Saturday, November 28, 2009

Vegan Routes, London

UPDATE: This vegan bus is no longer in operation in this spot in London. And I don't know if it has moved to a new location.

This big red double-decker bus parked within a stones throw from Picadilly Circus had only been open for a few days when we were attracted by the big sign that read, "Vegan Routes." We had seen the bus before it opened a few weeks earlier, and I wondered if it was an actual transit bus that took people to only vegan restaurants. But Deanna had read about it, and knew it was going to be a vegan restaurant.

We went up to see what they had to offer. It was morning for us, and we were on our way to Whole Foods to get ourselves a smoothie, so we were not looking for a full meal. But we did want to try this place out, so we got the broccoli-potato soup.
And on top of that the guy working there thought I was Joaquin Phoenix...

We went upstairs and took a seat. The soup was piping hot, and my tongue was burnt for the rest of the day. From our seat you get a nice view of the sex shops across the street, and had it been later, you can surely dine on some nice vegan food while being entertained by human behavior in relation to these shops.

The soup was not as fancy as we like. A tad on the "hippie-soup" side of things. And we couldn't really sense the potato in it, you would think it would make it thicker and creamier. But it was good for sure, and a fun place to visit. And we need to go back and try the regular food. Great location, I hope these guys stay here for a long time and don't want to drive to another part of town.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Avalon, Gent, Belgium


Avalon Restaurant. This place is crazy good, and I mean that the dish I got there rivals Millennium in SF, Madeline's Bistro in LA, etc. Not in a fancy expensive pretentious way, but in a "oh my god, this food is so good" way. We came here twice, and so loved our meals that we ordered the exact same thing the second day.

Here is the dish I had, the "Tempeh Reuben"

I will be showing 3 angles of it...

It was literally one of the best dishes I have ever had. Hands down.
Frickin' Quarry Girl should fly to Gent just to taste this thing. I have to say when it arrived at the table I was a bit freaked out because I was expecting a typical Reuben sandwich. But I dug into it and the freshness of the sauerkraut, the lightly toasted and perfectly prepared bread, the immaculate tempeh, and the "Russian dressing" all in combination was an explosion of taste, and 4 days later and I am still gushing about it.

The vegetables and salad the were served with the Reuben were also prepared from fresh local ingredients and changed daily. Seriously, the best Rueben I have ever had.

Deanna says, "Being vegan it's not that often that I come across a vegan quiche. The only ones I can remember were in Canada at Le Commensal, or in Paris at Grand Appetite. Funny thing is I don't ever remember eating a real quiche before I was vegan! But for some reason whenever there is a vegan quiche on the menu, I have to try it. This one was wonderful! The filling was made up of tofu and broccoli with a drizzle of pesto on top. It was basically the perfect meal for a cold wintry day. The veggies on the side were incredible. Potatoes au gratin the first day, and I don't even know what vegetable that was the second day, but the whole meal felt complete and really flavorful!"

Even though we forgot to shoot it, we had amazing soup and sweet chai tea here too! looking forward to going back in March when I will be setting up my exhibition at the S.M.A.K. Museum.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Eat and Two Veg, London

UPDATE! This place has since closed, and is no longer there.
We went for breakfast one morning to Eat and Two Veg on 50 Marylebone High Street, London.

Basically Deanna and I both got their vegan English Breakfast. Deanna's had some spinach too.

Beans on Toast, Tomatoes, Mushrooms, and some tofu. Simple and delicious.

And a smoothie too!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Manna, London

(See our 2011 post about Manna here.)
We loved this place! Cute area (near the Museum of Everything) and the place was elegant yet "homey" (read not pretentious.)

We started with the "Manna Mezze" where you select three of their starters or salads.
We chose the 'quinoa & millet croquette'
(a pressed cake of these ancient seasoned grains, served with our beetroot hummus and a salad of rocket and cumin roasted carrot & hazelnut)
the 'mushroom tempura'
(juicy seasonal mushrooms tossed in tamari, cooked in a light gluten-free sesame seed batter with a Japanese pickle accompaniment)
and the 'soup of the day'
(Cauliflower, carrot, and parsnip? with homemade foccacia bread.)
It was incredible! The tempura was amazing, the soup fresh and hot and was best with a dunk of the homemade bread. The croquette was pretty good but our least favorite I suppose. There was a beetroot hummus that was excellent too.

Deanna got the "Sonora Fajita"
(a southwestern delight, tortilla filled with sweet potato & black beans, served with a rich chipotle sauce, Spanish rice, guacamole and mango salsa)
We thought it was more like a chimichanga with the crispy tortilla. Deanna enjoyed very much, the sauce was a tad spicy but she liked it. And they actually had proper guacamole, a rarity outside of California.
On a 1 to 10 scale she gives it an 8.

I (Ed) got the "chef salad"
(a changing seasonal delight, now featuring Jerusalem artichoke, roasted candy beetroot, basil potatoes, raw carrot, avocado, balsamic roasted onions, sun blushed tomatoes, green beans, caper berries, alfalfa sprouts, toasted seeds, mixed leaf salad, served with crispy marinated tofu)
100% awesome. I wanted to eat some greens a have a healthier dinner so I got this. Very good, fresh, and with all sorts of different flavors and textures.
I would give it an 8 too. Respectable.

Deanna liked this so much she made me shoot it twice.

For Dessert we went a bit crazy (as we are prone to do from time to time when there are too many choices) and got 3!
Deanna chose the "chivu's timbale"
(a long time favourite daily special, a chocolate sponge and cheesecake layered combination)
It sounded better on the menu than it was. They don't even mention that the main flavor and taste is blueberry, a point that the menu should for sure explain but fails to. It was perfectly fine until she got a taste of mine, then in comparison hers lost it's lustre. I got the "Chocolate Pots de Creme"
(a decadent rich chocolate custard delight)
Understatement!!!!!!!!! I had to share it with Deanna because she couldn't believe how good it was. It was our best dessert in Europe! A major statement since we try a lot of desserts. Deanna gives it a '10' (the "pudding" from Saf gets a 9)
We also got the "petits fours"
(a plate of truffles, chocolates & small biscuits)
But only tried the lemon cookie, and took the rest home to snack on later.
Overall, we can't wait to go back here. It will no doubt become our jam in London. Reservations recommended, the place was going off.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Saf, London [Updated!]

[UPDATED Jan. 2013] Saf has moved to a new location in London!
(and the menu has changed slightly) 

They can now be found in The Barkers Building, Whole Foods Market 1st Floor.
Saf is an all vegan and mostly raw restaurant on the fancy side of things (read expensive) in Kensington. (Closest Tube station, High St. Kensington.) I listened to the older couple next to us discuss a certain margarita drink in full detail for over 3 minutes, he ended up getting the one from the menu but asked to make it less sweet and to "snap it up" with some lime. Anyway, Deanna and I, since we don't drink, got the lavender and ginger lemonade.

For starters we got the "Tasting Plate" (Which is a sampler plate of all of their raw starters) It consists of Beetroot ravioli, (Cashew herb ricotta between two thinly sliced beets, celeraic cole slaw salad, balsamic figs, and herb dressing.) Vegetable Maki, (Parsnip rice, organic Umi plum pickle, cucumber, and orange ponzu soy.) Olives and Nuts selection, Cashew Cheese, (One made with sundried tomatoes, chives, tarragon, balsamic virgin olive oil, and rock salt, the other with olives) Raw flax seed crackers, and dolmas, (cured Turkish vine leaves, Cauliflour rice, sultanas, Middle-eastern herbs and raw Tzatziki.)
Deanna usually hates dolmas, but liked these a lot.
The verdict: It was incredible! So many tastes and textures! It was the highlight of the whole meal actually. It makes us wish we had chosen one of the raw food entrees. Spreading the cashew cheese on the flax cracker was amazing, and Saf's signature dish the Beetroot Ravioli was for sure a new and delightful flavor for us.

Deanna chose the "Saf Bowl"
Teriyaki glazed tofu, seasoned crispy kale, wok stirred organic brown rice, and kimchee, tsukemono vegatables (pickled in-house)
Her verdict: It was pretty tasty, the tofu was some of the best we ever had, the rice and the pickled veggies were very enjoyable, but the Kimchee was too spicy for Deanna.

I got "Black truffle risotto"
Organic brown rice, wild mushrooms, cashew cream.
The verdict: I loved it, but wasn't floored by it. It was very good and creamy, no complaints at all.

For dessert I got the "Chocolate ganache torte"
Chocolate ganache torte with pecan crust and rum and date sauce. (and a shard of chocolate stabbed into it with dramatic effect...)
This ruled! Hint of cinnamon and rich chocolatey goodness.

Deanna got the "Warm sticky toffee pudding"
Medjool dates, golden raisin, creamy coconut, and orange frosting.
"Pudding" is not really the right word, or rather not the right word for Americans. When we think pudding we think of a creamy sweet thick sauce type thing that you eat with a spoon. But this pudding was bread. A very pleasant surprise! Sooooo Good! It was a warm dense bread covered in sweet cream and surrounded by thick gooey toffee sauce. The waiters were super nice, and the place was packed with people enjoying themselves in an elegant way. Our meal was about 72 Pounds. We would for sure come back here, and recommend it to friends.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mildred's, London

Just a couple of blocks away from the "Times Square" of London, Picadilly Circus, is Mildred's restaurant. It is hip and always busy. The wait-people are usually hectically multi-tasking but pleasant. The tone is loud with both music and conversation over said music, and crowded with people standing around hiding from the rain and waiting for a table. We ran into two friends from back home, Melissa and Ted and went to sample the vegan parts of the menu.
We went on a Thursday night at 7pm, and it was crazy packed. We had to wait 5 minutes, but just after we got a table, I hear them telling people 45 minute waits! The waiter also said to us, "Watch your bags, we've had some snatches lately."

I got Mushroom Porcini, with mashed peas, and chips (aka french fries.) My verdict: I liked it very much. In the photo you see here the food had been mauled by my fork and knife before I realized I should take a photo. I found the peas good mixed with other bites, and the more saucy bits of the phyllo dough with the mushrooms were the best. With some ketchup, the fries were what you would expect.

Sweet Melissa got this dish (we forgot to write the name down) because it had star anise in it. She said she really enjoyed it. The photo looks really tasty.

Ted got this. Again I have no idea what it was called. It had beets, and large cous cous. I think part of it was not vegan. He cleaned his plate, so he either liked it or was really hungry.

Deanna got the Butternut Squash, Butterbean, tomato, and cinnamon stew with polenta sticks. Her verdict: "It was GOOD! It was an interesting combination of flavors with the cinnamon in there. I really liked the appetizer you forgot to shoot, the grilled artichoke with a crostini and a lemon vegan dipping sauce."

Overall, Mildred's is the place to be, and has very centrally located high-end vegan food. Our meal, with 4 mains, 2 starters, and 3 drinks, no desserts was about 62 pounds.