Santa Monica Blues: Real Food Daily

You know those moods you get into when nothing goes well? And even though you’re obviously having the time of your life being in Santa Monica (etc etc), even if somebody from Penguin rocked up and offered you a book contract you’d manage a grimace at best?

Well that was my mood in Santa Monica. Apart from being disastrously difficult to reach by public transport (despite the 704), a woman who had clearly never had a shower sat down in front of me and I couldn’t physically move. While I was trying not to retch (the smell was indescribable) I ran through twenty million things like: this woman has been victimised by the US’s terrible social security system; it’s disgusting that there are no benefits; she might have had a catastrophic medical bill to pay; depression can make even keeping clean challenging. But despite my liberal attempts at justifying this lady’s state, I couldn’t ignore two things: there are free showers down by the beach, and that I would be on a bus with her for an hour. It was tough, but even admitting that felt hard. My one hour of hardship was nothing compared to her life, so I shouldn’t ever complain.

Second strike: We rocked up at a hotel in Santa Monica that I thought I’d organised through a PR for the one free night of my trip, but turns out I was an idiot and hadn’t confirmed it. So we were on the road sooner than we had planned to be.

And here’s where my foul mood started: even though we went to Real Food Daily, I couldn’t shift the black cloud of irritation. So, now we’ve put the meal into perspective, let me give as balanced opinion as I can of the meal.

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1. It didn’t open until 11am. What is with late opening times in LA? It’s not like anything even shuts late…

2. I ordered the veggie burger with all the trimmings (seiten bacon, cashew cheese, and avocado). At 13 dollars this should be included anyway. It pushed the price up to 16 dollars which was a lot.

3. The plate was accompanied by a caeser salad with crouton chunks. These could probably be donated to the local geological society under “lumps of lava”. They were inedibably hard – I was concerned that if I ate more than one chunk I’d be returning to the UK with no teeth. Not ideal.

4. The seiten bacon and cashew cheese were absolutely delicious, and the lentil burger was ok. The best thing about the whole plate? The tangy and creamy caeser salad dressing.

5. No wifi. Do not come here if you need to arrange urgent road trip preparations or book hotels. (From painful experience).

6. The service was amazing. Our server was lovely and cheerful and friendly.

7. The bakery part of RFD looked like something out of this world. Amazing. I only wish I’d had room after the burger to try something, like a slice of pie or slab of chocolate cake. Sigh.

It didn’t manage to turn my bad mood around, but it did fill a sizeable hole in my stomach. And the server was fab – did I mention that?

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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.