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.

Mohawk Bend, Silverlake, LA: the best vegan brunch ever

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I am cynical, disgusting person filled with negativity and cloud. Now we’ve put me into perspective, let me just rave for five minutes on how incredible and bowled over I am by Mohawk Bend in LA.

We rocked up on the Saturday of Easter Weekend and were the first ones there. No matter: we got excellent and quick service from an absolutely lovely waitress and we were lead through to sit in the vast space at the back of the restaurant. Mohawk Bend used to be an old movie theatre and the ceiling is vault-like, the brick work is exposed, and the cocktail area is intimate, just as it should be.

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And I know I keep mentioning it, but here’s another difference between London and LA. In London, all the vegan places are like Cafe Gratitude: they pump out great food but it’s all very worthy. This menu was heavy and full of sugars and fast (yay!), and there was an actual bar that served drinks and cocktails. It stays open until 2am. In London, it’s presumed that all vegans are in bed by 7. And this is what I love about LA. Although a lot of people are omnivores eating vegan isn’t seen as eating weird: it’s just something that you do. Vegan food is experimental (it has to be to work out how to get all the awesome flavours that animal products normally impart) and the “vegan group” of people aren’t seen as weirdos here. It really is paradise.

What made me warm to Mohawk Bend all the more is that on IMG_4741its menu things were only marked if they were not vegan. So non-vegans could have bacon if they wanted, but by default, pretty much everything on the brunch menu was vegan. I mean, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS FUCKERY?

I opted for french toast (because I haven’t eaten french toast in three years) which came with a side of sticky peanut syrup and fresh strawberries. I knew the strawberries were superfluous, the server knew they were superfluous, hell, even the strawberries were like “Why am I even on this goddamn plate?”. Yet there they were, trying to convince me that I wasn’t a fat pig as I channelled the moistest, gooiest, stickiest, french toast in the world towards my mouth.

Add a pint of pink grapefruit juice to that, and we’re all set for a day trawling LA’s art galleries. Bingo.

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.

Brunch sandwiches @Pickle and Rye, Mortlake, London

London was awash with sunshine again this weekend. It wasn’t warm – at one point I took my thick down jacket off and as soon as I walked into shadow had to put it on again. Brrr.

Saturday had been a catchup brunch with a friend I hadn’t seen for a long time – the afternoon was a walk around Soho to pick up some books and have a bite of Korean food. The evening was film night, which meant Sam got to choose what we watched on TV. He opted for the TV show full of fairy tales called Once upon a time; I made a tart and we hunkered down.

Sam spends most of the weekend rowing in West London, up near Richmond. I rarely head west – trains are unreliable and there’s not tonnes to do unless you like rowing, expensive coffee, or small children.┬áBut as I’ve never seen his rowing club house and it looked like a gorgeous day, we linked arms and went for a walk up the river from Barnes to Richmond, past Kew Gardens and around the protruding loop of Kew, past Mortlake and towards Richmond Lock.

In Mortlake Sam wanted to show me Pickle and Rye: he’d raved about this place for years. “You won’t be able to eat anything here,” he said, trying to drag me onwards. I shrugged. “No worries – you said these were the best sandwiches, let’s go on.”

He looked uncomfortable. He always feels bad if he knows I won’t be able to eat much, but I feel constantly guilty about how my stupid allergies have affected our eating habits as a couple. I’ve always been vegetarian, but the added on allergy extras? He didn’t ask for that.

Pickle and Rye is yummy mummy central, full of privileged kids asking for more buttermilk pancakes and the ilk. But they’re easy to ignore when they’ve got their chops full of french toast, so we sat down and perused the menu.

But our server was fabulous and happy, and she brought a ray of sunshine to our table. Juice and tea followed, and I opted for a club california, hold the feta cheese and basil mayo.

“You’re vegan?” Asked our server.

“Kinda.”

“Try the basil vinaigrette. It’s totally vegan and has the same kind of fragrant kick as the basil mayo does.”

“Sounds fabulous.”

My sandwich was toasted granary, with avocado, mustard cress, basil vinaigrette, tomato, and cucumber. It was zingy, fresh, and perfect for brunch.

Sam had the Cobb sandwich – lots of bacon and avocado. It set us up for the onwards walk to Richmond, and the great service and busy, bustling family atmosphere left a spring in our step.

We’ll know where to turn next time we find ourself in Mortlake.