Leon (Birmingham New Street and Strensham Services)

Because we live in Torquay it takes a while for us to try out chains. To give any city-dwelling readers an idea: we do have a Pizza Express but we don’t have a Nando’s. It’s basically the late 90’s. We have however managed to leave the bay recently and we’ve been enjoying visits to Leon.

For town-and-country mice like us, let me fill you in. Leon is a fast food place that serves a variety of good quick meals. And thankfully for us there is one in the train station at Birmingham New Street and one on Strensham Services, off the M4. This is what we’ve been eating on our Christmas journeys.

Christmas Eve Lunch

Kate choose a lentil masala served over brown rice. Even though she’s a bit of a lentil sceptic she really enjoyed it.

I fancied a bit of hummus so I went for the Lebanese Mezze. It was really good, especially with a portion of waffle fries to dip in the hummus.

Boxing Day Breakfast

Having breakfast in a service station isn’t massively festive but Kate loved this banana and cinnamon porridge which can be made, like all of the porridges, with cashew milk. I didn’t really go for something that healthy…

I got a doughnut! It’s chai-spiced in the middle and chocolate on top. Rather dense and cakey but still delicious.

So it looks like we’ve got a new favourite place to eat when we’re travelling. And least when we’re travelling to, and through, larger settlements than Torquay…

Review: Snacks and Counter Service in Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Walt Disney World)

Satu’li Canteen

Earth/Pandora fusion food is on offer at one of the most impressive counter service options in the world. I built my own bowl with a brown rice and black bean base, chilli tofu, and charred onion vinaigrette. It was amazing and very filling. The vinaigrette was just perfect. Didn’t taste much chilli on the tofu though. The rest of my family enjoyed eating here too, a genuine crowd-pleaser.

Mr Kamals

Between Africa and Asia is a great veggie food stand. Unfortunately it’s not a great vegan food stand. You have to ask for modifications. I like the seasoned fries without tatziki. But of course that means there is nothing to cool them down. Heat lovers only need apply.

Counter service at Animal Kingdom seems to be lagging behind the other parks but Satu’li Canteen beats almost any other quick service option.

Review: Snacks and Counter Service in Magic Kingdom (Walt Disney World)

Casey’s Corner

I went vegetarian over a decade ago and one of the things I’ve really missed since then is eating a hot dog on Main Street. I know that’s quite specific but it’s true. Casey’s Corner is now offering a plant-based dog with some sort of slaw. I’ve got to say I wasn’t a fan of the slaw. It was a little sweet for my taste. The hot dog however is phenomenal. In fact that’s what I did the second time round.

Aloha Isles

The dole whip, or ‘pineapple soft serve’ as it’s also sometimes called around the world, has achieved legendary status. But what is it? Who knows. It’s got the consistency of soft serve, it’s totally vegan, and it tastes like pineapple. I recommend the float.

Storybook Treats

Cousin to the dole whip float is the Peter Pan float from Storybook Treats. This one is lime flavoured and floats on sprite. It also comes with a chocolate feather so ask for it without. It’s really refreshing.

Special Mention: Mickey Pretzel

Mickey Pretzels are all over property. They are vegan and bready and covered in salt. Okay so it’s just a pretzel but it’s shaped like Mickey Mouse so… it’s more delicious.

Character Meal Reviews: Crystal Palace, Bon Voyage, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Garden Grill (Walt Disney World)

Character meals are 50% food and 50% feeling like the most special person in the world because a giant mouse is saying hello to you. Even as adults we enjoy them. So we booked four this trip including the famous Cinderella’s Royal Table, right there in the castle.

Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)

At Crystal Palace you meet Pooh and his mates. We went for breakfast which is billed as ‘American’. There are a couple of options on the buffet that are suitable for vegans. I got roast potatoes, mini bagels and some addictively delicious marinated tomatoes. I could have also had grits, porridge and toast. I was also given a plate of allergy-friendly Mickey waffles.

The food wasn’t bad, nothing exciting. The character interaction was great. I’m glad I did it once, so I could meet Pooh and friends, but I doubt I’ll be going back again.

Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast (Board Walk)

Okay so if you want both amazing food and character interaction Bon Voyage has it all. This was also the first place that offered me a vegan menu which is was less awkward than having to chat with a chef. I ordered the vegan breakfast calzone and it was beautiful. Stuffed full of veggies, beautifully fired and served with a lovely marinara sauce. Also Prince Eric complimented my dress.

Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)

Cinderella’s Royal Table is one of the most difficult to get reservations. It’s in the castle. It’s legendary. It costs a fortune. Though for us it was two dining credits.

You get three courses, rather than two. Of course as a vegan your starter is the salad without the cheese. It’s not bad but I’m glad I didn’t have to pay cash for it.

The main was great, and well presented. Roasted veggies, couscous, a portobello mushroom on top. In the couscous there was some tofu which didn’t really add much to the dish. But all in all it was delicious and really pretty.

Lemon sorbet with blueberries was my desert. I arranged it into a melting Olaf before I ate it.

Honestly both the food and the character interaction was a 3/5 which I just don’t think is good enough for the price. The location is hard to beat though. I’m okay with spending 2 credits but, like I said, I’m not sure it’s worth the cash.

Garden Grill (Epcot)

On our last visit my Dad developed a rubber neck every time we walked past Garden Grill. I’m sure he was just interested in the turning restaurant and not the characters. So this time I booked him his own character meal at Garden Grill.

Once again I got my own skillet of cool vegan food. Rice, fries, green beans and roasted veggies. There was also meatloaf! Being English I didn’t grow up with meatloaf and I’ve never had the meaty version so I had no idea what to expect. It was yummy.

The character interaction was brilliant too. Mickey Mouse launched himself across our table to have a video call with Kelsie’s nephew. It was adorable. Another win.

Buffet Reviews: Trails End and Boma (Walt Disney World)

Today we’re reviewing buffets. Big, brilliant buffets with all the food you care to eat. But as a vegan automatically your choices are going to be reduced, so is it worth it?

Trails End (Fort Wilderness)

We had a great experience last time we went to Trails End. Kelsie and my Dad insisted that we go back. I would have been happy if all I got out of this trip was a look around Fort Wilderness, two happy relatives, and a couple of allergy-friendly Mickey Waffles.

I was however completely spoiled. The buffet has a great variety of food but it’s mostly of the eggs, meat, and more meat variety. From the buffet I could have fruit, tots and porridge. But then the chef came out and offered me a tofu scramble and some Mickey Waffles. He packed the plate high and it was delicious. The scramble was really simple but because the veg were cooked down it was so flavourful with just a hint of pepper.

I can totally recommend eating here for vegans. It’s not just a place to go to keep your meat-eating family happy.

Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge)

At Boma I was also offered a plate of scrambled tofu and waffles. This scramble tofu however was full of spices. Almost the complete opposite of the Trails End scramble but just as delicious.

From the buffet there was a similar selection of tots, fresh fruit and veg. The grilled asparagus was especially good. You also get jungle juice to drink which is completely addictive. This is another really good choice for vegans.

I was worried that breakfast buffets would turn out the same for me, just a plate of Mickey waffles and some dry toast. But not only did I end up eating a good amount of food, it also matched the signature flavours of the restaurant, giving me something new each time. Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to do Disney buffets just because you can’t eat everything out there.

Table Service Review: Whispering Canyon Cafe, The Plaza, Yak and Yeti (Walt Disney World)

Whispering Canyon Cafe (Wilderness Lodge)

Whispering Canyon was a favourite on a previous trip. We really enjoyed the shenanigans but I heard that it had been toned down so I wasn’t that bothered about eating here again. That is until I saw the Vegan skillet.

You can get a plant based version of the all you care to eat skillet with corn, green beans, potato wedges, pulled jackfruit, chicken and sausage. And did I mention you can have as much as you want? It’s pretty filling on its own but that sausage was too good to resist a second portion. Even the chicken breast was seasoned and charred around the edges which doesn’t sound like a big deal but a lot of places buy mock meat and then don’t put any effort in. Here you can tell someone has though about it. And, I’m happy to report, there is still shenanigans.

The Plaza (Magic Kingdom)

I teased this one in my review of Beaches and Cream. The Plaza is a vastly underrated restaurant at the top of Main Street with a great turn-of-the-century vibe and a view of the castle. The menu is giant sandwich, burgers, shakes and ice cream. And it is done right.

I was told they can make the veggie burger vegan or do the fried green tomato vegan. I opted for the fried green tomato because it’s more unusual to find. I know other people have been given vegan mayo on theirs but mine came without and as such was a little dry. Which meant I resorted to squirting ketchup on. Which was odd.

For desert I asked if they could make me a vegan version of the banana split. They could. Oh my God it was amazing! Scoops of chocolate and vanilla wedges between a split banana with strawberry and pineapple, walnuts and glacé cherries.

Yak and Yeti (Animal Kingdom)

Yak and Yeti was a last minute reservation. It’s a restaurant that’s always tempted me with the theming but never the menu. Mostly because the prices for the veggie options seem really high. But I’m on the Dining Plan so it’s all the same really. They offered me a couple of options but I really fancy noodles. I ordered the lo mein, which I thought I ordered with tofu but I didn’t get any and it wasn’t on my receipt. By the time I’d got through enough of the dish to realise it want there I didn’t really want to make a fuss. It wasn’t good anyway.

I was told they’d make it without Oyster sauce but I assumed that meant they’d substitute something else. Not so much. It was just salty from the soy sauce. The noodles were over done for my liking and it was just underwhelming. It also seemed like a small portion, especially compared to the ribs and fries that Kelsie and my Dad filled up on. I will say that my mocktail and my sorbet were lovely so I would be willing to try again with a different main. The other options — miso glazed tofu or sweet and sour — sounded good but I really wanted noodles. Unfortunately sometimes we get what we want.

Table Service: Spice Road Table, Sanna, Beaches and Cream , California Grill (Walt Disney World)

We love table service! It lets us sit down. And you also get some pretty good food. We visited some old favourites and tried some new places.

Spice Road Table (Epcot)

There are so many cool snack and counter service options available in Epcot that I always find it hard to tie myself down to a table service but we managed to score a reservation around fireworks time at Spice Road Table.

So let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first: there were no fireworks. They were set back due to the rain so we missed them. But Spice Road Table is still a great place to eat. The dining room is gorgeous, the staff are great (even by Disney standards) and the food is delicious.

I opted for the vegetable platter, because that’s the vegan option. Anti-clockwise from the left (because why not) there are stuffed grape leaves, bread, hummus, and hummus fries. What are hummus fries? Well they’re deep fried hummus blocks. Isn’t that just a falafel? No it isn’t. I’m not sure how exactly these are made but they are amazing. Crisp on the outside, soft in the middle and with a surprising heat.

Sanna (Animal Kingdom Lodge)

Sanna was my choice for my 30th birthday last year and it was probably the best meal of our trip. Great food choices for everyone, savannah views and lovely cast members.

The highlight here is the bread service but all the naans have dairy. They will make you an allergy-friendly flat bread which is free from dairy and gluten. It’s okay, but a little disappointing when the rest of your table is tucking into a fluffy pile of flavoured breads. You can still dip it in all but one of the amazing dips so I’d still recommend bread service.

For mains I chose two dishes from the ‘harvest’ section of the menu. I went for aloo masala and chickpea wat. Both very lovely. The aloo masala was pleasantly hot. But pro tip: keep the dips on your table for the mains. Not that the mains need it but those dips are amazing.

Beaches and Cream (Board Walk)

Beaches and Cream is famous for its ice cream. Eating there as a vegetarian I also enjoyed the burger. Unfortunate as a vegan it’s pretty disappointing.

By all means go for some ice cream. They have soy, rice, or coconut based ice cream to choose from. But don’t go for something savoury. Apparently all the bread products in the place have dairy or egg so I was stuck wrapping my — admittedly delicious — burger patty in lettuce. The fries are from a shared fryer so if that bothers you then all you’re going to get is a dry burger wrapped in lettuce with fruit. Not worth it.

Like I said, if you’re just going for an indulgent vegan sundae it’s one of the nicest places to get one and it’s always fun to walk around the resort but… don’t waste your time with the burger.

If you do want a burger and ice cream combo I recommend the Plaza in the Magic Kingdom. One of my family’s all-time favourites and I’ll talk about it a bit more in the next review.

California Grill (Contemporary Resort)

Another reservation we made mostly for fireworks viewing. California Grill sits at the top of the Contemporary Resort. I was also excited about the California inspired menu, more so than the rest of my group who can’t be persuaded that sushi is edible.

As a vegan you get to choose four small plate options from a choice of five. In one way this means you get quite diverse options, in another… you didn’t. You get get the same veggies on each dish. I got the flatbread which was good, a little bit dry but I appreciate the fresh rocket on top. The fried rice was also a solid choice. The sushi was one of my favourites, especially with the application of a little wasabi. The Pho though was amazing. The rest of the dishes hit about 4/5 and the pho was a 5.

I also got a real desert at California Grill! A chocolate dome with some fresh fruit. It was delicious. We even got to see the fireworks this time.

The view from California Grill is amazing.

We viewed the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the observation deck and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in Disney. Last year we booked Ohana for the firework view and it just doesn’t compare. California Grill is wonderful.