Saturday, 25 October 2008

The Voluptuous Vegan Ventures Out…

Anybody who watched The Restaurant on BBC 2 on Wednesday night will be acutely aware how difficult dining out is for vegans and veggies as a whole. Getting a plate of cabbage really isn't good enough. This week our good living correspondent, The Voluptuous Vegan, ventured out in search of something scrummy to eat. Vegan food? In Belfast? That'll be a baked potato then......

the voluptuous vegan....
....seriously she has grapes for hair and peppers for eyes

"Since giving up 90% of the ‘Western diet’ in favour for a more ‘hippy’ culinary adventure, eating good and tasty food has been less of a problem or issue than I first envisaged. However, this has only been so for one reason; for three out of five days, I work from home. Therefore, I bake and cook a helluva lot (you’ll find out just how much next week!!). Yet there comes a time when a girl just gotta get out of the house and put her trust in the ‘experts’. Oh yes, this voluptuous vegan has been putting Northern Ireland’s finest to the test and duly presents to you, dear readers, ‘The Voluptuous Vegan’s (mini) Guide to Eating Out in Belfast’.

For starters, The Cloth Ear. I was pretty hopeful about the Cloth Ear after downloading their menu in advance. Numerous vegan friendly delights graced the pages, making my mouth water and my heart skip. However, dear friends, this was but a tease as it appears that the menu provided is just a guide. And a bad guide at that! Upon reaching the Cloth Ear and perusing the menu, none of the previous delights were to be found.

But the ‘fun’ didn’t stop there, oh no…

I was dining with three other lovely ladies, one of whom is vegetarian and also unfortunately a coeliac. Suddenly my restrictions seem immaterial, one bad choice on her part could lead to pain and all sorts of unpleasantness whilst I'd just be annoyed at getting it wrong! What followed made me realise just how much of a kick up the bum some Belfast restaurateurs need. After 3 - 4 trips back to the kitchen (the chef wouldn't come to her it seems, despite it being 6pm and the place practically empty) a compromise was reached: a bit of fish and some spuds.

Then it was my turn.

The waiter turned to take my order and I asked if the veggie pasta had any eggs or dairy in it. I could see her die a little inside as she turned back to the kitchen and face the chef again (I can only imagine what was going on behind those kitchen doors). It turns out I was a lot easier sorted: I could have the chips or I could have the salad. Lucky me! I had both as I was pretty hungry, and happily I didn't spy any of the (by now I’m guessing pretty huffy) chef's 'special sauce' on my plate. On a positive note, the chips were bloody gorgeous, mmmmm...

Moving on to the main course, and having had my 'vegan dining' cherry broken in such a dismal manner, my faith in restaurants was greatly restored by the Archana. I had forgotten how great this place is; not only do they have a vegetarian section, but within this are symbols denoting vegan friendly meals! Yes, I said it: VEGAN FRIENDLY MEALS!! And there were a couple dozen of them too! The food is great in there anyways, but that's just going the extra mile really, innit? I was out with the same cohort as the Cloth Ear experience and the vegetarian coeliac was more than catered for, with warnings given in advance of the pappadums and everything! A grand time was had by all and I can’t wait to get back there. Yum yum!

And for dessert, well, there aren’t many I can have so instead I’m covering some take-out options. I googled Subway and found out that if I'm out and about and stuck for grub I can grab a veggie delight on Italian White with one or two of the sauces. Or if I’m feeling a little flush, then maybe a Boojum. For anyone who's not had a Boojum yet, shame on you. Tex mex fast food, mmmmm.......

And that concludes my learning curve in relation to Belfast vegan dining. I’m clearly going to get on better in ‘ethnic’ places compared to the good old ‘meat and two veg’ but there you go.

‘Tis a good job I likes me spices!!"

V.V. xxxx

14 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Trekkie said...

Ahh, the grand memory of telling my wee one that she couldn't have a Happy Meal in McD's as there wasn't a veggie option available comes flooding back. The ever-so-helpful lady telling me that the fish fingers WERE the option.
Eating out.......happy days.

belfastyouthworker said...

belfast really does need a kick up the arse. i ate in made in belfast last night and it was absolutely disgusting, i went straight to subway afterwards!

Mudflapgypsy said...

Rarely do I get food in a an eating establishment that is better than what I can make myself, being a good cook'n'all(modest too). 95% disappointing.
Not good enough.
Any Indian is going to be good ( well, for choice anyway) since most of the country is vegetarian. Can anyone tell me why most Indian restaurants are run by Pakistanis or Bangladeshis then?

If chefs can cook a meat dish so well how come they lack the imagination to cook something good with vegetables, pulses, cheeses etc??

Voluptuous Vegan said...

Trekkie: I used to quite like the Maccy D's veggie burgers, if only because they sold so few of them that you were guaranteed a freshly cooked burger. I've not seen them since moving to NI so I wonder if it's just here or if they are discontinued? Bet they still have that God-awful 'Fillet-o-fish'...

belfastyouthworker: I hear ya, shame about Made, I was gonna try that one sometime but might just give it a miss now!

Mufflapgypsy: Absolutely, I really enjoy cooking too, it's just tough sometimes when I wind up eating the same dish for lunch/dinner 2 or 3 days in a row! I don't know why there isn't more incentive to be adventurous with veggies? Laziness perhaps?

psychoknitter said...

Wow, I live in Baghdad and we have Subway - where we resort for something non-greasy and semi-healthy. And vegans in Belfast have to resort to Subway as well? How sad is that I might ask! hehehe

Ex MacDonald's Manager said...

During my time in the Bradbury Place McDonald's we always seemed to get told off by vegetarians for not having a vegetarian alternative. Not having anything to do with choosing the menu this did not ingratiate them to me so it was great when they huffily decided on french fries, that was back when they were cooked in beef fat. Revenge is meaty.

belfastyouthworker said...

the bradbury place mcdonalds? feck that wasn't yesterday!

Native Minnow said...

Lately I've been spending some time with a girl who's allergic to wheat. It's made me realize how difficult it can be for people with dietary restrictions to dine out. I'm glad that I don't have any.

Medbh said...

I remember being at a Burger King in Dodge City and asking them for a Whopper with cheese without the meat. Yeah, it took some time.

Anto said...

The immortal words of Frankie Boyle: "There is a Vegetarian Option, ye can F*ck Off!" sum up the attitude of most restaurants anywhere.

As a well travelled veggie myself I have to say Belfast is better than most places. Though it has to be said: PASTA AND DOLMIO SAUCE FOR £10 IS NOT A VEGETARIAN OPTION IT'S A KICK IN THE PLUMS!

The Archana is really special :)

daisy mae said...

hmmm... our burger king here in the states serves a veggie burger, although i don't think it's vegan.

now, being a new yorker, i realize that this may not apply to those in belfast, or even other states. but have you tried kosher restaurants? i say that because then you're guaranteed that the meat has most definitely not been mixed with your veggie dish.... and many people who keep kosher actually stick to a veggie diet, and some embrace veganism.

ash said...

i just moved back to belfast from england......it has been a nightmare eating out....never mind a vegan option, trying to find a vegetarian option was a mission.

Good ole chips or side order veg saved the day!!!

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