Ask Italian.

We went out for dinner tonight, mainly because I’m shattered and could not be bothered to cook….or do a shop to facilitate cooking. We decided to try Ask…as Liz had read they had a vegan menu.

They weren’t lying…the definitely have a decent vegan menu…

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They even had a FULL KID’S VEGAN menu! Now THAT is unheard of!!

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Because despite what most food establishments believe….kids can be vegan too!

The menu made me laugh in parts….for example: vegan plum tomatoes and vegan broccoli. Is there really any need for the word vegan before a bloody plum tomato or bit of broccoli. Surely these things are vegan by default….is there any other non vegan tomato or broccoli?? ๐Ÿคฃ

Anyway, despite this we are overjoyed to be seeing more vegan options appearing in chain restaurants.

For starters we ordered the dough balls and bruschetta. By the way….we have a taste card so everything we had was two for one…

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Bette has the vegan cucumber and vegan carrot ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ and bread sticks. It was served with a side of tomato sauce…not some fancy chef sauce…no, Just Heinz tomato sauce. That was a bit of a fail for me, but it IS vegan!

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For mains we all had the same. A vegan pizza, with olives and caramelized onions with mushroom. They were lovely pizzas. My ONLY criticism is that it could have done with more vegan cheese. It was definitely lacking in creamy cheese….

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For dessert Liz and I opted for the chocolate and blood orange torte….OH MY GOOD GOD!

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This truly was delicious. The orange was amazing and the chocolate was so rich and creamy! The base was to die for…and the sorbet was delish! Ten out of ten for the pudding.

Overall it was a gorgeous meal…the service was very disjointed and slower than a week in the jail towards the end. But this was down to poor management rather than a lack of effort. To us it appeared that one waiter was serving the entire floor…as well as preparing the sweets behind the scenes. Too much for one poor guy…no wonder he only weighed 2 stone wet through!

I’d give Ask 9/10 for their menu. They’ve tried…and they’re doing more than many places.

Thanks for a lovely meal Ask!

The Tudor, Ayr.

Tonight we invited ourselves to a family meal. We obviously had to go to the restaurant they picked, so really weren’t very hopeful of a decent vegan meal.

We called the restaurant prior to going to enquire about any vegan choices they may have. Sadly, for us…they had NO VEGAN OPTIONS on the menu!

However, all was not lost…because the staff were super friendly and were more than happy to alter dishes to make them vegan.

After a brief chat with our waitress we agreed on vegetable tempura with chilli sauce as our starter. It was absolutely gorgeous….big chunks of broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and pepper rings. It wasn’t at all greasy and tasted really fresh, with lovely crunchy veg. I forgot to take a picture as I was too busy laughing and yapping with my uncles.

For the main we established that the vegetarian fajitas could be veganised if we left off the sour cream and cheeses. We added extra guacamole and took our own coconut cream (as you do!) to use as sour cream.

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Gorgeous crunchy vegetables in a sticky hoi sin like sauce.

The fajitas were absolutely gorgeous. They had peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli and potatoes. Never would I have thought to include tatties in fajitas, but they REALLY worked!

Overall, considering the Tudor didn’t have a single vegan option on their menu, I’d give them 10/10 for our delicious meal!

I’d suggest they don’t sell themselves short and add a little sentence to their menu saying dish X, Y and Z can be veganised. Because, they pulled it out the bag tonight.

No puddings for us, as you’d expect, but that’s a tiny little criticism of an overall lovely meal.

Thanks for being so helpful and going to the effort of making a dish, or two, for us. We greatly appreciate it.

โœŒ

The Lotus.

I haven’t done a review in a while, mainly because I haven’t had time to galavant around the place trying out new food places.

However, as we were travelling through Glasgow around dinner time tonight (that’s 7ish to us) we decided to try the Lotus vegetarian (although in fairness it’s all vegan except 3 dishes) Chinese restaurant.

The Lotus Vegetarian Cuisine Limited, to give it its official name, can be found on Bridge Street in Glasgow. There is handy parking right outside, if you go after 6pm, and a wee pay and display a stone’s throw away if you visit during the day.

Inside the restaurant is pretty modest. It’s absolutely spotless and the staff are perhaps the friendliest I have ever encountered.

I usually take a picture of the menu, but to be honest I was too excited by the vast choice that I forgot entirely. Let’s just say there is at least four pages of vegan yumminess for you to peruse!

They also make it abundantly clear that NOTHING is too much bother. Everything is made fresh, to order and they’re happy to alter dishes or make up whatever you want.

For us, the most exciting part was the vegan ‘prawn crackers’. I haven’t been able to enjoy a prawn cracker for well over a decade…and tonight…I thought I was going to die and go to heaven! I know…I know…calm down, it’s only a prawn cracker. But…to me, it was a big deal!

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๐Ÿ’—

With so much choice we took a while to decide what we were having, but we eventually opted for vegan prawn toast and deep fried dumplings for starters.

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You get 4 bits, but Liz stole a piece off the plate before I took the photo.

The prawn toast was gorgeous. Have no idea what it was filled with, but it was pink and fishy and the texture was right. It was a really gorgeous dish.

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Little pockets of salty, crispy gorgeousness.

Again, I dont know what these were filled with but I’d guess tofu and veggies. Regardless, they were perfect! The dipping sauce was also lush!

For the main I ordered Szechuan tofu and fried rice. This dish was absolutely amazing. It tasted so fresh and vibrant. It was medium spiced and the tofu itself was exquisite. Soft and creamy but packed full of flavour.

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Szechuan tofu.

Liz had….wait for it…sweet and sour ‘chicken balls’ with boiled rice.

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Delicious little crispy balls! (Don’t pervert the innocence of a food blog!)

These truly were amazing. I again, have no idea what the balls were actually made of. They didn’t taste of quorn or anything, so perhaps a soya protein they make themselves into balls? Regardless, the sauce was THE BEST I’ve tasted, and the texture of the chicken balls took me back to my omni days. For me, this dish was LOVE!

Bette had a love affair with the boiled rice, she ate loads and stated “this is the most good restaurant I’ve ever been to”. That’s straight from a four year old’s mouth. She thought her food was so good it made her want to cry! ๐Ÿ˜‚ ย So really, everything I’ve said is totally unnecessary! ๐Ÿ‘

Bette enjoyed a BIG bowl of vegan chocolate ice cream before we settled the bill.

If you’re going here you should know, they don’t serve alcohol…or meat, of course. The portion sizes are massive (but shamefully we ate nearly everything). Everything is cooked to order (and MSG free), so its not fast food. We sat down at 8.15pm and didn’t leave until 10pm. We waited a while between starter and main meal, a little bit longer than I’d have liked, but as soon as the food arrived I totally forgot about the wait. You become immersed in the flavours of the dishes and the waiting time seems like a distant memory. I’d do it all over again, rather similar to childbirth! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Finally, the price is super reasonable…so you won’t need to remortgage your house for a meal here!

I’d give this little gem of a place a solid 10 out of 10!

A lovely experience from start to finish! We will definitely be back.

Thanks Lotus…for making vegan dining an absolute pleasure!! ๐Ÿ’“

Chestnuts Hotel & Restaurant, Ayr.

Last night we visited the Chestnuts Hotel and Restaurant for our dinner. Once again we found it via Happy Cow.

My Dad (who is an omni) enjoyed a wonderful meal. He said it was very tasty and well cooked.

Us on the other hand…well, we were left quite disappointed.

The good….

It has a vegan menu. A totally separate vegan menu, printed on green paper to really drive it home! ๐Ÿ˜

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I always think it’s fabulous when a place makes the effort to actually produce a vegan menu. However, this menu was very unimaginative.

We opted for the mushroom starter.

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The mushroom were not really cooked well – they were super chewy. The sauce tasted quite sweet, but overall felt like the chef had just poured some passata over semi raw mushrooms….and stuck a SINGLE slice of super thin (had there been a pattern on the plate you’d have seen it through the breed) wholemeal bread. Not a lot of effort or quantity for the price.

I had originally planned on having the vegetable fajitas for my main, but on enquiry I found out that they were literally just serving fried peppers and onions with a tortilla and salsa. I asked if we could have avocado or salad, but was told no….the regular fajitas comes with cheese (fajitas with cheese?), salsa ย and sour cream, so naturally the vegan one can only come with salsa!

That logic makes no sense to me. If you’re making a vegan meal you have to substitute and make the meal entire. You can’t just miss things off the plate. The chef has missed a trick with that….avocado would be an easy ingredient to add, without a huge expense and it actually goes with the dish!!!

Anyway, I decided to go for the tempura. Sadly….I was left disappointed. I got big chunks of raw pepper, onion (literally a whole red onion chopped into 4), two slices of baby sweetcorn and one chopped up spring onion coated in a VERY thin layer of batter…and served with some chips and sweet chilli sauce. I ate it, because I’d been out all day and was staving. But to say it was bland and boring was an understatement. Again, for the price point I don’t feel it was good value for money.

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On a plus point. The wee mixed salad was phenomenal!!!

The atmosphere was nice and the drinks were lovely. Cannot complain about that.

Like I say, the omni dishes and Bette’s vegetarian dishes were good. But…the vegan menu needs some work!

Overall…for my experience, as a vegan eating off their vegan menu, I’d give this place 4 out of 10.

Brilliant gesture….but poorly executed. There are some easy changes that could be made to the menu to improve it. But, as it stands…it’s overpriced and under whelming.

Thanks for the effort though!

The Black Horse, Endon.

Having spent two days in Alton Towers, where vegans clearly don’t ever venture to (if you were to go by the food options available to you), we were hungry for some real food.

As we don’t know the area at all, we once again turned to our little Happy Cow app. For those of you who have never heard of it, it’s a total god send. You can search (worldwide) for vegan/vegetarian places in your area.

You can get the free version here…

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.hcceg.veg.compassionfree

So, our app told us that we could get some decent vegan food in a nearby village called Endon. It was a short 20 minute detour, but my oh my was it worth that detour.

We arrived at The Black Horse around 7pm. It appeared to me to be in the middle of nowhere. From the outside it just looked like a nice wee local pub restaurant, no clue of the vegam delights lurking within.

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It was relatively quiet when we arrived, but we were immediately greeted by a gorgeously smiley waitress/barmaid. She could not have been happier to see us if she tried. She made us feel so welcome. Sometimes walking into little pubs can be intimidating, but this woman made us feel totally at ease. She told us we could sit anywhere we liked and quickly took a drinks order. The pub sells a range of vegan wines, which my wife took full advantage of and had two large glasses of red.

We were given our menus and….

Behold…a vegan menu!

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A very extensive and well thought out vegan selection of food.

It amazes me when I find these little places, not on a main city or busy part of the world, with an amazing selection of vegan food. This is clearly not a token gesture in case a vegan wanders in, this is a well thought out, extensive menu.

I enquired as to why they had such a good vegan menu…the waitress explained that the landlord’s daughter is vegan. It all made perfect sense!

We opted for the bread board to start: a selection of vegan bread with salty vegan butter and balsamic vinegar and oil.

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If I’m being totally honest, this is the only part of the meal I thought was poor. The bread consisted of two pieces of gorgeous oaty brown bread, one warmed bagel (which was nice btw) and a cut up Warburtons thin! Now, if thins are a delicacy in and around Stoke-on-trent then I am sorry, but for me a thin doesn’t have a place on a ‘selection of bread’ starter. That being said, the butter was amazing and the bread was all warm. I can only assume they didn’t have as much vegan bread in as they would have liked, so made an attempt at completing the order.

The food was clearly all cooked fresh as you order because the wait time was slightly increased. That isn’t a criticism because I’m always happy to wait for good, freshly prepared food.

I ordered the vegan chilli burrito with half rice and half chips. Well…it was amazing!!! Full of flavour…spicy…crammed full of beans, vegetables and gooey vegan cheese. It was served with the most gorgeous fluffy white rice, thick cut chips and an amazing kind of sweet and sour chutney.

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The portion sizes were epic. The food was piping hot and packed full of flavour. My only complaint is that initially my chips were served below my rice, which for me is a big no no. I cannot mix up food. So, I’d suggest they don’t do that as standard, because people like me go a bit bat shit crazy! Once I picked it apart and laid it out better I was happy!

Liz ordered the burger and chips. Again…amazing dish. She loved it and to top it all, when she asked if they had vegan mayo, the waitress beamed with delight and said yes. Out came a little pot of vegan mayo! Now THAT is impressive!!!

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Bette had a portion of chips. As you can see from the picture, the chips were mammoth in size and super tasty!

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Sadly, we were too full to eat a pudding, but they looked amazing!

I’m giving this little pub a 10/10 for their vegan menu. The effort they’ve put into this menu is clear to see. Their food is fresh and super tasty!

If we lived closer this pub would become somewhere we’d visit regularly. And…for sure…if we’re ever heading down/passing this area again, we will make the short detour to visit The Black Horse.

Thank you for your gorgeous meal…and for having vegan condiments (oh and even vegan biscuits with your bill)…you’ve really gone to town on your vegan inclusion!

โœŒ

 

The Little Joke….

I cannot tar every Little Chef with the same brush, but the Little Chef (rest # 20959) on Newcastle Road in Talke takes the prize for the worst establishment I’ve ever visited. Woohoo!!!

We had the misfortune of visiting this restaurant on Monday (yeah…a bank holiday. Loads of happy people enjoying a wee mini break!)

Sadly…enjoyment and happiness is something that has completely passed by the staff in the Talke branch.

We sauntered in to the place around 9.30, bright eyed and bushy tailed (following a fabulous wee sleep in the Travelodge next door). We were greeted by the most contemptuous group of staff I have ever met. Elaine, our waitress, literally could not bring herself to crack even a glimmer of a smile. We were instructed to sit where we liked. As we are ruled by our three year old, we followed our tiny leader to our table. She chose a table pretty close to the hot plate that separates the restaurant from the kitchen. Peering through the gap was a very irritated and almost aggressive looking wee woman and a younger man. Both scoweled through to the customers as we perused the menu. It really did feel like they were willing us (or threatening) us not to order anything!

Little did they know they had absolutely nothing to worry about…because there was NOTHING on the menu for vegans. There was literally two vegetarian items in total. In ordinary circumstances I’d have called the waitress over and asked what could be done to veganise something on the menu…but to be perfectly honest, I would rather wrestle with a grizzly bear or a crocodile (perhaps even both at the same time) than ask the chef to make any amendments to the menu. She looked like she would jump through the hatch and throttle me!

After a VERY short discussion, We opted for the baked beans on toast. We ordered an extra slice of toast each and got Bette a vegetarian kids breakfast (a veggie sausage, an egg and some baked beans with a slice of toast). We asked the waitress if we could have our toast unbuttered to which she replied “we butter nothing” and walked away. By this time I’m beginning to see the comedy in the situation. Elaine brought over our pots of tea (in perhaps the most chipped tea pots I’ve seen being used) and apple juice…she gently placed them all on the table with a smile. Only kidding…she banged them on the table and walked away. Service with absolutely no style!

As the order went into the kitchen I heard the angry woman say to her man-slave…”veggie sausage, they must be vegetarian” with a very disgusted look on her face!

Shortly afterwards…the meal arrived. The man from the kitchen dumped them on our table, deposited a basket of sauce and fucked off back to his lair.

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What can I say about the food? Hmmmm….it was hot. As in, nuclear. Clearly she’d fired the beans in the micro on full heat until they were bubbling like molten lava. The beans were definitely Heinz; I know this because I got lots of blue packaging floating about in them.

Don’t get me wrong. I ate it all. I was starving…and they were ยฃ5 each (with the extra slice of toast). The tea was awful, cold and stewed.

To top it all…as I’m eating my breakfast I glance up and see the guy eating something behind the hot plate, whilst preparing the other diner’s meals. He finished what was in his mouth and promptly wiped has mouth with the palm of his hand, before immediately turning and popping black pudding into their cooker! No hand washing…no food hygiene…just some black pudding with slevers! I honestly felt physically repulsed, but as I’m a gannet, I had no food left on my plate to reject.

In the interest of complete fairness. I have to point out that although the waitress had zero finesse or enthusiasm towards any of her patrons…she did keep the dining area in order. Everyone appeared to be served quickly and they had everything they needed. Minus personality or warmth from the team. The angry chef promptly worked through the orders and ensured all food was served quickly. The man-slave…pottered around…ate the leftovers? and took directions well.

The best part of the experience….the ยฃ21 bill…for 2 beans and toast, a kids breakfast and 2 teas! ๐Ÿค—

Overall, The WORST experience. Firstly, shame on you Little Chef, you’re a massive company, you should have some options for vegan/vegetarian diner’s in your establishments. Secondly, shame on you Talke crew. You put no effort into your job that day, you clearly didn’t want to be there and made it abundantly obvious. I don’t always like going to work, but when I make the decision to go (which sounds like I just decide when I go to work or not…and I don’t!) you should strive to do your best. You’re charging a lot of money for very basic greasy spoon food, you should at least try to make the people feel that they’re not being completely shafted. A smile…a bit of banter…it doesn’t take much to turn a really shit experience into a positive one.

Sadly, you failed on all counts!

Surely I can’t be the only vegan in Alton Towers?

Firstly, sorry I didn’t do a blog post last night, but we left Scotland at 4pm (after a busy day) and arrived in Stoke-on-trent around 9pm. I just didn’t have a post in me.

We REALLY struggled with food on the road down. Thankfully, I anticipated this may be the case and made a superb packed lunch.

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We stopped for a cup of tea at Starbucks on the way down, but ended up with a crappy McDonalds meal on arrival as everywhere else was shut!

This morning we woke up and decided to hit the little chef for breakfast. Well…that experience is a blog post all of its own. I will review that totally separate, but let’s just say it was an ‘experience’.

Today, we did Alton Towers (right now I feel like Alton Towers did me!) In total, we’ve walked about 7.5 miles…and went on a total of about 8 rides. That aside, it’s been a fabulous day.

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Baby B waiting patiently for one of the rides.

My only complaint is….THERE IS NOTHING FOR A VEGAN TO EAT!!! Not a sausage…..so to speak! In fact, there mere mention of the V word sends them into a glaze!

We could eat chips, of course. But not another thing. They apparently do quorn hot dogs, so we enquired if they were vegan, but shockingly were told they had no quorn sausages. So…if you’re veggie or vegan in the park, expect to starve (or pack a VERY good packed lunch!).

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We had tons of food packed, so we didn’t starve. But…if we had arrived unprepared, we most definitely would have!

We arrived in the park, bright eyed and bushy tailed, at 11.30am. We dragged ourselves out at 6pm…shadows of our former selfs. I can’t believe the amount of walking between rides. Tomorrow (yup, two days of this!) we will invest in a wee buggy for Bettelicious (but if I can fit in it….bonus!). We purchased one of those ‘refill’ bottles at the door….but struggled to fill it anywhere in the park, despite it saying you can fill it everywhere. That’s just plain lies!

On arrival this morning we reserved a table in the ‘secret garden’ of the Alton Towers hotel. As you can imagine, after all that walking, we were pretty hungry.

Surprise surprise….no vegan option. We spoke to our ‘very knowledgable server’ as per the instruction on the menu, but the minute the lassie heard the word vegan you could literally see the life drain from her. She went to the kitchen to chat to the chef.

After about 10 minutes she returned with…wait for it…one dish that we could eat!!! She told us the mushroom risotto on the menu wouldn’t be vegan because of the sauce, but if we wanted it vegan he would make it with normal rice (not risotto) and it would just be plain. So, in summary…we could have boiled rice with a few mushrooms scattered on it and pay ยฃ11 for the privilege. Of course, we opted for the bread started (vegan!) and linguini pasta in a tomato sauce.

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Oh…and a Stella!

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Despite the fact the life physically drained from the waitress (and I’d imagine the chef) when the vegans turned up…the meal was actually gorgeous! Not worth the money we paid, but we are in a theme park and they very much have a captive audience.

I finished the night enjoying a selection of cocktails, whilst my wain played in an indoor pirate ship (as you do!).

Overall, a fabulous day! Tomorrow we get to do it all again. Yehhaaaa!

I’ll post my little chef review later, along with a wee Alton Towers thing that didn’t impress me!

Hope you’ve all had a fab bank holiday weekend.

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Bliss!!!

Land & Sea…without the death for me. ๐Ÿ‘โœŒ

Tonight we rushed to Polmont to experience the vegan menu at Land & Sea.

First off. What a bloody fabulous idea this shop has had. More and more people are ditching animal protein for plant based alternatives and this wee chippie have clearly been paying attention.

It’s VERY well advertised as you approach the chippie. They say placing a ‘vegan’ symbol/sign on food negatively effects sales, but Land & Sea have thrown caution to the wind on this front. They’re doing vegan and they’re proud of it.

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One of the many signs on the front and side of the shop.

When you enter you notice the vegan section is completely separate to the rest of the shop. You order at a different point and pay there too. At first i didn’t think anything of it…but whilst waiting for my order I realised I was standing in a little ‘vegan’ pen. You have to be out and proud to enter the pen. ๐Ÿคฃ I made a wee joke that I was going to mingle with the ‘normal’ people, so I didn’t feel so ‘different’ and I did wait outside the vegan square. I guess it’ll be fabulous if there is a big queue for the omnivore side, because we’ll essentially skip everyone (which is always a bonus) but I don’t truly know if I liked such obvious separation. I’m sure there is a perfectly sensible reason for the little pen, but standing in it I did feel like I was at a ‘come see a vegan get excited about pretending to eat fish’ convention.

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I didn’t get the full pen in, as I was trying to be discrete. If you stand next to the vegan sign with the arrow you could literally be transformed into living art!ย 

Whilst standing in my wee pen a guy on the ‘omni’ side of the fence said “don’t worry hen, I’ll still talk to you”. That made me laugh…but it also showed me that we all seen the vegan pen as just that!

That aside. The menu was extensive, for a vegan. It was well thought out and even had a kids selection (which is super rare, in my experience).

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We went for the ‘Vish’ and Chips, with a portion of mushy peas. Now…to let you understand, I haven’t had a fish supper for about 10 years. The closest I have had has been halloumi in batter, which of course is not vegan, so is not something I could have now. So…you can appreciate how excited I am at actually ordering a ‘vish’ supper. ๐Ÿ’—

After a brief wait, I skipped out the shop with my goodies in a MASSIVE bag.

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The MASSIVE bag!!! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Now onto the important stuff. The actual food. I’ll get straight to it. The supper was absolutely amazing! The vish was crispy on the outside, but gorgeously soft and creamy inside. The seaweed batter added a gorgeous hint of the sea, which really made you feel like you were having a fish supper. The chips were perhaps the best I’ve had ever in this area (I’m an Ayrshire lassie, so know a guid chip!) and the peas…well, what can you say about peas. They were lovely!

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My vish and chips! ๐Ÿ’“

The onlyย bad point for me was that the dish was supposed to be served with ‘ta ta’ sauce, but when I got home I realised it was missing. I was proper disappointed! Although it didn’t ruin my dinner, I think it would have added to the taste and if you advertise it…put it in the box, please.

I’d give this chippie 9.5/10. The food was excellent (which is the most important part), the staff were friendly and I’m always impressed when a business tries to include alternative diets. It’s a shame the vegan options are only available on a Tuesday, but it’s better than nothing. They have committed to cooking all their food in vegetable oil, so at least you can get a wee poke of chips on other days of the week. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Who’d have thought you’d find a vegan friendly cafe in Camelon…

Picture the scene….a wee side street in Camelon (near Falkirk, for those not around these parts). Home to a gorgeous wee cafe called Scarlett’s. It’s small, but it was mighty. Maybe a total of 8 tables, surprisingly busy, with a nice atmosphere. So busy we had to book a table and return in half an hour for our lunch. But…that was totally worth it…because behold…it has a VEGAN menu!!! ๐Ÿ˜ฒ

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It is abundantly clear in this little place that they’re trying to cater for everyone. Nothing appears to be too much bother for them. Gluten free, vegetarian, vegan…and just plain fussy fuckers, all catered for.

I had a mushroom, cajun pepper and vegan cheeseย quesadilla. The portion was mega! But…I ordered a side of chips, because that’s how I roll (plus I have two girls who like ‘sharing’ my chips). Liz had a vegan sausage and Dijon mustard toastie, but she wasn’t keen on the sausage. Poor choice, rather than the food really.

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Sadly, they didn’t have any vegan cakes left today. But they assured us they normally have a good selection.

Overall I’d give this wee place a ten out of ten for effort. The food was gorgeous and the portion size was more than generous.

We’ll definitely be back. Next time we’ll book a table and sample the vegan all day breakfast. But I’ll bring my oatly in my flask as they only have soya milk…and we all know by now that I think soya milk tastes like hell in a cup!