October was a busy month for me as I was concentrating on setting up a new business offering. This has taken a lot of time and didn’t leave much time for going out and finding new things. Hopefully I will have more to report on next month!
I did attend The Ethical Consumer conference which was very good. I came away with loads of ideas on how to make my company more ethical and sustainable. Not sure I will be able to convince my directors to take any actions, but I’m working on it.
Now the days are drawing in we are revisiting the roast dinner on a Sunday. I’d forgotten how much I miss roasted beetroot!
Had a lovely family meal at The Wheatsheaf, Esher. Good veggie options, including a roast. A very popular pub so if you go do book in advance. The low points are the lack of parking and it gets quite hot and stuffy so wear layers! The food is definitely worth going for though!
A client meeting that didn’t last as long as I thought it would meant that I could visit Seasons, Forest row. Probably my favourite organic supermarket, which I have been visiting since the late 1990s.
If you are looking for another great place to eat out tryThe Horse Inn, Hurst. This pub has recently been refurbished and offers a great selection of food, from tapas and bar meals to lovely dinners. The Vegetarian and Vegan menus are well worth a look at. The christmas menu also looked really inviting.
Another busy September, however this year I managed a week away and came across some lovely things:
Bel and the Dragon. This is one of my favourite boutique hotel and restaurant chains. On a recent visit to the Windsor branch I was pleasantly surprised by their veggie/vegan range of food. In the past it has always been a bit lacking but now the choice is really good. Not the cheapest place to eat or stay, however for a treat it is definitely work seeking out.
Windsor Castle – we went here to do the tour. I admit I baulked at the entry price, however once in it was well worth it. A great look at the history of the monarchy. My only slight quibble is that there is not much on our current Royal family.
I love curry and whilst visiting the NEC we found this great Indian restaurant not far away. Jilabi had the most amazing range of food. The waiter asked us our likes and challenged us to try new things. The food was fresh and tasty, and just kept coming. On top of this it is very reasonably priced. Well worth a visit. Only thing to bear in mind is that when we went they didn’t have an alcohol licence. Not to worry though – there is a Tesco in walking distance!
Sainsbury’s Avocado Sandwich – In our week off we inevitably ended up buying a quick lunch from a petrol station. The one we went to had a Sainsburys supermarket at it, and I found the most wonderful avocado sandwich. It was such a relief in the endless sea of cheese and egg mayonnaise offerings!
Beefeater have got a new menu out and I was really impressed by the vegetarian chilli. I am a bit of a purest with my chili and prefer it with kidney beans, however this offering with lentils and beans stood up well.
For the first time in many years I managed a short break in August. Normally I have been the one who is happy to work whilst others have holiday with their families. Its less crowded and cheaper out of season! But this year was different and it was good!
On our trip to Dorchester we went to Vivo Lounge. One of a chain of ‘Lounges’ they have a very good vegetarian and vegan menu and fabulous cocktails. Definitely worth finding your nearest one for a good night out.
The King and Thai – an excellent family run Thai restaurant which caters really well for vegetarians and vegans.
The Hendover Cafe – another family run business offering breakfasts, lunches and tapas evenings. Great friendly service and good quality food.
We finished off August with a visit to The Woking Food Festival. This was well run and had a multitude of stalls selling lovely vegetarian and vegan food. From sauces to pies there was so much choice! Although being surrounded by so much food made me loose my appetite, I can recommend the dosa, sauces and pickles from Ollo Foods.
Woking also has a lovely food walk in between the two parts of the Peacock shopping centre (Market Walk). A great range of food stalls and a lovely fruit and veg stall selling everything from broccoli to kohlrabi and mooli. A real treat and a good reason to go back to Woking!
Readers of my previous blogs will know that I am not a massive fan of cheese and halloumi and feta are at the bottom of my list of cheeses I do like. I simply don’t like the taste of them. Sorry.
Strong flavoured cheese can also trigger my migraines and I know that if I avoid it, I don’t get them.
My problem with cheese is that, having been a vegetarian for so long, and knowing that there is a vast array of foods I can eat, when you eat out every veggie meal seems to have cheese with it.
And yes I have been offered the halloumi burger without the halloumi in it by a new waitress who had very little understanding of the menu.
If you look through The Vegetarian Society Magazine the majority of recipes contain cheese of some sort. And if you are vegan well vegan cheese is rife.
One of my other bugbears is the price of vegetarian food when eating out. Last week I paid £12 for a bowl of pasta with a mushroom sauce. No salad. No bread. Just a bowl of pasta. It was delicious, but when it comes to portion size I wasn’t that impressed. It didn’t feel like £12 of food and skill to cook it. Especially when compared to the meat and fish main courses which were £2 more but had a third more food on the plate.
So imagine my joy at the halloumi Burger. A frequent menu item where restaurants want to cater for vegetarians, and dished out at a pound or two below the price of a meat burger. There is not much that goes into a halloumi burger. It is a bit of grilled cheese in a bun with some dressing and salad.. Meat burgers can have a much more complicated preparation, especially if they are made on site. They can contain different flavourings and different types of meat (which we know is expensive).
It is a glorified grilled cheese sandwich.
And why charge so much for a slab of cheese in a bun? I can go to my local cafe and have a toasted cheese sandwich with garnish and chips for less than half the price of a halloumi burger (in fact their halloumi burger is generally half the price you pay elsewhere).
I like eating out with friends and realise that it is difficult to put together a menu to please everyone. I am just hopeful that the current trend for halloumi and feta (all those salads!), changes soon. Or that the people compiling the menus step back and look at their menu and go ‘is that value for money, and is there enough variety?’
June was a busy month at work, but I also managed a cheeky weekend away. It was good to get some warm, dry weather at last, and so I managed some time out in the garden. I can definitely feel my energy returning with the warmer weather. In June I loved the following:
Earth Kind – In my effort to cut down my plastic use I am always on the look out for hints and tips. Earth Kind provide a consultancy service to help you reduce your plastic use. Definitely worth getting in touch if you would like a helping hand in moving towards a zero waste lifestyle.
We managed a few days away in Cornwall and were taken to The Coddy Shack in Looe. This is a fish and chip shop which also has a fully licensed restaurant. It sells more than just fish and chips and has a really good vegetarian menu. The cakes are good too!
Brewers Fayre – On our few days away we ended up staying at a Premier Inn with very little food choices nearby. However I was pleasantly surprised by the Veggie/Vegan offering from Brewers Fayre. The price and portion size were good, and there were even starters I could eat (one for Beefeater to take note of!)
Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll – another reflection on time spent out and about! I finally succumbed at a motorway service station and tried the vegan sausage roll. I have to say I was not expecting to like it, but now if I am hungry, and in a hurry, it will probably be my go to ‘on the run’ snack. The first time ever I have liked something in Greggs!
I have just had the most glorious few days away in Spain.
A great trip with the right combination of relaxation, exploring and cultural delights.
When we arrived my partner and I were both exhausted. We had worked or volunteered almost every day in the previous couple of months, so a break was needed. We gave ourselves permission to recuperate. This meant having a decent amount of resting time. This started on the first day fo our city break. We had breakfast and then went back to our room and back to bed for a few hours. We slept solidly, so must have needed it.
Our days were filled with visiting the local tourist sites and then sitting in a local park for the last part of each afternoon – refreshment and kindle in hand.
The evening food foray was probably the most stressful part of the day. Despite thoroughly search Trip Advisor, restaurants mentioned as being “vegetarian friendly” were not always so, and also the opening hours mentioned did not always tie up with reality.
The biggest thing that became apparent was that Spanish customer service is quite different to that in the UK. Staff attentiveness to customer needs was quite rare. One restaurant we went into we were greeted and seated, and then watched as the same member of staff washed the floor before handing us a menu or asking if we would like a drink. The arrival of another member of staff did not improve things. She merely washed the same floor as had been done when we arrived.
This lack of attentiveness was apparent is almost every establishment we went to. As for the young lady in the local supermarket we visited most days, she did not crack a smile once. She could give you a look of “how dare you interrupt me” as you stood patiently at the till. Her colleague on the bread counter was the complete opposite.
Finding vegetarian food was a bit of a challenge. Although there is a vast array of veggie friendly Spanish food it appeared to be difficult to track it down. Tapas menus would be lengthy but veggie options often almost impossible to find. We did find food and it was lovely. I guess I always think it is a shame that in a large city it is difficult to experience the vegetarian food that fills the cookbooks.
This is something I have experienced on many trips. I wonder if people visiting London find the same thing?
Another cultural difference was the size of the beer glasses. Used to ordering pints, we had to quickly get used to the smaller serving sizes. Not wanting to resort to going to the usual Irish Pub we persevered with the local bars. Not once de we find a pint glass, or anything near it. The locals seem very happy having small servings and having repeated trips to the bar. You could buy larger servings by going to the supermarket and buying cans or bottles there.
We were also intrigued by the fact that you could sit at the park and buy a beer at any time of the day. Perhaps these smaller servings of drinks breed a better respect for alcohol. The smaller servings did not just relate to alcohol. After a particularly warm walk I sat down looking forward to a refreshing orange juice. Imagine my surprise as my juice arrived in a small tumbler. Coffee also arrived in much smaller amounts than I am used to.
On the plus side the proliferation of coffee shops and the more relaxed lifestyle, meant that vey few people had take-away coffee and you rarely saw used cups in bins. In fact I saw very little plastic waste as we walked around the city. Where I live the increased number of coffee shops has led to an increase in waste.
I love to travel and experience different cultures. It does leave me wondering what visitors to England think of us. Is there anything they see that they would like to ee in their own countries? Or anything that they find more difficult when visiting?
May seems to have happened in the blink of an eye – it must have been all those bank holidays!
Zoom – this video conferencing software is transforming my life – giving me more time in the office and getting me out of the car.
Bagels – I had forgotten how good bagels are for lunch. Avocado, tomato and olive is my current favourite filling
The British Library – They have an interesting mix of exhibitions and information, plus an excellent small business support hub. Makes me wish I live in London so I could attend the seminars more easily.
Magnesium Supplement – transforming my sleep pattern and helping my recovery from a shoulder injury.
Do you ever go out to eat but feel let down by the portion size? Now I don’t want you to think I am a greedy person with ‘eyes bigger than my stomach’ (as my mother would say). Its just that sometimes the portion size of veggie food is so much less than that of the meat and fish options. It just leaves you feeling short changed. And hungry.
One of the first things you get asked by non vegetarians is ‘where do you get your protein from?’ Sometimes I sit in restaurants and ask myself the same question.
On a recent visit to Champneys one of the evening meal options was teryaki braised tofu. I thought this sounded wonderful as I love tofu. So I ordered it. The portion of tofu that turned up was miniscule. There was one small two inch strip of tofu on the top of some noodles. By contrast those that ordered the meat equivalent had 4-5 similar sized pieces of meat. They looked at my meal and all commented on the lack of main ingredient.
This isn’t the first time I have noticed this. Wagamama has done the same in the past. The tofu portion size has always been small in comparison to the meat equivalent. I am glad to report that this has improved with the latest menu.
A local Michelin starred restaurant I went to served up one duck egg in a jus with a baby leek as a vegetarian main. The meat eaters had two slices of meat, plus veg and potato.
But it isn’t necessarily about protein. Eating out one Sunday at a local gastro pub I ordered a main of pasta. My other half ordered their famous roast dinner, which cost £15 – only £3 more than pasta dish. The extra £3 made all the difference – the roast dinner had 3 times the amount of food. My pasta dish consisted literally of a plate of pasta. No side salad, or bread. And it wasn’t a big plate. I finished my dish quite quickly and watched my other half continue to wade through his pile of food. My pasta dish was about the size of the side of veg he had. And, apart from feeling hungry, I was left feeling slightly ripped off. £12 for a plate of pasta that probably cost £5 to make.
I don’t know why some restaurants seem to think that vegetarians have smaller appetites. I have not met one yet. Vegetarian food is much cheaper to buy so why charge the same for smaller portions size, and often less complex dishes. Is it a lack of understanding and thought or is it greed – of the money kind?
April – a month of holidays, warmer weather and a special party
Seville – My partner and I managed to escape the cooler weather and spent 6 nights in Seville. It is a lovely city, easily discoverable on foot (and lot of trams to get around on) plus great train links to other cities. We also managed a day trip to Cadiz by train. Eating out as a vegetarian was interesting but not overly difficult. The restaurants in the centre generally had a better vegetarian choice. The restaurants used by the locals were more limited, but did have better atmosphere. Our hotel also had an excellent environmental policy……
Dance In The Hurricane – I am a big fan of Toyah and have been since 1980. Her latest album, In The Court Of the Crimson Queen, is a great re-working of a previous album with some great new tracks added. Dance In The Hurricane is probably my favourite new track. It is deeply personal and poignant and brings back memories to me of my own family.
We celebrated my Aunt Meg’s 90th birthday, and I was put in charge of organising the cake for the party. To be honest I was a bit daunted by this. I love cake and am great at eating it, but cooking or ordering one was a whole new world for me. I also had to please both my sister and my aunt. No pressure then. Making it myself was an immediate no go. Time constraints and my inability to cook any cake that doesn’t come our brick-like were my biggest issues. But trying to find a cake maker who could do produce one was much more of a struggle than i expected. Apparently they get fully booked up months in advance. Luckily for me I found Putty Cakes, who produced the most amazing cake, beautifully decorated and conveniently located on the way to the party venue.