On my birthday Tristan always plans a day out of exciting activities and lovely places to eat and drink. It’s what we do instead of presents as we love to experience new things and have fun times together. This was my first year eating vegan so Tristan had an extra element to add into the mix. The past four years he has sourced some magnificent vegetarian places so I had little doubt that he wouldn’t continue to pull something special out of the bag. And he certainly didn’t disappoint!
We started the day at The Gallery Cafe in Bethnal Green, part of St. Margaret’s House community centre. I’m always excited to go to places I haven’t heard of and this particular venue is right up my street – veggie vegan food plus activities like yoga classes, book groups and film nights. The menu is of several breakfast dishes, mains including Ethiopian stew and a homemade vegan burger plus daily specials, as well as a delightful selection of cakes, sweet treats and juices. I went for the full English of scrambled tofu, veggie sausages, hash browns, beans, mushrooms, tomato and sourdough toast. I’m a total sucker for scrambled tofu and this certainly lived up to my expectations! (Although Inspiral in Camden still retains my top vegan breakfast hit). T had the quesadilla of refried beans which comes with optional toppings of tofu, spinach or cheese (dairy or vegan). I may have nibbled a little corner to confirm it tasted as delightful as it looked. Vegan pancakes are also on offer which I was very tempted by – next time! They also do regular nights such as chippy night with ‘tofish’ and a diner night with American style hot dogs, chilli fries and mac cheese. So many reasons to go back – I just wish I had heard of this place sooner!
The plan for lunch was originally Kin cafe near Goodge Street, a lovely little family run veggie vegan cafe, however being two days before Christmas it was closed. A reason to visit another time then! So instead, we headed to Alara Health Store near Russell Square which contains a great self-service pay-per-weight cafe, as well as prepacked salads and dishes to takeaway. For under £5 each we got a mountain of tasty food including squash curry, pumpkin rice, roasted veg, fennel salad, carrot salad, aubergine dip, hummus, falalel, grilled tofu and samosas. My plan to have a light lunch quickly went out the window… But easily justified by an action-packed day out! This was another place I wasn’t familiar with before and given it’s proximity to my work and really reasonable prices I will definitely be back soon to stock up from the shop, and more than likely treat myself to more delicious fresh food.
At the end of the day out, after thinking we already had experienced some brilliant vegan eats, I was blown away by the dinner venue of choice. No, not somewhere posh like The Gate or Woodlands, but a retro bus in Hackney selling vegan Italian fare – definitely more my style! I have a weird obsession with buses – a visit to the bus garage to collect a lost phone excites me – so JustFaB was already a winning location. We were met by the owner and chef, Fabio, who is funny, friendly, welcoming and above all has added a star to the vegan scene in London. He explained the menu to us, which is laid out rather curiously, and informed us of all the specials. Everything sounded amazing so we went sharey sharey on several items: mini arancini (risotto balls) stuffed with spinach and vegan cheese which were truly dreamy, crispy chickpea fritters, called panelle, topped with parsley and rock salt, the special polenta cooked as a muffin served with a tomato sauce and mushrooms, the special burger which was sundried tomato and peppers and some fries. And all this can be washed down with your own booze bought from the shop across the road, making a cheap meal even more affordable.
It was more than enough food for two. I was totally full to the brim, and then a giant tray of vegimasu (vegan tiramisu) came out with a candle on top! There is absolutely no way that anyone could tell that it was a vegan desert – it was perfectly creamy, fluffy and moist. The only problem was we had too much of it! Luckily Fabio put it in a box for us and we proceeded to share it with friends in the pub round the corner. A brilliant end to a fantastic birthday!
The final shout out goes to Vegan London which Tristan used to help plan the day. Oh, and of course to Tristan for planning me such a special and delicious day!
Why not check out my top vegetarian and vegan places around the UK or eating and drinking in Brighton, Manchester and Oxford? If you’re a Londoner I’ve also covered the top places in South East London.