Alfred Prasad’s tasting menu at Sani Gourmet festival, Greece

The night started off as any other night as a vegan. With low sighs and frustration as I leafed through the delicious sounding tasting menu. Everything said it was coated with yoghurt, meat, or other non-vegan miscellany. So I asked the waitress behind me if it would be possible to order a salad from another restaurant on the resort while the press group I was travelling with tucked into to a sensory, delicious eating experience.

But she looked shocked at the suggestion. A second later a waiter came over and told me that Prasad and his team would make a vegan friendly menu for me, so I could enjoy everything. I was so bowled over by this generosity (considering how crazy the kitchen must be) that I must have just beamed. I had loved Atul Kochar’s Benares and I was excited to experience Prasad’s cooking too. Michelin star Indian cooking is just so interesting and exciting – it’s almost as good as a big bowl of curry and naan.

Each course was staggeringly good, and here, in pictures, is why you should go and eat at one of Prasad’s restaurants. It was exceptional. I want to thank his team for making me something spectacular that I could enjoy as much as my colleagues.

To start

Chickpea and tamarind

Chickpea and tamarind

This chickpea pate (almost) tasted like a swish version of Bhel Poori balls. Sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, wheat strains, and puffed bread, it was the most exceptional dish of the evening. It burst with flavour, and went from sweet, to sour, to bitter, to sweet again in seconds. An absolute joy to eat.

Next

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Sorry for the BLUR

While everyone else got a broth of mussels and a scallop (which smelled fragrant and delicious), I was served a spiced fruit salad (almost like a chaat) served with a potato cake. On the potato cake (which was gently spiced), there was a spread of pepper relish which lifted the potato. The only strange thing? Such a salad worked well with the mango that was in it – I don’t think I’m ready for spiced strawberries and potatoes.

Next

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While everyone else was eating something different (probs more fish), I was served a Greek classic – with an Indian twist. A softly baked tomato served with Indian spiced couscous and a circle of pickled red onion. It was warming and delicious, and I appreciated it very much, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the first chickpea course. MAN.

Palate cleanser

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This divided the table – a tamarind granita. I’m tired of gushing, but this was a grower. It was like a salty lassi – on first sip you’re not sure it’s really what you want. But the coldness cut through any strange salty undertones, went to a sweet granita and finished with fresh mint. It was the best palate cleanser I have ever had, hands down. I could probably have drunk an entire mugful, it was that good.

Main

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Butter Chicken is the classic Indian dish. And I think I got something better. Soft, fluffy rice topped with an incredible tomato vegetable sauce. How can I describe this without salivating? Impossible. The vegetables were cut and cooked to perfection and the sauce they were cooked in was rich and decadently spiced. But the highlight of the main? The tiny pot of coconut curry sauce which, if I’d been alone, I would have licked out to make sure none was wasted.

Dessert

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Dessert is a tough one to replicate for vegans with just 2 minutes notice, so I’ll forgive the kitchen for not going to town with this one. I got two scoops of sorbet – one, a beautiful, creamy mango, and the other, a tangy and quite harsh pomegranate. But, happily, they were decorated with shards of raspberry tuile which were TO DIE FOR.

Alfred Prasad, I salute you and your team. You made my week. Thank you for accommodating such a tricky eater. It was all wonderful. And to anyone else who fancies checking out this talented chef, he plans to open his own London eatery soon.

DISCLAIMER: I was on a press trip to Sani Resort, where the event was held, but my views on my blog are my own. 

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A whole bunch of wraps: Athens, Greece

Wraps make the world go round don’t they? There are very good stuffs that can’t be improved by putting it a wrap; similarly there are few cuisines who haven’t adopted some kind of wrap as a national dish.

Off the top of my head- South India has the dosa, Mexico has burritos, Lebanon has hummus wrap, China has hoisin duck, and Greece? Well Greece has souvlaki and gyros- meat that’s put into a wrap and basically smothered with all things Greek. Fresh tomatoes, red onion, tzatdsiki, olives – and if you order souvlaki – some rather limp chips.

From my vantage point on the 1st floor of Quick Wrap, I could see the bar below where the chefs were throwing ingredients together to make wraps. Greek ingredients are like the brother to a vegan’s sister, but mainstream Greek cuisine barely offers vegetarian food other than the moussaka or the Greek salad. Vegan food, unless you crave wet, pale chips, or huge platefuls of roast vegetables (which can be insanely good), is thin on the ground. Which is why it’s a shame that even with all this plentiful food- zingy red onions and plump tomatoes, they can’t even offer a vegan option.

So I made my own. I ordered a massive salad of tomato and rocket doused in lemon juice and salt, a portion of pitta and a bowl of olives. Then I whacked them all in the pitta pocket and liberally poured green olive oil over the bread pouches.

Washed down with a can of diet coke, this meal was just so simple, and so fabulous – as any meal is in a country where fresh vegetables and fruity olive oil are in vast supply.

This place, this Quick Wrap, was probably just like Chilangos or Chipotle in London, but the place highlighted to me how vegan’s here have to dig a bit deeper to find the treasure.

Oh, and put it in a wrap. That helps.

How not to be bitter: Venetia, Athens

Few coeliac vegans are lucky enough to be with a partner who is also burdened by similar afflictions. At best your other half or group of friends could be vegetarian which might make a trip to Athens easy for them.

“Oo halloumi!” They might say. Or, if you’re my carnivorous partner: “Yay, souvlaki, I’ll take extra pork please!”

Yum.

But especially on holiday, the last thing you want be is burdensome, so I bet most of you try to be understanding to your friend’s needs. I find this especially when we get to a menu where the only thing I can see to eat is the side salad. Meanwhile everybody else is reacting with delight over the pigeon stuffed with rosemary or whatever.

Cue five concerned faces turning towards me. “Is this ok for you?”

If I answer no the response will be politeness at best, and at worst, a ruined evening. “Oh yeh, man that menu looks great.”

As expected, everyone cheers up and you plan out your second dinner from what’s left in your fridge door as you chew morosely on the lettuce like a cow cuds grass.

So I fully expected that in Venetia, a local neighbourhood italian near our airbnb apartment in Plaka. It had had just started to rain and we were tired after walking around all day.

“Looks fine,” I said, not even looking at the menu.

And it was! More than fine. There were at least four things I could have eaten on the menu and that’s without alterations.

It was incredible and, compared to central London where I live and work, wonderfully, amazingly cheap. Bread came as per – a chewy brown slice with the most wonderful green, fragrant olive oil I’ve had in a long time. We ordered a half carafe of wine, a big plate of grilled mixed vegetables, salted little roast potatoes and some sausage orzo pasta risotto dish.

Venetia is a place to go if your friends are bored of eating vegan for you and you just want to eat in a friendly, none healthy, macrobiotic place. Much as I love vegan restaurants I feel guilty indulging because I’m not “living life” or whatever the kooky slogans can be.

But here the atmosphere (and the light fittings shaped like cutlery) is great, the hubbub of noise and the fug of cigarette smoke, and the wonderfully friendly service would see me back again tomorrow. That and the mixer vegetable grill with parsley, olive oil and a balsamic glaze – heavenly.

Vegan in Athens, Greece @Avocado

In the land of souvlaki, gyros, and BBQ-ed meat, I hadn’t expected to be able to eat anything. At the airport I was contemplating buying the entirety of WH Smith’s stock of hummus.

But 24 hours later I’m demolishing the largest burger I’ve ever eaten, and it’s totally vegan. Sam’s making his way through a cauldron of Goan soup: “This is perfect for this weather- it’s so warming.”

Contrary to popular belief, Greece is cold. I hadn’t expected Athens in March to be colder than London, and certainly not as raining,

So finding this gem of a cafe on Happy Cow (my vegan restaurant bible) was a delightful surprise. There’s enough food to sit and plough our way through for a good hour while the drizzle stops, and the menu is as extensive as any vegan restaurant in London.

I ordered the avocado burger without cheese (it’s a veggie restaurant) and out came a mountain of fresh red onion, an inch thick lentil burger, a cm of avocado, a fair mound of potato chippings, chipotle sauce, lettuce and tomatoes. I’m in heaven.

The fresh orange juice is just as good as expected from a city where oranges grow on trees along the pavements.

Service is great and the staff speak perfect English. The ambience is very much bare wood and chilled, Bob Marley style music. But it’s the menu, the vegan chocolate tart, the quiche, the salads, and the amazing sound smoothies – cocoa and almond milk anyone – that would have me back in a shot.