Monday, 24 April 2017

Vegan in Beijing: Part I

My fascination with China started way back in 2009 when I read Peter Hessler's book River Town; from there I delved into all sorts of China related non-fiction from Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang to Liao Yiwu's The Corpse Walker and getting myself (and, more challengingly, Nick) to China became kind of an obsession. I couldn't wait to see everywhere I'd read about with my own eyes so as soon as we needed to choose somewhere to spend a month before heading to Australia I started to campaign pretty hard for China. As you can see I won! A month seemed about right for what I knew would be a challenging country and whilst we could have hit up a few more spots our itinerary was pretty perfect for us. Over time I've learnt that I like to travel slowly - I like to have the mental energy to digest my experiences as well as making sure that I have time for the odd chilled day.

Beijing was our first stop and I'm so glad that we decided to start there. Familiarising yourself with a new country in a city with good train and bus links is a smart plan and we were also able to give our China Mobile Hong Kong sim card a whirl to test that it worked before we ended up staying in places without wifi. I can't recommend that sim card enough, we got the data only package which works out at about £2 a day but being able to use Happy Cow on the go, whip out Google translate whenever we needed it, and to use Apple Maps and their surprisingly excellent transit info made everything so much easier than it would have been otherwise. If you're travelling to China via Hong Kong you can pick up one of these sim cards at the airport but if not you'll have to order it online. You wont be able to buy it in China!


Beijing has some iconic landmarks and Tiananmen Square was one of our very first stops.
We headed there on our first evening to watch the flag lowering ceremony and then we were there again the next day to check out the area in daylight. One thing that I hadn't realised about the square (and about China in general) is the high level of security you have to go through to get in there. Whenever you go onto the subway or into a train station anywhere in China you need to scan your bags through an airport style scanner and entering Tiananmen Square is no different. Local people need to show ID cards and everyone needs to get their bags scanned. I also received a bit of a pat down by security. Obviously this level of security means that there are lines and it would seem that certain entrances to the square will be closed, when we went there were only two open entrances so lines were long and you just kinda need to go with the flow but expect there to be a queue.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Green Kitchen

I was so stoked when I first heard about Green Kitchen, totally vegan cafes aren't the easiest to come by - most of Brighton's best brekkie spots are veggie with vegan leanings - but what makes this spot stand out even more is it's location. You'll find Green Kitchen just beyond Preston Circus on Preston Road which is a first for a veggie eatery let alone a completely vegan one. 


I visited on a Saturday morning and the place was busy with an eclectic clientele and a frankily mind boggling amount of Deliveroo orders which was only annoying due to the fact that the drivers kept leaving the front door wide open ruining the cosy atmosphere and letting in the chilly March air.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Mae Deli, London

I'd been contemplating a visit to Mae Deli for a while but when a reader from Taiwan got in touch to let me know that she'd love to see a review before her trip to London I headed there as soon as me and Randi could make our schedules line up. The Mae Deli is definitely a healthy spot and I was surprised to discover that it isn't entirely vegan or even vegetarian. I was under the impression that the whole Deliciously Ella brand was plant based but they serve chicken and fish at both Mae Deli locations. That being said they are sides and everything else was vegan when I visited. I was also under the impression that Ella was all about clean eating (insert rage emoji here) but the staff said that they try to avoid that term preferring to call the food honest and healthy which are two things that I can get behind; as someone with allergies it was so nice that the staff were able to tell me exactly what was in each dish as soon as I asked - that definitely doesn't happen everywhere!


Lunch and dinner are set up canteen style and you make your plate by choosing four of the options on display. The choices are all healthy fare ranging from veg dishes like Asian Broccoli and Bok Choy to leafy green salads, and from grain filled options like the Olive and Sundried Tomato Quinoa to the Courgette and Sweet Potato Stew that comes with brown rice.

Monday, 3 April 2017

LARDER

Larder is the most recent addition to Gardner Street's impressive roster of vegan and vegan friendly eateries. They went vegan for vegnuary and due to the popularity of the dishes decided to stay that way for good. SO COOL! 


I visited on a Saturday afternoon and they were steadily busy with all sorts of people, vegans and non vegans, looking to try out their plant based fare. I was waiting for a friend so I had a little time to peruse the menu before she arrived and I enjoyed a can of Cawston Press whilst I was waiting. The rhubarb is my favourite but cloudy apple comes a close second.


I'd basically decided on a toasted sandwich with avocado, beets, coriander, and red onion chutney when I realised that they had mac and cheese balls on the menu! I think I'd ignored the Mac and Peas balls assuming that I'd be allergic to the BBQ sauce (correct!) but as it comes on the side I was able to switch it for mayo.

Monday, 27 March 2017

The Coffee Counter

Having lived just one street away from The Coffee Counter's location for almost ten years I've seen a huge number of businesses open and close in this spot. The difference I can see here is that The Coffee Counter is warm, inviting, and moving with the times with their vegetarian and vegan menus so hopefully they'll be a permanent addition to the area.


The vegan menu is pretty substantial and offeres vegan versions of most of the things I'd be interested in eating on the meaty menu.


You get to choose your bread and I went with sourdough because it's the best bread. I also obviously ordered a reuben because it's the best sandwich.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Vegan in Brick Lane

I was meant to spend yesterday eating my way around Brick Lane with my buddy Jenny but an unfortunately timed sinusitis flare up combined with some suspiciously flu like symptoms meant that I decided to spend the day at home with a nasal spray and some sub par painkillers rather than risk flying to China whilst sick! Brick Lane is definitely one of my favourite places to hang out at the weekend, the vibe's pretty great, it's fun to scope out the market stalls, the vegan food options are plentiful, and there are lots of places to sit and chat.

One of my very favourite spots is new kid on the block Vida Bakery who recently opened a pop up on Cheshire Street. It seems to be going well for them so far if the amount of love I see directed their way on social media is anything to go by. The space itself is the perfect size with plenty of seating and it's seriously so cute inside.


As well as cupcakes Vida Bakery offer layer cakes, including (if you're there at the right time like I was!) freaking rainbow cake. RAINBOW CAKE! That's basically my dream cake.