Friday, 9 October 2009

Vegan Mofo: Eating Out.

I'm not burning out just yet- it may be Day 8 for the dedicated Vegan Mofo participants, but for me it's around Day 3!- but at the moment I'm working evenings and have little time during the day so I'm finding it tricky to make exciting recipes! I'm so jealous when I see all the wonderful photographs of beautiful and inspirational vegan food!
I do have time to write things though, and so I think as the month continues I will include more article-based blogs.

I've been considering the pros and cons of eating out for a while; is it better to eat at a dedicated vegetarian/ vegan restaurant, or to dine at a meat serving restaurant? I'm not suggesting that we turn up to Big Bill's Carvery and demand there to be a vegan option- but is mingling with meaties really making us more 'approachable'?
The Vegan Society have been working hard with Pizza Express to get a vegan pizza listed on the menu, for all to see. Vegan's in the know simply order a pizza from the menu and ask for the cheese to be removed (I suggest Campo di Fiori, with extra jalapenos). Maybe the option would appeal to dieters, those with allergies, and those whose stomachs turn at the smell of cheese.
I certainly enjoy my pizzas, and pasta at Italian restaurants, curries at my local takeaway, my bean curd in yellow bean sauce and extra cashews, with lightly spiced Singapore rice noodles. I also enjoy trying out all of the choices that are around for vegans in all the cities that I've been lucky enough to travel to. I love having a choice, a range of extensive dishes, and a choice of desserts! Hands up who orders a fruit salad whilst dining at a veggie restaurant with doughnuts and sticky toffee pudding on the menu!

I do admit, though, that I love the feeling of normality which comes with sitting alongside friends and family, ordering off the same menu, with no awkward 'what's vegan' conversations. I embrace restaurants who submit an online menu telling me exactly what's suitable, and reject those who ignore curious emails or reply with 'we can't confirm'. You have a kitchen, with chefs (trained, I presume) and you don't know what goes into the food that you serve? OK then.
I'm not saying that eating at veggie restaurants offers a smooth dining experience; I've been served what can only be described as a steaming plate of cheese before, and have asked if certain options are vegan (such as onion rings) and being replied with a helpful shrug and feeble, "yeah?". Thanks, thanks for that.

I think one of the best things about dining in vegan restaurants is the wine list. Knowledgeable V's next to certain bottles is reassuring. Yes, I am one of those vegans who blindingly orders wine. If I know that it's not vegan, then I won't order it (so, Hardy's, Jacobs Creek etc are off the list) but if I don't know, then I'll go ahead.
There's also the issue of where your money is going, and what you're supporting by spending your money in omnivorous restaurants. Is it better to spend your money supporting those who believe the same things as you, and are actively aware in where their food comes from (as well as all the other wonderful issues which many vegans and their cafes seem to be aware of; ethically sourced, fairtrade, organic ingredients) and where their money (and your money) is being spent. There's literally nothing nicer than spending time and money in an environment which is ethically sound and which dishes up wonderful food. Two places which come to mind are the Pogo Cafe (Hackney, London) and Infinity Foods Cafe (Brighton)- both have fed me some of the most memorable meals I've eaten, and where I've spent a relaxing few hours.

So which do you prefer; relaxing in the knowledge of a meat free (if not egg, milk and cheese free) kitchen, or the satisfaction of fitting in amongst other food choices? For me, as long as the kitchen dishes me up something delicious then I'm happy, but nothing beats the surprise and joy of discovering a new vegan eatery, or tucking into a dessert that I haven't baked myself!


  1. i'm all for dining at omni restaurants. in fact i'm appalled when i go into a restaurant and there's nothing on the menu that isn't obviously or easily veganised. I think in this day and age anyone, whether vegan or not, should be able to order a dish without meat or dairy in it. but it works the other way too. there's no point in vegans blindly patronising completely vegan restaurants where the service is shitty, the food unappetizing or the prices sky-high just because the menu is vegan. For me choice is so important. I chose to be vegan, and i choose where my money goes, and if it's to an omni restaurant that's making an effort and providing people with options then I'm happy. But i'm still not going to eat at burger king or macdonalds just because they have a 'veggie burger' on the menu. I have standards dammit! and a choice not to support those horrible companies!

  2. Good point re: certain food establishments offering a vegan option! I would certainly never 'dine' at KFC etc if they offered vegan chicken wings! Thankfully I think that I've been quite lucky, and most vegan places have been lovely. Though I keep returning to a chain of thai buffets in London whose reputation for hygiene, rats and mice, food contamination... is pretty much appalling...!

  3. I'm ok about eating at omni restos, but I feel safer omni places that specifically label a "vegetarian" section on their menu. This tells me they have more respect for our requirements and likely make a bit more of an effort to avoid cross contamination. I will not order a dish - like a veggie burger - if I know it's cooked a mere inch away from a beef burger. Your comment about the onion rings reminds me of so many painful conversations i've had with servers lol...."are your (onion rings) egg-free?"...."uh, yes"...."well are they cooked in the same oil as your chicken wings?"...."uh, no, well, sorta"..."Ok, great, thanks for that."

  4. Your right about eating at veggie labelled restaurants; if they dont even make it clear what dishes are vegetarian, it makes it a lot harder to veganize things. More questions and stock and sauces and things. My boyfriend is much better at asking if things can be made vegan. Often I'll just choose the simplest dish to make it easier!