Review: Temple Of Seitan (London)

How long have I been wanting to go to Temple of Seitan? It’s been a while I have to admit. Childhood memories of KFC and Allen’s Fried Chicken made the prospects of a vegan chicken shop sound really good. Kate, however, was not convinced. She kept asking me when Chicken shops became a thing and anyway she was more of a McNuggets girl. So it’s taken a fair bit of persuading to get her there. We went to check out the Camden location.

I went for two piece, hot, and a snack box (half popcorn, half fries) and I had mixed feeling. I didn’t enjoy the hot chicken. The hot coating wasn’t incorporated into the batter so the mouth feel was a little dusty. I also wasn’t that keen on the seitan itself. I liked it in the popcorn but I didn’t enjoy it in the larger pieces. It just wasn’t very chicken-like. It had that slight spongy bounce that seitan can have. Honestly I prefer the fried chicken I’ve had at Samphire, in Plymouth, or V-Rev, in Manchester, for texture.

That being said the popcorn chicken is amazing. And the fries are pretty good too. I loved the popcorn chicken. The coating was amazing. Really crispy. It almost… pops. Kate, who only ordered the popcorn chicken, thought the colour and texture of the seitan was off-putting but loved the coating.

Temple of Seitan hasn’t quite made it to my must-eat list but I’d still be happy to go back. The trick, I think, is to order the popcorn chicken.

Review: Café Forty One (London)

Way back the week before last we went up to London for a one day trip and ended up staying three more days. It’s a long story but when we thought we were only staying one day we decided to treat ourselves to a trip to Café Forty One, a vegan pâtisserie.

After a brief debate about the merits of tarts we decided to splash out on the Valentine Afternoon Tea (available until the 28th). We were advised to start with the still warm scones. They were served with a berry compote that was wonderfully fruity and perfectly straddled the line between too tart and too sweet, a yummy clotted cream and a vegan honey substitute. As we’d just come from Devon the addition of honey was puzzling to us. Not that it was bad but… honey… on a scone?

Going down to the patisserie layer we had plenty of perfectly crafted treats. Our favourite was the Pistachio and Milk Chocolate Brioche. The pistachio creme was heavenly: light, soft and sublime. Kate also enjoyed the shortbread with chocolate cube and caramel creme pâtisserie although she was a little dubious about the gold leaf. I really liked the Black Forest entrements, griotte, dark chocolate and vanilla chantilly. The pecan and almond cookie was nice but not quite as show stopping and neither of us were keen on the redcurrant macaron. We didn’t think the redcurrants really worked.

On the bottom layer we get to the fancy sandwiches which was my personal favourite. Kate claimed the brioche roll with dill cream cheese and smoked carrot ‘salmon’. She was impressed with the realism of the carrot salmon. I enjoyed the BLT with aubergine ‘bacon’ which was also unexpectedly realistic with that wonderful hit of sweet, salty, smokey. The chipotle cheese with caramelised onion chutney and rocket on rye was amazing. The best vegan cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a few. The hummus and cucumber was a little disappointing but I suppose every tea has to come with some form of cucumber sandwich and every vegan tea has to come with a hummus sandwich so you might as well combine them and get the boring stuff out of the way.

It would be wrong to finish up without mentioning the price which is a nice, steep £35 per person (not including the service charge) but there are a couple of things that mean I don’t regret paying that. First of all the food is really well done; you can see the craftsmanship. Second, you do get a a good amount of food. We left absolutely stuffed. We give this place two thumbs up. If you have a special occasion coming up Café Forty One is absolutely perfect.

Reveiw: Soul Cafe (Torquay)

Before we get into the review I should give a little background to Soul Cafe. The location was home to Pea Green Kitchen a couple of years ago. It was known for its delicious vegan options but shuttered just before we started the blog. It was bought and completely changed inside and out to became the Soul Cafe. There was no vegan food. It didn’t last long. Now the people behind Awesome Brownies (who sell Brownies at local markets) have taken over and vegan food is back on the menu. Phew. Backstory over.

The staff are really welcoming of vegans and will happily explain what you can have. We started with drinks. Two hot chocolates. It’s basically chocolate in a glass. It’s silky, rich and thick. It’s just the right side of solid. Food wise I went for a burrito. It has vegan chilli, rice and more beans. To be honest I would have liked something crunchy in there or something creamy like avocado and cheese. It was nice though. Solid lunch option.

Obviously we had to order a brownie then. As they specialise in brownies they have a few options, even better at least three of those options were vegan. We went for the nutty one. It’s huge. Giant. It’s dense in the middle, a little dry around the outside and it is pretty awesome.

If you are in the area for lunch I recommend popping in, or going to one of their stalls in Totnes or Newton Abbot.

Review: Bombay Express, Reloaded (Torquay)

We have written before about our love for Bombay Express but recently they’ve had a change of menu. This week we were invited to come and try the new menu, on the house, in exchange for a review. As I’ve never passed up a chance to give my opinion, or eat Indian food, we sat down with a basket of poppadoms and the new menu to check out what vegan treats we could stuff our face with.

P1070932.JPG

The menu has had a complete overhaul turning Bombay Express from classic curry house to what they call ‘regional elevated cuisine.’ Previously Bombay Express had become known for its awesome vegan options and thankfully there is still plenty to eat on the new menu. It’s just a little more fancy.

pb.jpg

To start with we ordered the Pav Bharjia. In its traditional form it’s one of my favourite dishes and the Bombay Express version did not disappoint. The vegetable curry has a wonderful depth of flavour. I could have probably done with twice as much bread to scoop it up with though.

P1070933.JPG

Our other starter was another street food inspired treat; gol guppa. This was the highlight of what ended up being a really good meal. It’s a brilliant mix of tastes and textures and it’s so much fun to eat. We loved it so much we urged the table next to us to order it too. If you ever end up at Bombay Express you have to order it too.

P1070936.JPG

For the main I ordered Dal Makhan.  It’s choc-full of lentils and vegetables with a lovely smokiness. In there is aubergine, sweet potatoes, peppers and probably some things I didn’t identify.

P1070937.JPG

Kate went for the South Indian Vegetable Curry because she’s obsessed with coconut milk. Although she was a fan of the sauce she did question the choice of vegetables. She said that rather than having peppers she would have enjoyed more potatoes. And that come to think of it, rather have potatoes than the cauliflower. I said she was coming across like someone obsessed with potatoes.

n.jpg

The curries were delicious but compared to the rest of the meal they weren’t quite as show-stopping. But we can’t talk about the mains without mentioning the naan bread. Yes, it’s vegan! We went for the garlic naan this time and it’s just gorgeous. I could happily eat basket upon basket of it should it be socially acceptable to eat nothing but naan bread.

sam.jpg

Here we are, the end of the meal and what did we get? Chocolate samosas! Probably not one to eat on a first date, these tiny triangles of awesome are filled with delicious, delicious chocolate. You’ll probably end up licking your fingers with these, maybe even moaning, They’re incredible.

We really enjoyed trying the new menu. The food was creative, delicious and absolutely stunning. The gol guppa and chocolate samosas were particular highlights but the worst thing we could think to say about anything was ‘not as special but still great.’ We’ll be going back and we’ll continue to recommend Bombay Express as one of the vegan highlights in Torquay.

Once again, we were given a free meal in exchange for this review, but of course these are our honest opinions. You can find the Bombay Express menu here.

Review: Li’l Mama’s Vegan Kitchen (Paignton)

When Paignton-based Li’l Mama’s Vegan Kitchen became available through Just Eat last October, many reviewers complained of long delivery times. Attributing this to the initial stampede that greets every vegan launch, we decided to wait a few months.

We placed our order at 5:20pm on Wednesday evening, and were given an estimated delivery time of 6:20pm. With no sign of our order by 7:00pm, we called and were told the delivery driver was outside but couldn’t find our flat, so Clare went out to find him.

When we unpacked our order we found the vegan mac and cheese was missing. Fifteen minutes later they realised their mistake, and called to offer us a refund on that item.

So what about the food we did receive?

kate

I had the Vegan Mince Lasagne (£12), which was a big contrast to the Plant Kitchen lasagne from earlier this month. The cashew cheese and marinara sauce was thick and creamy, and the pasta and mince were dense and chewy. It was easily the best lasagne I’ve ever had. It came with a side of herb-roasted baby potatoes, which were cooked until just tender, although a little bit salty for my taste.

clare

Clare had the Fully Loaded Vegan Kebab (£8). She thought the seitan was perfectly spiced, tasting just like the real thing, the coleslaw and salad worked well, and the flatbread was fluffy and soft.

Our experience ordering from Li’l Mama’s Vegan Kitchen epitomises the phrase ‘good things come to those who wait’: amazing food, but not a good choice if you’re hungry and used to takeaways arriving in under an hour.

Update (7th March 2019): This evening we gave Li’l Mama’s Vegan Kitchen another go. We placed our order at 5:30pm and were given an estimated delivery time of 7:05pm. The food finally arrived at 7:55pm.

The lasagne and kebab were as good as before, but the herb-roasted potatoes were lacking in herbs. This time the Mac & Cheese (£3) wasn’t forgotten, but in contrast to the lasagne it was very bland, with an almost flavourless sauce.

pasta

Two and a half hours is too long to wait for a takeaway. We won’t be ordering again.

Review: The Rum and Crab Shack (St Ives)

As a non-drinker who makes friends with crabs rather than eating them, The Rum and Crab Shack might seem like an odd choice. But it has a lot going for it. It’s up a flight of stairs so it’s fairly quiet, they let dogs hang out in the bar area and they have a selection of great vegan options.

I was tempted by the tofish and chips and then I was tempted by the crab cakes and then the jambalaya. Sometimes I get so used to only having one thing that I can eat that I’m paralysed by indecision. Eventually I settled on the Dirty Rice. I was kind of disappointed when I first saw it. It looks like a small portion, a tin of rice with the guac heaped on top. But then I started eating.

It had all of the flavour. Earthy, delicious and packed with unexpected texture. The pistachios were the perfect touch. And it turns out that that is a deceptively large amount of food. I was happy with my choice but I feel sad that we live so far from St Ives. There are still those other three vegan options…

Review: Plant Kitchen

Marks & Spencer have come up with a vegan range that they launched just in time for Veganuary. Shocking coincidence or marketing genius? We bought a tonne so we can’t really complain.

Yeah.

We’ll start with the things we don’t have pictures of. Kate tried the Cashew Mac. I wanted to but I can’t eat mushrooms when I’m stressed so I left it to her. Apparently the mushrooms overwhelmed the dish. Disappointing when you want to tuck into a nice cheesy sauce. Kate also had dibs on the Lasagna which was basically just a lasagna although she admits her ambivalence may have something to do with never having had a lasagna with mince in before she went vegan. We tend to make a plain tomato lasagna at home.

The No Turkey Feast appeared before Christmas but now it’s been joined by some other cool on-the-go options. They were all sold out of all the other new bits though. The sandwich is a ready-made sandwich so obviously not the best thing I’ve ever had but the turkey was delicious, the mayo smooth and creamy and the cranberry really brightened things up.

Two-for-one here. We have the No Chic’n Nuggets and the Dirty Fries. According to Kate, an expert in these matters, they taste exactly like the real thing. The dirty fries are covered in tomato sauce and béchamel and cheese. So, so satisfying.

I had the BBQ Pulled Jackfruit pizza one evening before rushing off to a meeting. I liked this one but it was a little too sweet and not terribly filling. Nice but not nice enough for the price.

We grabbed a pack of the No Pork Sausoyges to eat for breakfast. They have a skin on them which makes them really exciting from a texture perspective but they taste of pepper and not much else. Still I bet these would be great on a barbecue, with the skin allowed to crackle and char.

The final product we tried was the tikka masala. It’s basically your standard chicken tikka masala ready meal, only vegan. Like with the sandwich it’s exciting that we have vegan options but never going to be all that exciting. Still, it’s a Marks & Spencer ready meal so it’s still tasty but four minutes in the microwave is never going to result in something amazing.

That’s basically the idea though. It’s the standard foods you’d find in UK supermarkets, only made vegan. There is a block of tofu in the range and a sushi roll but mostly it’s BBQ pizza, ready meal pasta, and microwave curry. You could switch to these foods and not overly change your diet. For me the price is going to stop me buying from the range often but I could see us grabbing a couple of bits a month. And a sandwich, no doubt, when we’re stuck in a service station or train station somewhere.