Jackson and Rye, London

  

I’m off to the Arctic for the next four weeks, which means that my partner and I won’t see each other for a very long time. We took the day off work today (Friday) and set out to do some tourist London exploration, because I realised that I never, ever big up my home town enough.

I reckon that’s because the vegan food offerings here just aren’t very good. Why not? The centre of London has a dearth of places that serve vegan breakfasts. Vegetarian food offerings are awesome, but if you have allergies or have cut out animal items from your diet totally, London is not the best place for you.

That said, I live here, so make do I must. Tibits is great for some vegan food, Inspiral is super, and unintentionally vegan ethnic offerings are plentiful. But it’s no New York (hello vegan Chinese) or LA (they have a vegan CHEESE SHOP). And this continues to make me sad.

So we took the day off work and this took us to Jackson and Rye because I was determined not to go to Hospital Club AGAIN (my fail safe brunch location). It sucks for vegans. And for anyone with allergies. But it’s glorious inside, and their country style potatoes with caramelised onions may well be one of the most delicious thins I’ve eaten this week.

I literally have a plate of avocado and some green juice, but hey, the tiling is nice and they have a bottle of Tabasco, so life’s not all bad.

And if you’ve got a meat eater in your life, I imagine they would be a huge fan.

Herbivore: where skinheads and hippies join hands and eat pancakes

“Sitting in the booth next to me is a tattooed man. He is a skinhead. He has a male partner who is looking enviously at the vegan gluten free lasagne that the waitress has just placed in front of him. 

We are sitting in a vegan restaurant, called herbivore. In front of him sits a half drunk spirulina infused pineapple juice. When he talks he has a Yorkshire accent. “I’m from Chesterfield,” he says. We momentarily reminisce about the leaning spire of Chesterfield (google it). He looks hard -tough knuckles kind of hard – and like the sort of man I used to avoid in Sheffield City centre on a Friday night.


Folks, this is San Francisco, where men with tough morals and tough fists eat vegan.”

I wrote this almost a year ago, when I visited San Francisco for the first time. Now I’m back, and I’ve dragged Sam to the Berkeley branch of the same restaurant.

The breakfast menu is staggeringly good for this area, and the price is great compared to other vegan restaurant places we’ve visited. This is my fourth visit to Herbivore, and each time I’m torn between trail mix choc chip pancakes, salsa and corn cakes, the breakfast burrito, or sausage, biscuits and gravy.

Luckily, this time I have an ally, so we split the corn cakes and pancakes, and to alleviate the guilt, get a green juice too.

As ever, it’s perfect. Vegan sour cream, creamy avocado, crunchy corn cakes and piquant tomato salsa. Amazing.

I always forget how little I like pancakes for breakfast, but feel compelled to order them in the U.S. Regardless. These are fine, but I hate having such a sweet, stodgy start to the day. And this day I’ve been up since 4.30am trying to meet a deadline for my book proposal. So my fingers are hungry at the very least.

So here’s to vegan breakfasteries, and the pleasure of shared breakfast meetings. 




Seed: vegan po’boys and beignets, N’awlins style

Waiting for the streetcar

Waiting for the streetcar

“Garden based, Nola taste.” The tagline of Seed in New Orleans suggested that this restaurant was exactly what I was after: I craved vegan food, but I wanted to sample the true flavours of the south too. In short, I wanted a po’boy.

Although I turned up at Seed knowing exactly what I wanted to order (Tofu po’boy), I’d just been to Mothers with Sam so he could get his very own New Orleans traditional po’boy too. I’ve never eaten meat in my life, but watching him demolish his “Ferdi Special” with roast ham, beef, and jus to dunk, made me think nothing could be a match for that sandwich.

I toyed with getting a salad, or tofu “fried chicken” bites, or even a soup. But I knew I would cave, and order the po’boy; something my gluten sensitive insides would hate me for heretoafter. Our servers were both young and “hip” looking, and I saw next to a lady who lived and worked in New Orleans but who had never visited before. She order a two small starters, and then took half of each to go. Not sure why she bothered.

Pineapple ginger burst

Pineapple ginger burst

The clientele was a mix of (young) ladies who lunch, business people, and one cheerful family with two young kids who were demolishing the plates of vegan beignets (wise).

I ordered the pineapple, almond butter, ginger and almond milk smoothie which tasted decadent and like having a pudding for start. Usually I’d opt for something healthier like a green goddess or something the colour of indigo, but I’m glad I had a “cake” drink because it was totally delicious, if a little bland.

The po’boy was hands down the largest sandwich I have ever seen in my entire life. Seriously. It was the length and breadth of my forearm, and crammed full of deep fried tofu pieces that tasted a little like cake. The sandwich came with lettuce, vegan mayo, and tomato, but I asked for extra avocado. There was a cauliflower pickle salad side which I upended into the sandwich.

I couldn’t fit it in my mouth, so I basically gnawed on the bread for a little while, hoping to make an inroad somewhere. Inevitably the entire contents of the sandwich spilled out over plate/table/leg/cleavage, so I covered my face in a napkin and just went for it.

IMG_4449The lady from New Orleans next to me was laughing, but she only finished half a starter so I don’t care.

Although I’d never eaten tofu like this, and I was having an enormous po’boy sandwich, it was ever so slightly bland. I feel as the restaurant held back with seasoning – both the ginger in the smoothie, and the mayo on the sandwich. It needed something else, like a sharp mustard, or a heavier garlic mayo. I added siracha which made it taste delicious, but turned it into a banh mi rather than a po’boy.

We ordered beignets to go, and several hours later (I am still stuffed from the po’boy), have polished them off, licking icing sugar off our fingers and chewing happily upon having found this excellent vegan beignet: my first doughnut in three years.

The smell of the South

London in March fits the stereotype most people have of England. It’s cold in the morning, hot at lunch, and possiy snowing by the afternoon. Let me tell you, choosing what to wear is damn annoying.

Coming to New Orleans just reminds me how much I love the heat, especially in cooler times of the year like March and April. I love the smell of the hot ground after a rain fall, the smell of Cyprus trees and pine, the warm, dusty scent of the roads and grass verges that have been sprayed with a sprinkler. 

These are smells you never get in London. I love my city, the cool climate, the people (yes, even the people!), the food, the art, the Thames, the bars. But I love waking up and stepping out onto a wooden porch in the morning, usually before 6am because of jetlag, and watching the star-clad sky roll back, to be replaced with a grapefruit coloured sunrise. 

Bare feet on splintered, dusty wood, sticky warmth, smell of sweet leaves and fresh air; it’s not London, that’s for sure. 

  

After prosecco and salad for dinner, our plan for the morning was a hearty breakfast. We’d watched Man V Food the night before, in preparation for a New Orleans eating odyssey. Sam had crawfish boils, catfish, po’boys and jambalaya on his list. I had grits. No matter.

We were on our way to Mothers to pick up a breakfast po’boy, when we passed Betsy’s pancake house. Not on our list whatsoever, but I’m a huge fan of unpretentious food done well, and one that’s heaving at 7am surely gets my vote.

  

Sam ordered pancakes and bacon, I ordered a side of grits, and we both had steaming mugs of black filter, served by a beaming middle aged lady with ribbons in her hair.

Not traditional southern food (really), and terrible for vegans (no soy milk) but we got the cheerful, happy, feeling of finding a great breakfast spot where we could ponder over our day plans and drink lots of coffee. It was fantastically cheap too- ten bucks for everything. But then, after London, everything is.