V Rev Diner

This post has been a long time coming and I feel super bad about not doing this review sooner. But I was waiting until they moved into their shiny new premises. Well, today was the day. Today V Rev Vegan Diner opened the doors at their new home on Edge Street.

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I was so happy that opening day fell on my day off and I made sure I was there just a half hour after they opened. I couldn’t believe it when I saw how rammed the place was by the time I got there. We managed to get a table in the back of the restaurant and as we were waiting for a friend to join us, we had a good look at the new place.

Oh my gosh, it’s so pretty. Sadly, I couldn’t get tons of photos because it was sooo busy and I didn’t want to get in the way of the staff on such a stressful day, but the place is looking so cool. The decor is light and bright, the walls are covered in some really amazing artwork, the bar area is super smooth with it’s soft serve ice cream machine and bloody rotating glass cake cabinet! God, I wish it wasn’t so busy so I could take all the photos, but keep an eye on V Revs Twitter feed and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Now, before ordering there was something really important I had to do. I had to get my big, fat queer arse onto one of their toilet seats. Why? Not because I particularly needed to pee but because I’d heard all about their new gender neutral and accessible toilets. Of course I had to force a little bit of wee out of me to celebrate the occasion.

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Oh yeah! Toilets I can pee in without having to worry about how safe or comfortable I am. Awesome. This is really important to me and I’m so happy to see V Rev getting on board with this. I have a list of safe places I know to pee at in Manchester City Centre, sadly I can count them on one hand, but yay for this cool vegan joint being one of those places. Also was happy to see that the accessible toilet was actually accessible. So thumbs up for that too!

And, can I just point out these vegan condom and tampon machines outside the toilets?

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I want to live in these toilets, can I live here pls?

Anyway, back to what y’all care most about. THE FOOD.

Ok, so I could pretend that I ordered a shitload of food from the menu to take one for the team because I’m such a nice guy and I wanted to spread the word. But basically, I’m a greedy bastard and I love all the junk foods so I ordered a shitload from the menu BECAUSE I CAN AND I WILL. I don’t care who judges me. It was effing tasty and it being good blogging material was just a beautiful plus in the situation.

So, what did I have? Well, I started off light and got myself a Cookies n Cream Milkshake (£4.25)

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Jesus Effing Christ. The old V Rev standard has been beat. This beauty must be twice the size of what I’m used to and it was uh-mazing. The main bulk of the milkshake was this rich, creamy, cookie delightfulness but I loved the soft serve ice cream it was topped with. It was super tasty and it made me a very happy human.

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After I’d had half of that beast, I ordered the savoury. I ordered a lot and I don’t regret a single thing. Let’s tackle this one dish at a time

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Let me introduce you to the Macaroni & Michele’s High School Reunion. Yeah, that’s right. It’s a burger with fricking mac n cheese in it, basically my dream burger. This was awesome, a homemade beef patty topped with mac n cheese, pickles and a chipotle cola bbq sauce in a pretzel bun. It’s one of the pricer burgers at £8.25 but it was huge, the photo doesn’t really show how much of a beast this burger was. I really enjoyed it and scoffed half the damn thing before remembering everything else on the table. I have the other half leftover for later and I can’t bloody wait to reunite with it.

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V Rev has a bunch of Loaded Fries combinations on the menu and I couldn’t resist these Buffalo Ranch Fries. Oh yeah. These were frigging ace. Tasty fries! V Rev finally does fries! Topped with cheese, bacon, ranch dressing, buffalo sauce and chives. Get in my fat face. These were bloody great. I could eat these constantly and it was hard not to lick all the melted cheese and sauce off the paper at the end.

I was with my partner Jake and a friend, so I also got to try their loaded fries. The picture on the left is the Vietnamese style and the other is the Mexican variety. The loaded fries range from £3.25 – £4.25 and the portion is pretty big. The Buffalo were indulgent but I also loved the Vietnamese ones a lot.

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CHICK’N N GODDAMN WAFFLES! FINALLY! YESS! These crispy chick’n pieces are coated in buttermilk and fried and covered in blueberry syrup. The sweet, savoury combo is a little strange but I still loved them. It would be great to see these come with a nice American style sausage gravy in the future just because it’s a personal favourite of mine. These were really great. They are a little pricey at £8.95 but totally worth it, where the hell else can you get this? Nowhere.

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I shared these with Jake and he out classed me and ate them with his bare hands.

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These tasty little morsels were one of my favourite things. I recommend getting a side of these delicious fried pickles when you eat here. They’re £3.45 so not too pricey and they come with a generous amount of that delicious range dressing that covered my buffalo fries. I want fried pickles for breakfast every morning now. I would eat them like cereal, but drowned in ranch instead of soy milk.

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All of the above was definitely more than enough savoury food….but there’s a Lobster Sarnie on the menu. I cannot say no to that. I only managed to eat a measly third of this, I have the rest packaged up for later, but it was pretty good. Not overly fishy but it reminded me of my chickpea tuna style sandwich I make at home. It is £6.95 which is quite expensive for a sandwich but it was stuffed with the filling, there was loads. I guess it’s also not a typical cheap sandwich filling either.

I didn’t eat these, but they got great reviews from Jake and my friend. The burger on the left is the Guac to the Future Chick’n Burger and then we have the Go Ahead Mac My Day Hotdog. I’m definitely coming back for these, they will see the inside of my belly for sure.

So for those of you who haven’t heard, V Rev Diner is also home to a new in house bakery Tender Vegan Bakery. There was lots on offer today; Cinnamon Sugar Donuts, Brownies, Cookie Sandwiches, Gluten Free Caramel Cake and Cherry Cheesecake. Well, I couldn’t just have one pud could I?

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Of course I went for the cheesecake. I always have to have cheesecake. This was pretty good, I’ll be honest and say it’s not the best vegan cheesecake I’ve had but it is really tasty. I am spoilt when it comes to good cheesecake when I go to Berlin so often, so I do have ridiculous standards. I found the base a little bit too thick and hard, when I tried to break pieces off with my fork it crumbled everywhere and I like to have a bit of everything with each bite. The actually cheese part was pretty good and I loved the cherry topping and overall it was a top pud.

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I couldn’t fit this doughnut in, so I took it home with me and just had my first bite. Oh godddd. It’s a proper good doughnut this. It’s deep fried which automatically makes it a winner. Beautifully fried and golden and the sugar cinnamon glaze is incredible. This beats Co-ops strawberry doughnuts for sure, sorry Co-op, you’ve been beat. I need more of these in my life.

So, that is everything that I ate. I’m now collapsed on my bed, a bloated but very happy and satisfied mess of a person. I like to think i left the place looking like one of their pieces of art…

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I decided before visiting today that I would not be reviewing the service. It was their very first day, they have more than doubled their team of staff, it was the first time a lot of them had worked together while the place was open, there was a new till system, a new much more complex menu etc and it just didn’t feel right to judge service in these circumstances.

There were a few teething problems for them today which they have kept everyone up to date with on social media…they’re stars like that. I spent a good few hours stuffing myself there and I really felt for the team when they encountered some of these problems. BUT I just wanted to say how wonderful they all were. Today must have been super duper stressful and they still managed to be friendly, polite and helpful with everyone. I mean, I cry a lot at work and regularly have panic attacks, admittedly more than most…but they kept their shit together and I really admire that. If any of y’all are reading this, honestly, well done for today. You did good. More than good.

I loved my experience at V Rev Diner and I’m so excited that this is happening here in Manchester. This is the kind of place we really need around here.

V Rev Diner is open every day of the week 11am-11pm and one thing I haven’t mentioned here is alcohol. They have a vast selection of beers, wines and creamy vegan cocktails for you all to try. I’m hoping to get myself down there one evening soon to try out some of these drinks. It all sounds wonderful.

V Rev can be found at 20-26 Edge Street in the Northern Quarter in Manchester

Check out their Twitter, Facebook and Website for their menu, more info and some drool worthy photos. And for goodness sake just get yourselves down there to try this food. It’s amazing!

New Finds & Banoffee Crumble

I might be skipping out on Vegan Mofo this year but I didn’t want to skip out on posting this month altogether. I don’t want to update too much on me because things haven’t changed much since my last post. I’m bored of the same old horrible stuff going through my head, I don’t want to torture any of you by writing it all down.

But, I am happy to torture you by gloating about a few new products I’ve come across over the past month or so. I was super excited to hear that Oatly Creme Fraiche has made it over here to the UK. I’ve wanted to experience the wonders of Creme Fraiche ever since I laughed my way through this South Park episode:

 

Less exciting is that this product is only available in Tesco at the moment. I hate Tesco, they’re not a company I like to support and I’m lucky to be in a position to avoid the likes of them and Asda. But I sold out because…La La La La…Creme Fraiche…I’m hoping that it will be available in some more independent stores soon.

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This stuff is pretty good, I’ve used it instead of sour creme in burritos, added some to my mashed potato along with a little wholegrain mustard and I topped a delicious crumble with a little of this mixed with icing sugar and vanilla extract. That was my favourite way to eat it, sweet and tangy.

My second exciting discovery was that Wing Yip are now selling tins of vegan coconut based condensed milk. They’re also doing coconut evaporated milk, which I’ve yet to use. Does anyone know the difference between the two? Can they be used interchangeably? This is another thing I never really had before I went vegan.

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As soon as I got my hands on this I could only think of one thing. Caramel.

So I decided to combine the two into one sweet tasty pudding. The results were excellent.

Banoffee Crumble

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Ingredients

For the crumble topping:

  • 120g plain flour
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 1 handful of almonds, chopped (optional)
  • 60g soya marg

For the caramel:

  • 25g soya marg
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 200g coconut condensed milk

 

  • 4 bananas, sliced
  • Oatly Creme Fraiche
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

 

Method:

  1. Firstly preheat the oven to 180C before making the crumble topping. Mix together the flour, sugar and chopped nuts if using.  Rub in the marg until you have a crumb like texture. Set aside
  2. Make the caramel by melting the soya marg, stirring in the brown sugar until it has melted. Add the condensed milk and bring to the boil for 3-4 minutes before setting aside.
  3. Put the sliced bananas in a baking dish, pour over the caramel and finish it off with the crumble topping.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes
  5. While it’s baking, mix together the creme fraiche, icing sugar and vanilla
  6. Spoon the cooked crumble into bowls, top with the creme fraiche and enjoy

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Frraaaiiiicccheeee

Fuck. Yeah.

Hope all my blogger friends are having a good Mofo, can’t wait to join you all next year.

The Pasta Factory

Somewhere pretty special has opened in Manchester City Centre. Finally we have an authentic Italian restaurant that makes fresh pasta on site and there are vegan options to choose from.

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As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a good friend visiting from London recently who wanted to try out all the vegan offerings in Manchester. I suggested booking a table at The Pasta Factory as it was one of the only places I haven’t tried yet. As we had arrived a little early for our booking, we got a chance to see what was on offer at their deli. I was amazed to see many fresh pastas labelled vegan, but also home made vegan cheeses too! It all looked great.

It didn’t take long for us to get to our table, I was surprised how small the restaurant is inside as it looks much bigger from the outside. Although it was really busy (you definitely need to book), it had a lovely atmosphere and the staff were incredibly friendly and helpful. As we asked for the vegan menu, I think we got a bit of special attention. A member of staff ran through everything on the vegan menu, highlighting a few ingredient changes as well as running through what was available from the deli and what could be veganised from the general menu. We were also told that all of the wines were suitable for vegans, I don’t drink but this is good news for those who do!

As we’d spotted the home made cheese on the counter, we asked if it was possible to have a main dish that used it. Due to the cheese not suiting the pastas we were ordering they were unable to do this, but they were really kind and offered to let us try some free of charge. They also promised to bring us some of their home made parmesan to sprinkle on our dishes.

Our samples of their home made cheese arrived before our mains. We even got some of their crackers to try with it.

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Oh my gosh, this cheese was so tasty. It had a nice delicate salty flavour and crumbled in my mouth. I was really impressed that a non vegan restaurant had gone to this much effort. I’m definitely planning on popping in again just to buy some of this!

Not long after our mains arrived. I had a spelt pasta with sunblushed tomatoes and olives.

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This was really, really good. It was refreshing to have a pasta dish that wasn’t just a basic tomato sauce and now I finally realise how much nicer fresh pasta is to dry. It’s like a completely different experience. I sprinkled on the parmesan pretty liberally, it was so good.

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Jake got a stuffed ravioli

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And my friend ordered a spelt pasta with thinly sliced vegetables. I had a bite of this, I can’t remember what the dish was but I remember thinking it was really really delicious.

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I was pretty full after the main course but I was desperate to try out the desserts. I’d heard about the chocolate ravioli and the panna cotta. My friend and I decided to have a choc ravioli each and share a panna cotta.

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Oh lordy.

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The Panna Cotta was my favourite. It was coconut based with with a berry coulis on top. It was firmer than any Panna Cotta’s I’ve tried but it was really tasty. It has a very coconutty taste but I think this worked well with the fruit.

The Chocolate Ravioli was really interesting. It was a cocoa pasta, filled with figs and then served with coconut cream and topped with extra coconut. I did really enjoy this but it was a bit too much coconut for my liking. I enjoyed the cream sauce with it though, so maybe a soya or cashew cream would work well instead? The fig was nice but the coconut overpowered it a lot…and of course I’d always be up for a little extra chocolate sauce drizzled on top…I’m a chocolate fiend. We did feed this back to our server as he was asking at each course what we thought and he suggested ditching the coconut, so maybe this dish will be slightly different when I next visit?

Overall I was really impressed with the desserts, they were super imaginative and different to anything I’ve had before.

The whole meal was really, really delicious. I had a lovely time at The Pasta Factory. The dishes aren’t cheap (around £12 for a pasta dish, desserts were £6 each iirc) but the quality and care put into each dish makes it worth every penny. Plus the service was great.

The best thing is how open they are to feedback from the vegan community. I’ve seen them regularly engaging with Manchester vegans on social groups and I feel like they’re working really hard to not just to accommodate us, but to put really good vegan food on the menu. I’m hoping that as they’re experimenting with making their own cheeses that we might see some creamy based pasta dishes appear on their vegan menu. That would be perfect.

If you’re in Manchester and after some authentic Italian food then definitely check out The Pasta Factory. It’s open Tuesday – Sunday from 12pm and is just around the corner from Shudehill bus station.

Tasty Vegan Food on the Move!

Manchester is a really exciting place for vegan food these days, it feels like vegan options are popping up all over the place, so I was thrilled to hear that a 100% vegan food truck has settled in Salford.

The Cowherds lunch wagon provides Salford with a variety of fresh, healthy and wholesome food Monday to Friday between 8am and 2pm. Located at Greengate Square, Cowherds is within pretty easy reach of Manchester City Centre, which is very handy for me!

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Before heading over I did check out the menu on their website, I wasn’t sure how I’d find it as a big thing they do is juices. I’m really not into this juicing lark so I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t find much appeal in the food. I’m pleased to say that I was very wrong, I had nothing to be worried about. Yes, there were some raw salads but reading the description they actually sounded pretty delicious. I was tempted to try the Sushi Bowl but unfortunately due to cold weather they only had their hot dish on offer; Coconut Dal with brown rice and kale. I never say no to Dal.

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This was so delicious, I loved the sweetness of the coconut in the dal and particularly liked the chilli, sesame and coriander topping, it gave the dish a nice kick. As I started chowing down I was really glad of the option for hot food because it was freezing outside.

Jake decided to go for a smaller dish, simple but delicious Avocado on toast. He said it was yummy, as it was a smaller dish I decided not to take a bite but I trust him on this one. Interestingly it was topped with mustard seeds, I’ve never tried that before but it sounds good.

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When visiting places it usually becomes pretty obvious that I’m a blogger, especially as I’ve just invested in a fancy camera, so I got chatting to the folk who run Cowherds. We were offered free shots of ginger and were then brought over a board of sweet treats. It was very kind of them, of course I declined the ginger shot (although Jake enjoyed his) but I was all over the sweet board.

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The board contained caramel slice and some truffle type balls. These were all really tasty but I particularly fell in love with the caramel slice. It was so sweet that I couldn’t eat a huge amount but was a perfect end to a fantastic lunch.

I really enjoyed my time at Cowherds and I’m looking forward to returning when the weather is a bit warmer to try some of their salads. Having had another look through their website, I notice that they also sell fresh nut milks…I may not be into juices but the fresh milks sound really good..definitely need to get my hands on those!

If you’re in the area during the week, head over to Cowherds and give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Festive Dinner at Teatime Collective

I’ve been deeply ashamed for a long time now that I haven’t yet reviewed the lovely Teatime Collective on my blog. It’s the best place to go for burgers, sandwiches and ice cream in Manchester and it’s only a 10 minute cycle from my house. It’s one of my favourite places to be. Oh and it’s now 100% vegan!

During the day, Teatime is a cafe and ice cream parlour. The menu consists of a decent range of breakfasts, sandwiches, burgers and some tasty daily specials. My favourites are The Big Cheesy burger, The Crunchy Cajun Chick’n baguette and pretty much all of the ever changing cake and ice cream flavours. There is also a kids menu and the cafe is located right next to Hulme park, so it’s super family friendly.

The cafe and kitchen itself are teeny tiny with only a few seats available, but just alongside it is a shipping container with enough seats for around 15-20 people. Don’t be alarmed by the idea of shipping container, it’s nicely decorated inside and there’s a heater inside which keeps it toasty in the winter. During the warmer months there is also outside seating, I love hanging out at Teatime in the summer, it’s really chilled out.

But, Teatime isn’t just a cafe, they do a lot of catering so can be spotted at festivals and vegan fairs. I’ve called on them to cater a work Christmas Party and recommended to friends in dire need of birthday cakes at short notice. When my friend had that awful afternoon tea experience at Richmond Tea Rooms for her baby shower back in May, Teatime was there to put on the most amazing spread for us, despite the fact that they had never done an afternoon tea before. I was amazed.

Just look at that. Beautiful.

Teatime don’t open in the evenings but they do offer an evening set menu for groups of 8+ for special occasions. My favourite time of year to organise a group get together is Christmas and dates go quick, so I’m usually first in line to book up an evening there. I’ve not posted anything festive on here yet so I thought a review of my Teatime Christmas meal is in order.

The Christmas Menu this year was

Starters

Salt and Pepper Tofu

Charred Baby Gem Lettuce
with Potato Gnocchi, Artichokes, Pea Puree and Mustard Dressing

Cheese and Walnut Ravioli 
with Leek Sauce

Mains

Christmas Dinner
Chicken and Butterbean Pot Pie or Beef Wellington. Roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, pigs in blankets, stuffing, greens and gravy

Seitan Steak
with mushroom and chestnut ragu, hazelnut mash and cabbage

Mushroom Bolognese stuffed Conchiglioni
baked in garlic cream and topped with cheese

Desserts

Sticky Toffee Pudding
topped with honeycomb and served with vanilla ice cream
Chocolate and Hazelnut Torte
with truffles and hazelnut ice cream
Strawberry Shortbread
strawberry sorbet with shortbread, brioche, meringue, strawberry jelly and white chocolate truffle
2 courses for £16 or 3 courses for £20
This menu is a bargain and the portions are huge. They can also be adapted if you give enough notice, I have a friend who doesn’t really like fake meats or cheeses, so she just had a vegetable and butterbean pot pie.
It was a hard choice but I went for the following
Salt and Pepper Tofu
Christmas Dinner with the Pot Pie
Sticky Toffee Pudding
…and Strawberry Shortbread to take away! Don’t judge me!!
All four choices were flipping delicious. I loved the tofu and the sticky toffee pudding especially and it was amazing to have vegan meringue. I was absolutely stuffed by the time the meal was over. The portions are huge!
I’ve had the seitan steak, the wellington and the chocolate torte in previous years and they’re all really good as well. I also managed to have a bite of my partners ravioli this time round and it was so delicious, I would have had starter envy but I really really loved that tofu.
The other bonus for those who drink is that you can bring your own booze and there’s no corkage charge. I don’t drink but my friends do and it’s always nice that they can bring some wine to share round.
If you’re based in Manchester and haven’t been…what’s wrong with you?! If you’re not from round these parts then bloody well plan a visit and add Teatime Collective to your top places to visit. The food is great and prices are super reasonable. Don’t miss out!

Richmond Tea Rooms – Manchester

A friend of mine is having a baby shower in May and really wanted to find somewhere in Manchester that did a decent vegetarian and vegan afternoon tea. There is the Tea Hive in Chorlton that is known to have a vegan offering, but as my friend and many of her guests (including myself) work in Chorlton, she wanted to try and have it elsewhere. I searched a few vegan pages on Facebook and came across a suggestion for the Richmond Tea Rooms in Manchester’s Gay Village. I looked it up and it sounded great, so forwarded the suggestion on to my friend. She got in touch with them by email and it was confirmed that they could do both a vegetarian and vegan afternoon tea, and with notice could include vegan cakes as well. Great! My friend wanted to do a trial run, so emailed to ask if we could check it out 4-5 weeks later, and was told that it would be fine.

A few days before the trial, my friend got in touch to remind them and ask if the vegan option would still be available to try, a reply came a day or so later to confirm that it would be fine and there was no need for us to book. Awesome! My friend, her best friend and I met up today to give it a try. As soon as I saw my friend she looked a little concerned, the tea rooms had got in touch just as she set off to say that they’d had a busy weekend so were out of vegan cake, but a new batch were in the oven and they were looking forward to seeing us. My friend emailed back to ask if they needed more time to get ready as we’d be there within the hour, but no reply. We turned up at 2.15pm and asked if the vegan cakes were ready. The staff member we spoke to went to the kitchen to check and came back to say that they weren’t yet in the oven so it would be hours until they were ready. We were a little confused as we’d been told they were already in the oven, we mentioned this but the look on his face gave away that this really hadn’t been the case. He suggested we give them a few hours and hoped we didn’t mind warm cake as they most likely wouldn’t be cooled in time.

A little annoying but as we all work in retail we understood that sometimes weekends can be a nightmare and small businesses can only do their best. We decided to go watch a film at the cinema, which would give them almost 3 hours to have everything ready.

We got back to Richmond Tea Rooms at 5pm and we were starving! We’d been saving ourselves to eat at 2pm, so you can imagine how hungry we were by the time we returned. We asked about the vegan cakes and were told they’d just come out of the oven (how long does it take to bake and cool a few cakes?), so they could accommodate us. We were seated quickly and given a menu to choose from. We took the time before ordering to take in the decor at this place. It’s awesome. It’s Alice in Wonderland themed, it’s OTT, it is really really cool. We all loved the look of the place and really wanted to have a good experience so we could come back with 20 people in May. I was also excited to blog about a vegan afternoon tea option, it would be my first proper afternoon tea experience too.

We ordered 2 vegan Queen’s Tea and 1 vegetarian version. This would consist of ‘selection of cakes and delights. Finger sandwiches and savoury pastry. Homemade fruit scone served with clotted cream and fruit preserve. Pot of tea of your choice’. The server studied the description before telling us that there was only one vegan cake, so we would get more than one slice of it to make up for the lack of variety. We accepted but were a bit confused as the email had mentioned ‘cakes’ and the wait seemed a bit excessive for just one cake. Oh well. We got served our teas quickly but soon had our server return to say that they didn’t have much in the way of sandwich fillings, they asked if roasted veg, hummus and sundried tomatoes would be okay. We said that would be great, it’s a pretty common vegan sandwich filling but for a non vegan place, an acceptable offering.

It wasn’t long before our server returned again to inform us that the pastry chef had not been in today, so there were no vegan scones. He said that instead we could have a meringue with fruit inside it. ‘A vegan meringue?’ I asked. ‘Yes’. ‘Without egg???’ I replied. ‘Yes’. My friend said ‘okay, as long as it’s definitely vegan’. I was feeling really awkward and uncomfortable at this point. There’s no way they make vegan meringue, I explained to my friends just how difficult it is to make and how rare it is to find a vegan version. We decided to wait and see. So we waited. And waited. We waited for a really really long time. Over an hour infact. We watched all the tables who came in long after us get served and finish their afternoon tea. It was painful. We were ravenous. Our tea got cold.

Whilst I was in great company and it was fun to imagine the staff in the kitchen googling ‘vegan meringue’ and shitting themselves, it was impossible to relax or enjoy the atmosphere because we were anxious about what we were going to receive and how long it was going to take. Not long before it arrived, one of us went over to speak to another member of staff to check on the meringue situation and remind them of how long we had been waiting. They were shocked that we had been offered meringue and confirmed that they did not make a vegan version, they also apologised for the wait and said the supervisor who had been the email contact would come over soon to chat to us. We also got a new pot of tea each to replace the ones that had gone cold.

Our food came over. We noticed immediately that there was no meringue and breathed a sigh of relief. I noticed 2 cake options though, which concerned me as we’d been told when we ordered that there was only one. We asked if they were all vegan and got told that yes, everything was vegan. Here’s our vegan tea for 2.

The bottom tier was salad, oatcakes, hummus and then the hummus, roasted veg and tomato sandwiches. Tier two was 2 massive slabs of chocolate cake. The top tier was 2 more massive slabs of some kind of apple, fruit cake thing and some raspberry biscuits. When the server first described the tiers to us he called the chocolate cake a vegan cake but didn’t do the same with the other cake option or biscuits on the top tier. He did describe them as vegan when we asked, but considering all the different things we had been told already that day, I was becoming really wary of the food.

I’d just like to show you the vegetarian option, as this was important to us. We didn’t want the veggie option to look superior to the vegan one at the baby shower.

It does though, doesn’t it? Our vegan option was not exactly as pretty or dainty as the vegetarian version. The cakes are iced here and there’s a nice savoury pastry included, jam and fruit preserve. We reasoned that our tea would look better compared to the veggie one if we’d had the vegan scones, as we’d have got jam too. I also suggested that we could get hold of some vegan clotted cream and ask the team rooms to dish it out for the vegan options on the big day. At this point, despite being really disappointed we were desperate to make this work for the baby shower because we loved the look of the place so much.

We started off with the sandwiches and oatcakes, the sandwiches were nice but oatcakes…meh, they’re oatcakes, nothing special. I then picked up my massive slab of chocolate cake (I was waiting for the supervisor before I dared to touch the other cake as I was doubting whether it was vegan). It was ridiculously heavy and looked incredibly dense. It was not cooked in the middle. The outside was overdone and chewy and the inside was like glue. It pretty much stuck my mouth together. I was hungry so persevered but eventually gave up as it was so unpleasant.

At this point the supervisor came over to chat to us. She apologised for the wait before telling us that she had no idea we were coming today and that they’d not had enough notice to get a good vegan option together for us. My friend pointed out that she had emailed 3 days ago and that the supervisor had responded twice, including once this morning. We were then told that she hadn’t received the emails she had replied to, and that perhaps someone else had emailed my friend back. My friend explained our frustrations, that we had come in twice today, gone and spent money at the cinema to buy them more time, come back and waited over an hour for food, had been offered vegan meringues and that the chocolate cake was undercooked. The supervisor responded by saying she thought we were coming in May and then said that she was due to go home an hour ago so she didn’t really have time to sort it out right now. My friend responded that we should have been home over 3 hours ago and that we really were not happy. The supervisor asked us if we could wait a little while so she could resolve the issue.

We waited for about 20 minutes. She went back and forth between an office in the back and the drinks bar where she was asking the other staff loudly and obviously ‘exactly what time did they turn up?’. Just a tip for customer service here, don’t make it obvious to the customer that you think they’re bullshitting, it’s just bloody rude. Honestly, what kind of customer service training does this place give out?

When the supervisor returned she owned up to receiving the emails and responding to them…so was clearly lying to us the first time round. She then went into a lengthy explanation about the weekend and how busy they were and how they’d lost two pastry chefs so had an agency replacing them. She assured us that for the baby shower they would make all these improvements and it would run smoothly and were told that we could have 50% off our bill as if it were a favour. We hadn’t even finished our afternoon tea at this point. My friend responded by saying that the baby shower would definitely not be happening there as the way we had been treated was just not acceptable and she didn’t want the stress, she then added that we shouldn’t be paying at all, especially since we had spent 5 hours trying to get afternoon tea! We’d spent 3 hours at the cinema, which cost us £25 to do so, and along with the wait for the food and the wait to get the whole mess resolved, we’d spent 2 hours at the tea rooms. We were told that a supervisor could not give us more than 50% off so we would have to wait again while she contacted the owners.

Jesus Christ, how much waiting did we have to do? We just wanted to leave by this point, we’d expected to be home hours ago and had pretty much wasted the whole day. This time we didn’t have to wait long before the supervisor soon came back to say there would be no charge. Her return was so quick that I doubt she even contacted the owners at all. We left the remainder of the tea and went to leave.

One last slap in the face was noticing the supervisor bitching about us as we were leaving. Nice touch.

I am so gutted by how awful this experience was, I will never go back to Richmond Tea Rooms. Not only was the customer service awful, but I doubt how vegan the vegan option really was, especially after all the lies and misinformation. It is so frustrating as a customer to have complaints met with outrageous lies and then to have the blame placed on you. I have worked in retail for all of my working life and whilst I don’t believe that ‘the customer is always right’, I expect a decent level of customer service and expect my complaints to be met with some level of understanding and respect. We got none of this from Richmond Tea Rooms. I would have been so much happier if the supervisor had held her hands up, admitted she messed up and apologised. We didn’t need a long explanation full of reasons for why it had happened, we just wanted it sorted. And I cannot believe we were expected to pay for any of it after all those shenanigans, we’d left more than half of it on the table anyway.

So that’s my experience of Richmond Tea Rooms. Anyone know of any decent vegan afternoon tea options in Manchester? My friend hasn’t had an easy pregancy so far and really deserves a special day with zero stress! Suggestions in the comments please!

Nak’d Bars from Natural Balance Foods

A few weeks ago I got another one of my favourite kind of emails. That’s right, another exciting sample request! I was super happy that Natural Balance Foods wanted me to sample a selection of their cereal bars as I’ve been a fan of Nak’d Bars since I first went vegan.

Nak’d bars are generally my main snack of choice. They’re perfect to take when I’m travelling, they’re accessible (I can always find them if I end up in town longer than expected and hunger strikes) and they’re an affordable, easy snack in my everyday life. I’m pretty organised but sometimes there are days where I struggle to get myself ready for work in good time, I’m hungry and don’t even have time to get some toast on. I am always incredibly thankful when I remember the battered (but still delicious) emergency bar at the bottom of my bag. Nak’d has saved me a LOT of times.

So I’m sure you can imagine my excitement when my box of goodies arrived!

When I opened the box, I saw a lot of my old favourites, but also some new flavours that I was looking forward to trying. Here is my selection

I have no will power, so I went straight for the new and exciting flavours. The one I was most excited about was the Bakewell Tart, though I did have my reservations, how could fruit and nuts ever taste similar to all that pastry, marzipan, jam and icing? It was love at first bite, I cannot believe how much this tastes like a real bakewell tart! It was awesome.

The next bar on my hit list was the Rhubarb and Custard, I’d heard great things about this one and was really excited, unfortunately I think this is a bit of an acquired taste. I really wasn’t keen, but I gave the rest to my partner and he loved it.

After trying a few new flavours I started on some of the older classics. I love the Cocoa Mint and Cocoa Orange, they’re my favourite chocolate flavour combinations and they work really well. They’re very sweet but I like sweet so it works well for me

The Ginger Bread, Pecan Pie and Cashew Cookie are also pretty good, I like the flavours but I guess when it comes to snacking it’s chocolate that appeals to me most!

I was super impressed with the Cocoa Delight, but even more impressed with the Berry Delight. I loved how big the flavour was in this bar. I love fruit when it’s sharp and tangy and this bar gets it just right.

The last flavour on my list was the Caffe Mocha. I do not like coffee at all, not even when it has chocolate in but I can take one for the team. I had a bite of this, it’s a very strong coffee flavour, so I guess for coffee lovers this would be perfect! I saved the rest for a friend at work who is in love with this flavour. For me, it just reminded me that I definitely don’t like coffee, which I guess in terms of it tasting like it’s supposed to, is a good thing!

Overall, I really love the Nak’d range from Natural Balance Foods. There’s so much variety that I’m sure there’s at least one flavour for everyone and they’re just really handy snacks to carry around. They may look small, but they’re so packed full healthy fruits and nuts that they have the power to keep even my raging hunger at bay.

If you haven’t tried these cereal bars, where have you been?! Go out and find your favourite flavour!