Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!
As a lover of London, I was excited to go back after two years away. I am lucky to have a close friend who lives there, so a place to stay as well as access to a kitchen was all sorted. When deciding on my dining, I made a point to sample both the local veg options in restaurants & cafes, as well as supermarket & health food store fare. It was quite a food adventure with lots of overeating, but many delicious dishes.
Something I noticed when perusing menus of vegan & vegetarian restaurants, was they were a bit uninspiring; salads, a veggie burger, & some sort of curry seemed to be standards. With the current state of the US dollar, I was not about to spend a ton on things I can easily make at home, so I set out to find exciting or interesting places to report on & only the best of the bunch is what you'll see here.
One of those places was Bonnington Café, a co-operatively run vegetarian & vegan restaurant in South London. This small café in a community centre tucked down a side street amidst community gardens, started in the 80's as squat, providing affordable meals to the community. It boasts a different chef & menu every night, plus always has a three course meal for £10 or the items can be ordered ala carte. Another unique feature is reservations are required via phone or email directly with each night's chef, so diners must plan ahead. We went on a Thursday night, as it's a vegan night, & instantly fell in love with the ambiance. Mismatched tables & chairs were scattered between two candlelit rooms with happy patrons laughing & browsing the night's menu written on the large hanging chalkboard. By the time we had arrived, one of the two entrees was out, but many options were still available. Some of us opted for the 3 course menu while others went ala carte, but we all enjoyed lentil soup & a delicious mix of Moroccan spiced vegetables & mung beans over wild rice. Of course, I had to have a dessert to review with my dessert rating system & I opted for the Spicy Cheesecake.
Spicy Cheesecake- a chocolate cheesecake with a biscuit crust & milk poured on top. I found it to be a bit bland, most likely due to the tofu cheesecake portion. The chocolate flavor was mild, with a spicy kick that was a bit too much for me. Overall, it was decent, but not amazing. 2 ½ stars.
Bonnington Café is located at 11 Vauxhall Grove SW8 1TD in South London.
It seems I enjoy a good co-operatively run space, as another place I enjoyed was Pogo Café, an all vegan, mainly organic café & art space in East London. A bit off the beaten path, but well worth the trek, the café has a menu of standard snacks & starters, burgers, daily main course specials, plus many dessert options & even food items for sale, such as Cheezly, soya drinks, & more. It's a cute little space with rotating art on the walls & free wi-fi where veg activists & local families come together.
Ryan had the Punk Burger, which was served with Cheezly, mayo, rashers (aka veg bacon), tomato & lettuce on a bun with a side of potato wedges & salad. I had one of the daily specials which was an Eggplant, Tomato, & Potato moussaka with veg meat crumbles & a creamy, delicious baked "cheesy" topping, plus two refreshing salads. While the food was lovely, I was anticipating dessert & found it quite hard to decide what to get. I opted to take a slice of Mango Cake home & have a "Knickerbocker Glory" on site, at the suggestion of the friendly staff.
Knickerbocker Glory- Let me start by saying WOW, I had never heard of a Knickerbocker Glory, but feel I am better off knowing of them now! This sundae had a blueberry jam base under three types of Swedish Glace ice cream, with dollops of custard topped with crumbled biscuits, date syrup, whipped cream, & nuts! YES, you read that right. This sundae set me on a wild goose chase for date syrup, as it was like gooey caramel! I also came home with vegan custard, so I can make my own version of this amazing sundae at home! 4 ½ stars
Triple Mango Cake- I had such high hopes for this mango flavored cake filled with mango mousse filling & topped mango glaze frosting. Sadly, the cake was a dense, bland mess with a flavorless mousse filling, but an amazingly tasty mango glaze on top. 1½ stars
Pogo Café is located at 76 Clarence Road E5 8HB in East London.
My trip to Pogo also yielded some Cheezly, a vegan cheese substitute that has created much buzz due to it's tangy taste & melting capabilities. Sadly, it's not available in the US, unless mail ordered & even then it's over twice the price you'd pay in the UK. With all the hype, I had to try it for myself & opted for the Mature Cheddar slices to utilize in a grilled Cheezly sandwich. Between two pieces of freshly baked bread from Marks & Spencer coated with Pure soya margarine & pressed into a sandwich maker, the Cheezly had no problem melting in to a perfectly gooey & delicious treat! The flavor was nice & reminded myself & Ryan of Mac & Cheese, that's right, the "mac" as well! While I'm not much of a cheese substitute person normally, I would be more than happy to have Cheezly around the States for a nice melty sandwich from time to time.
There were many other delicious products I tried; Alpro or Provamel caramel dessert puddings are a tasty treat, Swedish Glace soft caramel ice cream is what dreams are made of & I'm always down for Heinz beans on toast, especially when there's variants like Curry with mango chutney & sultanas to be had! Ultimately, the one item I fell in love with & can't stop talking about is Alpro soya Smooth peach & pear yogurt! Creamy, smooth, & sweet with peach & pear pieces throughout, it's everything you want in a soy yogurt! I ate the little cups of joy as often as possible & marveled at how they were so much better than anything in the States AND have half the calories. I wish they could be shipped, as I'd love to start every morning with one; I suppose I have yet another reason to go back!
London is a lovely veg friendly city & although it's expensive, I'd recommend a trip there to anyone who has the means to do so. Next up, Rebecca the Vegan Cake Girl's sweet treats will be reviewed, plus she'll share her recipe for Jaffa Orange Drizzle Cake!