Vegan Review: Chai by Mira

It occurs to me now that all of the places we visited this trip were featured in the book Vegan London but most of that was an accident. This one was on purpose though: the picture was so gorgeous that we had to pop in.

If you go off the exceptionally busy Carnaby Street into the exceptionally busy Kingly Court then go up to the second floor and pop in to Triyoga you can find peace even on a Saturday afternoon at Chai by Mira. There’s a small menu of sweet and savoury snacks alongside hot drinks with a focus on bright and healthy dishes. Kate healthily drank a cacao and avocado smoothie. It tasted like milkshake so she was super happy.

I broke the habit of a lifetime and ordered a tea with milk in it (choices of oat and coconut, I went oat). I thought I’d better order one of the chais and went for the rosy chai. It was warming, calming and delicious.

I also had a little bit of avo toast to snack on. It had tahini, tamarind and tasty seeds on top. I was a little sceptical of the tahini but it worked really well. And honestly anything with tamarind on is absolutely perfect.

Chai by Mira is wonderful. It’s a great place to pop into if you need a break or if you need a light bite and a hot drink. My one regret? They sell chai mix and a cookbook by owner Mira Manek. Why didn’t I buy them? What was I thinking?

Vegan Review: Purezza (Brighton and London)

When we decided to head to Brighton we asked our friends for recommendations for a place that didn’t just serve ice cream. She told us to head to Purezza and we ended up doing that twice because they also have a Camden branch and we needed more pizza.

In Brighton Kate ordered herself the Couch Potato without the aubergine. It had the stunning smoked mozzarella, shaved seitan, and smooth, creamy garlicky mayo. Thumbs up from us.

I went for the cheese steak calzone with more of that amazing seitan, onion chutney and mozzarella. It also had red and orange peppers when I think it would have been a little better with green. Still I loved it.

We rolled up to the Camden branch the next evening. Dark by the time we got there but thankfully with one table left for us. It was busy. We had to wait a little while for the food. We ordered a cheese board to start. I was expecting a couple of different textures but it was more like the same cheese with four different flavours. One was super garlicky and Kate gobbled it down, another full of chilli and that was my favourite. But I don’t think we’d order this one again.

For the main course Kate had the margarita. We were disappointed with the margarita (I say we because I have never refused a bite of anything): the tomato sauce was a little too sweet. And she regretted not paying extra for the smoked cheese.

Speaking of extra stuff I ordered the green supreme with extra salami on top. I wish I’d asked for the salami instead of the sausage crumbles. I found the sausage crumbles to taste a bit too much like stuffing. I enjoyed the greens and the smoked mozzarella so much. The chillies a little less. They broke my tolerance.

We enjoyed both our visits to Purezza and I’d recommend both, but Brighton was the better one for us. Though it could just be because it was less busy. Whichever one you visit though I recommend the smoked mozzarella. That stuff is amazing.

Vegan Restaurant Review: Farmacy (London)

Farmacy has restaurants in London and New York but we don’t go to New York all that often (ever) so we went to the Notting Hill branch. It’s as fancy as its postcode with a very well designed interior. It’s the typical exposed wood, metal and cunningly placed plants, but perfectly done. The menu too is fairly typical but less well executed.

We split the Mac and Cheese (£11) for the starter. It’s got truffled cheese in it so I took the first bite just to check that Kate would like it. “It’s aggressively truffley” I said. And honestly that the only opinion either of us had about it. All you taste is that truffle. No cheese, none of the sage in the breadcrumbs, nothing but truffle. We ate about at third each. It was just too much.

For her main Kate ordered the Garden Green Pesto (£12) which comes on spelt pasta with almond ricotta on top. I was expecting the freshest, most basil-filled pesto. It basically tasted like a jar pesto. Far too ordinary for the price tag. When you stir the ricotta in it gets lovely and rich but it’s just a dollop on the top and not exactly easy to stir into spaghetti in a graceful manner at the table.

I had the Pad Thai (£14.50) which was was helped texturally by the large serving of peanuts, but tasted overwhelming of citrus.

And so we went on to dessert. Kate ordered the Sticky Toffee Pudding (£9) which she reported as having a very dry sponge, without much of a toffee taste.

I had the sundae (£11) which came with seasonal fruits. Like raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. The taste was good but the ice cream was mostly melted and it was more like eating whipped cream.

Was there anything I did like? Well the drinks were brilliant. I had a great herbal tea and we had a couple of good juices. And honestly I wouldn’t have even minded the food. It wasn’t that bad, just a little simple. Our bill came to £77 and I was thinking: okay, it is Notting Hill, I loved the drinks, the food was okay and the service was amazing. Fantastic host and server. Can’t fault them. So £77 was fine. Then, of course, the service charge is added on. And £86.50 is just too much.

Reveiw: An Opinionated Guide to Vegan London

We go to London a couple of times a year and we’ve never been short of places to eat when we get there. I’ve been know to make detailed maps showing the best routes between eateries, shops and our other appointments. And by ‘known too’ I mean each time, even if our visit is four hours long. Point is that I’ve never felt the need for a guide book before. But two things sold this book to me, sight unseen: the first is its title and the second is the author. It’s written by Sara Kiyo Popowa who wrote the brilliant Bento Power.

I was really excited when it came. Hoxton Mini Press wrapped it in the cutest paper and sent a little thank you card for ordering them straight from them. I recommend it. It’s a stunning little book filled with 53 restaurant recommendations, each one with at least one stunning photo. It’s almost pornographic.

As for the recommendations: well, I’m looking forward to trying a bunch of them on our upcoming trip. Some of them I’ve had on my radar for a while – I’m still bitter that La Fauxmagerie opened two days after our last visit – and some completely new to me. I couldn’t resist a little sneaky visit to one place though. I had an hour and a half’s wait between two trains coming back from Paris and I took the opportunity to jump on the underground and pick up some Crosstown Doughnuts.

I recommend both the doughnuts and the book. You can order Vegan London directly from Hoxton Mini Press.

Review: Wagamama

We’ve talked before about how we never get to try exciting new offerings from chains, so when we needed somewhere to eat on our last night in London I demanded we go get the vegatsu from Wagamama.

I’m going to say this up front: the atmosphere was awful. It was Friday night in a busy location and the music was loud and the wall to wall people were louder. But it’s pretty much what you expect in a busy location at a busy time.

The food was amazing though. The vegatsu is a vegan take on katsu curry. There is a large slab of katsu seitan served with white rice and coated in a delicious curry sauce. It’s so, so good. The seitan is crazy good! It’s meaty, genuinely meaty, with a great taste and texture. And then they put breadcrumbs on it. Then curry. It’s delicious.

I really want to get another one, but I might not go on a Friday night. That many people in one place scare me.

Review: HealthyWealthy (London)

The story of how we decided to go to HealthyWealthy is… not interesting. We were shopping across the road (at the fabulous Third Estate) and saw the word vegan on the window so we went in.

The food options are great. You pick your size of thali and then the friendly staff walk you through the choices. I went medium and Kate opted for a small. We loved everything! The chickpea curry I had was great, the french bean curry was a highlight. Kate found the soy chunk curry a little hot but the dhal was perfect.

As well at the thalis they also have a selection of fried foods, Indian sweets and vegan ice cream. We had a couple of scoops to go. A rosewater and a pistachio. These should come with a health warning because they are massively overwhelmingly sweet. If you’re used to the sweetness of traditional Indian sweets that’s what we’re talking about. The flavours are great though. Small portions is the key.

We recommend HealthyWealthy for a low cost, high quality meal. My advice would be to go all out on the curries and have small portions of the sweets.

Reveiw: Zizzi

By the time I’d rejoined Kate in London it was late so we threw ourselves on the mercy of a chain pizza place near our hotel. We went to try the vegan options of Zizzi.

Zizzi use mozzarisella which is totally my favourite vegan pizza cheese. One of the specials was a pizza combining four of their flavours: original, smoked, blue, and cheddar. It was great and you probably think that’s useless information considering it was a special but not so. Now you know to go out and try the all the flavours on pizza. Especially the blue. I’ve tried it before and it doesn’t really work as an eating cheese but I didn’t think to cook with it. Melted it’s amazing.

Kate ordered pizza that contained actual vegetables. She had the vegan zucca with roasted butternut squash and spinach. This is on the regular menu so you’ll be happy to know that it’s a good pizza too.

For desert we ordered the vegan cheesecake. It was on the winter special menu but it’s back on the menu for spring. I hope it stays forever. It’s delicious. The server raved about it when they brought it to the table, a huge recommendation for a vegan dessert in a non-vegan restaurant.

We were expecting a decent meal and the pizzas were good, solid pizzas. The cheese cake though? Amazing.