I know, I'm going super big and bold with that title but you know what? It is 8 sleeps till Christmas and as 'Love, Actually' told us, "it's Christmas, and at Christmas, you tell the truth" (there's a lot of weird shit in that movie but that's probably the strangest statement passed off as universal knowledge). And that's the truth, babies! Club Mexicana, formerly at the Dalston bar Pamela and now at the Spread Eagle Pub in Hackney, is serving up the best vegan food of any restaurant in the city. That's an incredible feat, considering it's Mexican (or "Mexican-inspired") food, a cuisine London just cannot do well (it's understandable given how far we are from Mexico but still). But for Club Mexicana, every single dish is a stellar achievement. Everything we tried absolutely wowed us, and even though we were so full we wanted to shout for another round of everything. If this new location were closer to me (it's a PITA) I'd be there every week.
When I last lived in Philadelphia, I lived in the Rittenhouse Square area, right near the big (only?) Barnes and Noble on the corner of 18th and Walnut. Literally the day after I ended my lease, HipCityVeg, a super cool vegan 'healthy but fun food' joint, opened across the street from my old apartment. They had burgers, wraps, fries, shakes, all really fantastic too. (Of course their management is questionable at best but this isn't a post about them.) So of course, of COURSE, I have to tell you that I used to live on Commercial Street, right outside Spitalfields market, right across the street from As Nature Intended, the organic shoppe. And lo, what has opened up right on that block recently? A super cool vegan 'healthy but fun food' joint, what else? Let me know if you're looking to open up a similar place and I'll tell you when I move from my current house, since I guess that's the game the universe has chosen for me. Genesis, this newest addition to London's vegan, organic, swanky, instagram-friendly restaurant scene, is a great addition to the neighborhood, but it's a good thing I don't live as close to it anymore, because it's way too expensive.
Most Americans and other non-Brits, when they think of England, think of fancy tea parties, the royal family, and wypipo in big ass hats. Especially when they think of London, ho boy; in their imagination it's some exalted, clean (lol) city with proper and polite people in tailored clothes, fabulous accents, and yes more big ass hats. Since I am an American living in London, I can tell you that all of that is such utter horseshit that I'm laughing at my own words like Jimmy Fallon when he was on SNL. London, although I love it, is like most big cities that usually smell of piss or sewage (the plumbing is likely the original from the 19th century and is in rull need of a refurb) and instead of fancy people in fancy hats, the folks you'll run into most often are lads (white boys from 18-35 who act like they are 17 and under) who are a few sips away from being black-out drunk, and they're vomiting on the sidewalks even during daylight (which is a real feat considering we don't have much of that this time of year (daylight, I mean; we have plenty of drunk ass lads)). And I never see people out in fancy hats in the city. However, one part of the stereotype rang true for me recently: I went to a fancy ass afternoon tea at a fancy ass hotel. And we liked it, and we loved it. In that beautiful dining room, surrounded by dressed up people generally behaving themselves, it felt like the London of ill-informed Americans' dreams.
During our stay in Funchal, Madeira, the beautiful Portuguese island, we had a fancy dinner one night at the island's most celebrated restaurant - Il Gallo d'Oro. It has been awarded two Michelin stars and they told me they could arrange for a vegan tasting menu, so we went for it. Located in The Cliff Bay resort hotel (one of the three PortoBay properties), Il Gallo d'Oro is not only considered the best restaurant on Madeira but it's also awarded that title for all of Portugal sometimes. So while I knew the food would be great, my vegan expectations were still tempered because these fancy restaurants sometimes just don't have the experience or knowledge for creating vegan menus that are at the same level as the regular ones. As usual I was right. The food was super lovely and delicious, and I'll probably be describing each component as 'lovely' because that's really all there was to it. But it was missing that expertise that a veg chef could provide. And while dining here is a nice event for a special occasion, it's way too expensive for what you get.
For our recent anniversary (aw thanks), Husbo and I returned to one of our favorite fancy restaurants in London, The Clove Club. We celebrated our anniversary there two years ago, and this year we decided to shake our shoulders like Danny Burstein’s adorable Tevye and make a tradition of it. You might recall that last year, we were on a train to Chengdu for our anniversary, which was prettay prettay disgusting. To make up for that (plus 98% of all our train experiences last year), we splurged on this super extravagant dinner again. The Clove Club is one of the few Michelin-starred restaurants in London that will offer a worthwhile vegan tasting menu, so it always comes to mind first when we are considering super swanky restaurants.
On our recent trip to Liverpool, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it's an incredibly vegan-friendly city. It seemed like every restaurant had a sign in their window advertising 'vegan options!' and I was HERE for it. In addition to our fancy lunch at the Art School restaurant, which you can read about here, we had time for a dinner and a brunch during our short jaunt through the city. We decided on the truly phenomenal Maray restaurant for dinner, and the very pleasant and bright Our Kitchen for brunch. I didn't expect the food here to be so good, but I'd honestly be pretty happy if circumstances brought us back to Livpoooo for a future visit just so I could eat at these places again.
When we visited Liverpool recently, we enjoyed a capital-L Lunch like the sort my girl Stritch would sing about at the Art School Restaurant, an upmarket place serving fancypants tasting menus. The restaurant famously offers vegan versions of these menus, so we were like hell yes, fire that sucker up and throw it at my face. Headed by chef Paul Askew, the Art School is consistently listed on Best Of UK restaurant lists and is featured in the Michelin guide. It was also on some of PETA’s ‘Best of UK’ lists for fine dining and even though PETA is trash, I decided to pay it a visit. We booked in and thought ‘hey even if it’s not great at least I can blog about it’ and so here we are. Overall, we had a very nice lunch, although the food needs a little bit of work before I’d be comfortable recommending dining here at its current prices.
The renowned restaurant Tredwells, in the Seven Dials area of the West End (close to “Matilda”!), has joined the happy trend of mainstream restaurants doing special-night plant-based supper clubs. And yes, they do mean vegan. Calling their one-night-a-month supper club “Vegwells” to be adorable, Tredwells in their attempt this past Monday has lept ahead of the competition. I’d expect nothing less from a restaurant of Marcus Wareing, the celebrity chef with the two-Michelin starred restaurant in Knightsbridge (remind me to look into whether that one is vegan-friendly too, and thus a candidate for the Vegan Michelin series). So I just googled Marcus Wareing and was like ‘hmm why is he sooo familiar looking’ and realized it’s because he was on an episode of Masterchef that Husbo P and I watched during our short but EMBARRASSING hate-fueled obsession with that terrible addictive af show. Anyway, the Tredwells chef, Chantelle Nicholson, has created this ‘plant-based’ supper club to highlight the magic that can unfold when you focus on good, sustainable ingredients. As the author of an apparently vegan (!!) cookbook called Planted, she seemed up to the challenge of impressing me with this meal. Spoiler, she did.
Dearly beloved, we're gathered here to discuss East London's relatively new fancy joint named Plates. I know, it's getting hard to keep up with all the new vegan dishes, stalls, and restaurants in London, with something exciting seemingly popping up on our radar every day. I'm not that hungry guyzzz can we take it down a notch? My husband thinks I'm weird because I prefer cooking my own food or eating salads (and he thinks I'm extra weird because I'm okay with calling just a bowl of lettuce a 'salad' and he says that's not okay that's just lettuce anyone have an opinion on this nope okay moving on). But then on the other hand, well on my other hand right now I have a cut from where I knifed myself while making some of my aforementioned 'own food' which I guess is a point in the column for 'going out more' but ANYWAY, on the other figurative hand, I do want to try everything because as I recently explained to aforementioned husband about why I was forcing him to watch the worst movie ever written, "Sex & the City 2", you can't complain about things you haven't seen. Applied to the topic at hand: you can't recommend things you haven't eaten. The former argument is more my speed because y'all know how much I loves complaining (LOVES IT) but the latter is nice to do too, and although I have some caveats about my recent dinner at Plates, I do recommend trying it for yourself.
My recent trip home to Philly and NYC was jam-packed with new and delicious vegan food options, from the carrot lox at Orchard Grocer to Philly's amazing new joints Wiz Kid and Goldie. Add in all the incredible new finds at Trader Joe's and I was almost overwhelmed with vegan options, especially considering my dearth of options this past summer in Central Asia! With vegan treats coming at me from all sides, you'd think it would be hard to choose a favorite, but that was the easy part. The new (at least in my book, come on I've been gone forever) outpost of Juice Merchant, an all-vegan 100% organic cafe, on Montgomery Avenue in Narberth wins that honor. (There's also one in Manayunk.) The food, while not Landau-levels of otherworldly perfection, is solidly good, sometimes great; the menu is the exact perfect size for offering tons of options but not being overwhelming (us vegans aren't used to having such choice!); the drinks menu is flawless; the staff is insanely nice; and the desserts - guys - the desserts are from Vegan Treats. Finally a place on the Main Line with a constant supply of that peanut butter mousse!
I go out to eat often, in many different cities. I'm usually with a crowd of omnivores, so look here for tips on how to eat vegan at many non-vegan places. But primarily this section of the blog is a shrine to the fantastic and ever-increasing vegan restaurants in the world.