counter and fell in love.
With more or less everything at around $20-$25 each it wasn’t cheap, and with the exchange rate collapsing around us it’s not getting cheaper. But I’m generally happy to pay that kind of price for the right product, and it did not disappoint.
Kat von D Tattoo liner review
I’ve been using a dip-brush and pot for a while now and I wasn’t sure how I felt going back to a felt pen – you don’t get the same bend if you want to go flicky or swooshy. But that’s by the by. I chose the ‘Trooper’ (black obviously), it’s super dark and most importantly… it stays put all day. You can just put a thin stroke on on top to make your lashes look a bit thicker for a daytime vibe, or go for a thick swoosh Adele style. No blotching, really even, dark pigment and totally stays put. Perfect! I wear this every day now. SO pleased.
Kat von D Everlasting liquid lipstick
My other find was the lip colour – I love a classic red lip ever since I was brave enough to try it. This shade was called Santa Sangre – how could I resist? It dries matt (beautiful) and is a really strong pillarbox red. My only struggle was the wand wasn’t too easy to work with, and if you got a bit out of place it’s tough to remove it. You obviously do need to touch up throughout the day here and there, but while in Disney I gave it a pretty good test – eating pineapple ice cream plus Splash mountain. And check out the results!
Pixi Mattelustre lipstick
My Pixi lipstick I actually got a few months back. I was in a bad mood with my old elbow injury and a new lippy was the obvious solution. I love buying cosmetics and skincare from M&S because they usually mark everything really clearly on the site whether it’s vegan or not. However, this being an external brand, the M&S site itself isn’t so helpful, but you can find a full list of vegan products here. Not all of the Pixi range is vegan (though none is animal tested). Anyhoo, I got the Classic Red (predictably) and it’s a winner. My previous red sheer lipstick was Benefit (boo animal testing) and to be honest this is better anyway – it’s less ‘shiny’ and more pigmented. Stays on pretty well.
Make Up Revolution Iconic Smoky palette
The other end of the cost scale is Make up Revolution. This smoky palette caught my eye while having a wander to pick up some cold and flu tablets or something in Superdrug. It was only £6 and absolutely gorgeous. It’s one of those palettes where you think you can casually throw a bit of dark grey behind your lid for a work day, then realise how pigmented the colour is and suddenly you’re full on drag queen. Which is a great problem to have. Does not feel like the price you paid. I love this – Star buy!
Thomas Cook vegan food isn’t vegan
I’ve been quiet recently and with good reason (the best reason) – HOLIDAY! We spent a week in Vegas with the Dempsey clan including a sojourn to the World Pole Expo, and then the hub & I spent a second week at Disneyworld & Universal in Orlando. WOW, I hear you say, yes wow! It was so much fun, and amazing to actually take two weeks off work!
But… I hear you ask, what was it like eating vegan there? Well, it wasn’t as easy as the UK where I know what all my go-to options and back up plans for lunch and dinner are. But the worst food we had was undoubtedly on the flight. Hence the name of this post – if you’re vegan, don’t fly Thomas Cook.
**UPDATE** A little over a MONTH after my first complaint, Thomas Cook finally replied. Without saying very much at all. Skip to the end to read their response.
The outbound flight boarded at around 9 am. We’d already had some Jus Rol pastries at the airport waiting around (prep work bitches!) so we were feeling good as we boarded. And then at 11.45am lunch was served. A curry. I mean, out of all the gripes I’m about to list this one was pretty minor, but literally no one starves themselves before a flight because they can’t wait for the airline food. Having literally just finished breakfast, pretty much as soon as we were airborne, it was curry time.
But you know what, the curry tasted good so it was an ok start. Heavy on the rice and low on the veg but flavours were decent. It was served with a side of bread and jam. And followed up with a dessert of bread and jam. That’s right kids, in one meal, we had double bread and jam.
There was also a tiny pack of raisins, the sort you’d give to a kid at school, and some marmite. Also a cracker – to spread with the jam. Or make into a cracker sandwich with the double bread, who knows. Thankfully it did also come with an apple.
It goes downhill from here.
Tea and coffee was served: no soy milk (or anything else).
Afternoon snack: everyone else (who’d paid the same as us) had a cornetto. Vegans – nothing.
The omnis (meat eaters) on the flight had the classic cheese sandwich, egg sandwich, scone, clotted cream etc. The vegans received a familiar sight: double bread and jam! In case you hadn’t yet got tired of the two miniature loaves from earlier, we got two more! I couldn’t face actually eating it, and so passed the time making mini sandwiches and eating my emergency Nakd bars.
We also got a banana, yes food of the gods, but it hadn’t exactly been bubble wrapped as you’ll see from the picture. They did swap it for a better one though.
The Return Flight
Naturally I was feeling suspicious and apprehensive about the flight back, so loaded up on our own snacks and had a big breakfast. As soon as you’re vegan for a week you learn how to sort yourself out in anticipation of a long day. And so it turned out my cautiousness was entirely justified.
It was another curry. Again, heavy on the rice, but as a broccoli fiend I was relieved to get some green on my plate after two weeks in the states. Dessert and sides were bread, crackers and a fruit pot.
This time no jam, instead , “52% vegetable oil whipped spread”. The other 48% of the ingredients were not listed. With minimal options and the knowledge that Thomas Cook would have thrown it away anyway, I took it on faith that the spread they served me in a vegan meal would be vegan.
…then, when I got home, I contacted the manufacturer.
The first thing I spotted on the information sheet I was sent was the claim ‘lactose free’. At that point my heart sank and the rage kicked in. As any vegan (or anyone with basic ingredient and allergen knowledge, say, someone responsible for compiling in flight food at a multinational firm) would know, lactose is just one part of milk, and removing it doesn’t make a product dairy free. Apparently Thomas Cook didn’t have enough fucks to give to check this out.
Sure enough, all the way down the ingredients list, the last ingredient to be listed… was whey. FUCKING WHEY.
Rating: -10/10 for actually not being vegan.
I had pretty low expectations at this point, even without yet knowing about the whey-spread. Again, it was another fail at basic veganism, as I was served an oats & honey cereal bar, another pot of fruit (sort of on the fizzy side of ripe) and some orange juice.
As soon as the steward handed me the bag, I said, ‘excuse me, this isn’t actually vegan’. Super polite. Her response: ‘Well, that’s what I’ve been given.” No apology or attempt to rectify it, or even to ask why it isn’t vegan so they get it right next time. Did not give one shit. She didn’t even look at me as she replied, it was a pretty strong brush off. Fortunately, after having been cramped in that tiny plane (don’t even get me started on the oxymoron that is ‘leg room’ on that flight) I felt so sick that I didn’t want to eat anyway. So we’re all winners aren’t we.
Rating: -15/10 for both the fact that it wasn’t vegan and for not caring that it wasn’t vegan.
I contacted Thomas Cook twice with my complaints and advising then I was working on this write up, but their response time for a complaint is 28 days. So they either receive a LOT of complaints, or there’s like one person responding to them all. Either way it doesn’t look good, and after three weeks of waiting I decided I’d given them long enough. I’ll update this post if they ever do respond.
Overall, it’s a grand total of -16 points out of a possible 60. And I didn’t even deduct anything for no soy milk on the return flight either, as at this point in the game it would be like kicking a puppy. And that wouldn’t be very vegan.
**THOMAS COOK’S RESPONSE** (Dated 13th October)
Amount of fucks given = 0.
Dear Miss Dempsey
Thanks for getting in touch us about your holiday to Florida. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your in-flight meals.
We work hard to offer a choice of food for you to enjoy and offer meals to suit all tastes but it is hard to find options for everyone to enjoy. Considering the number of customers that fly with us and the feedback we’ve received about our meals, I’m sorry these were not to your liking.
We want you to know how much we value your feedback and we’re really sorry you weren’t happy.
We hope you continue to travel with us and will use your feedback to improve the service we offer our customers.
No apology for THE FOOD NOT EVEN BEING VEGAN.
No apology for zero help from the steward.
I’ve naturally kicked off at them again but they just don’t care enough to reply. Imagine if they hurt your child or lost your luggage or something – it’s literally the slowest and least arsed “customer service” I’ve experienced in my life.
Vegan Sunday brunch at Deaf Institute
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!
Rainy friend date in Manchester
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
Easy office salad inspiration: healthy, tasty, colourful and NOT BORING
There are currently two major schools of thought in the salad camp. The first is the traditional, but does it really fill you up/ isn’t it really boring. The second is a newer faction. These people have transcended the humble leaves and carrot on a plate and evolved it into salad jars with layering, Buddha bowls with lineated quadrants, and name checking shit you’ve never even heard of. The salad has been gentrified. Continue reading “Easy office salad inspiration: healthy, tasty, colourful and NOT BORING”
Adventures in Snowdonia
Last month we spent a long weekend in a yurt in Snowdonia for some much needed relaxation. Continue reading “Adventures in Snowdonia”
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.