A Vegan in Central Europe: Thanksgiving in London! »
Visiting London over my Thanksgiving break was awesome thrice over: my cousin lives in London, so I got to spend a lovely Thanksgiving with family, despite the fact that I’ve been living 5,000+ miles away from home; I got to eat hella vegan food; and I saw items in the produce section of Whole Foods (!!!!) that I honestly forgot existed—Prague grocery stores carry tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and potatoes; kale? fuhgeddaboudit. Japanese eggplant? nowai. Fresh herbs if you’re lucky. While I have a shitty camera, and didn’t keep it with me the whole time, I still managed to take some photos of the damned good food I ate.
For Thanksgiving, I went to Manna with my cousin for the Thanksgiving special. For £27 per person, we got one of the yummiest dinners ever. It started off with a cranberry cordial aperitif, which my cousin and I fucking devoured the hell out of despite neither of us being cranberry fanatics. I was expecting it to taste like old grandma, but it was really refreshing and I downed it quicker than I should have, I’m sure. The first course was a pumpkin soup with rosemary spelt foccacia. I love pumpkin with rosemary, so I was a little let down when my bread ran out and the soup tasted bland in comparison. Then was the wilted spinach salad with walnuts and pomegranate in an apple-cider vinaigrette. Can I just say they know how to make salad dressing? I could have guzzled that shit by the gallon. I could have drained all of the blood from my body and replaced it with apple cider vinaigrette. I don’t know what they put in that other than apple cider vinegar and oil, but they know what the fuck they’re doing, lemme tell you what. The main course (pictured) was an herbed tempeh roast with wild mushroom gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed green beans, and stuffing. I, in general, fucking hate mushrooms. The mere fact that I ate everything on this plate, including the gravy, was a fucking feat in and of itself. Licked our damn plates clean, we did.
The last—and most impressive—course was the warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream. You can’t tell how delicious the ice cream is from here, but it should officially be renamed to “buttercream” flavor or something; they did NOT wimp out on the rich vanilla. I was so impressed with the texture I asked them what it was made out of, I was sure it was cashews. The manager/owner assured me that no, it was soy. SOY! Who knew?!?!?! She then gave me a sample of their truffles and petits fours ON THE HOUSE. Because we were chatting about the awesomeness of Booja Booja and she liked me, I guess. I got SO fat that night, and left the chocolate gift till breakfast the next morning.
I also had a chance to go to the posh and happenin’ Mildred’s restaurant in Soho. It was too hip and expensive for me, so naturally I pigged out shamelessly. By myself. In the midst of this bustling restaurant that reminded me a lot of Angelica Kitchen in NYC, without the wholesomeness. To the left, you’ll see my starter. It was grilled artichoke with crostini, some basil-soy dipping sauce, and a small green salad (it cost £5.50, not too bad for a starter). I think this was better than what I got for the main course, to be honest; maybe because in my opinion artichokes are the best vegetables of all time and goddamned it all to hell if the Czech Republic needs to get on that shit and zomg you must order this dish if you go to London. My second course (below) was basically this Middle Eastern creation with a harissa sauce on the side, a cupful of almond-scented couscous, and a chickpea-eggplant stew, served with some crispy-ass pita (£8.50 if I remember correctly). It was a real winner, but I think they put too much coriander in it or something.
Also on the list of amazing places to go in London is the pricey but delectable all-vegetarian Italian/Mediterranean restaurant Amico Bio. All I can say is that they really celebrate the vegetables they use, and don’t dress them up that much. It’s perfect. I started with a zuppa di fave secce e brocolli de rapa (£5.50), then had the seitan scallopini on a bed of the most delicious sauteed spinach I have ever had the pleasure of eating (£8), with a side of sauteed kale (could have left this one after all, for £2.80) and finished off with frittele de mele con salsa al ciocollato (£5). The last dish, the fried apple pastry, had the same aroma as every fried pastry that lures you in with its smell but you know isn’t vegan so you cry a lot, but they’re vegan here. GO. Also, go to Pho. I thought the pho I got from Loving Hut here in Prague was baller; clearly I was mistaken. The place is hella cheap, I think £7 for the tofu-mushroom—again, I managed the dish with the mushrooms, it was THAT GOOD.
Lastly, MAKE IT OUT TO THE GREENWICH MARKETS TO TRY SOME FUCKING VEGAN CUPCAKES. This is a picture of me devouring the hell out of a vegan chocolate chip cupcake I got from Ms. Cupcake (£2 each and I bought four). It was one of three that I ate; my cousin was the lucky recipient of the fourth. I ate the Ferrero Rocher-style cupcake as well as a banana cream one, in addition to the chocolate chip one here. I don’t wanna toot my own horn, but I make some fucking amazing cupcakes, and Ms Cupcake here makes them better than me. I know, impossible, right?! BUT SHE IS THAT GOOD. GO HERE PLEASE GET FAT FOR ME. Also, Ms. Cupcake, if you’re reading this, can you move to NYC or LA for me pretty please?!
My last suggestion: if you should find yourself in Camden Town, which you will, go to Inspiral Lounge. I went there and ate some HELLA amazing lavender ice cream AND had a pint of beer with it. They also have free internet for you to use, and even a computer if you’re a weary traveler like yours truly.
Happy Thanksgiving from Manna in London! I had a chance to nosh on this delicious apple pie with a side of vanilla ice cream (though the ice cream was so rich and flavorful I think it’s more of a vanilla buttercream ice cream… positively the best scoop of my life!).
Megan Rascal takes Europe! Part the second: Epic guide to London! »
Previously in Megan Rascal Takes Europe!: I reviewed Mildreds, and it was the bomb*!
If you are ever stuck in Heathrow Airport terminal 3, go to Yo! Sushi—it’s my new favorite place. Totally retro-futuristic! There’s a conveyor belt and you grab food as it goes by! So future. Plus, good vegetable gyoza.
You know I love the vegan shoes, and a lot of great vegan shoe companies are based in England—I had to check one out! I decided on Bourgeois Bohème. H-E-double-hockey-sticks was it far away! It was kind of in the middle of nowhere; specifically, Hydrex House, Garden Road, Richmond. And not like on the strip: it was in an alley in the middle of some alleys.
My official ruling is that there’s no reason to go here. I know, sounds harsh, but it’s really just a showroom with the same stuff they have online. Plus, it’s a trek. If you REALLY need to try shoes on or hate ordering from the internet (freak), then it might be worth it. They did have great shoes though, like the Ingrid wedge that I scored. They are hot. I am hot in them. I’m also really into these gators! If any of you dudes can pull these off, you are the man and let’s adopt children together. (These may actually be a reason to go to the showroom because I can’t find them on their website.)
Next stop: Zilli Green! It has mixed reviews but I thought the food was off the hook. Vegan bangers and mash!
And check out this cheesecake I got for dessert!
Unfortunately the service was wack, and there was this weird guy sitting outside at a table by us who kept telling women, “I’m looking for a wife!” Like I said though, the food was great. My pal Lizzy got the couscous burger; I tried it and it was super yummy. I was disappointed with the barley soup I had as a starter (I’m all about the three-course lunch deals everywhere in Europe!) but overall, great.
After that, I headed to the Secret Society of Vegans! They have a store, Vx that’s adorbs for real. And it’s centrally located by the über metro stop, King’s Cross, where you also catch the Eurostar trains. Definitely worth a visit! They don’t have a good shoe selection like I was hoping, but they do have hella T-shirts with their own designs. Their logo is so dope! I got the logo T-shirt because it rules. They sell Cheezly and stuff like that, and have baked treats, but I have to warn you against the profiteroles, which were really grainy.
Besides the store, Vx has a lounge downstairs with free wifi and all kinds of coffee, which might save your life considering the Brits aren’t that great with the soy milk. It’d be a good place to get work done if you have to. It’s not a cafe, just a sunny room with nice big chairs.
For my last night in London, my cousin who lives there (he’s a genius!) and I went to the much-recommended Manna. It was everything people said and more! The food was so great and the server was super-nice and friendly. We even met Robin Swallow, one of the chefs and owners, because my cousin is not as shy as me and was like, “let’s meet this amazing chef!” Sigh, so bold. She was so very very nice, and she loves bloggers! She actually gave me 10 percent off the meal! People love doing stuff for me.
I got the corn fritters as a starter—BANGING. My cousin got the living pad thai (“living” as in “raw”). He was ‘bout it; said the sauce was excellent.
Normally I try to get something exciting for you guys, but for some reason I just really wanted the spaghetti and “meatfree balls.” Pals, it was a good choice. Delicious!
My cousin got the chef’s special which was pretty awesome. That night it was a red bean gumbo over rice with corn bread and a bunch of other stuff. It was kind of the sheezy.
For dessert, I got the banoffe trifle, which was banana and chocolate cake with custard, etc. It was all right. I didn’t love it but I think I just don’t like trifles. My cousin got the mixed berry shortcake, which was so good! It was the biscuit-y type cake, a real-deal shortcake. That’s my word.
Another thing I found in London is my new favorite beer: Freedom Lager. It’s totally vegan! It says so on the back! Huzzah! I got it at Zilli Green and Manna. There’s always room for beer!
Finally, I want to give a big shout out to those special family members who are so accommodating of our veganism. I actually have two cousins in London—twin cousins! I was staying with the other one (also a genius!) and his family and it was super. One night they made me vegan lasagna, the next night they made this dope pumpkin soup—I have to get the recipe (don’t worry, I’ll share!). Because they were so nice, I made my little cousins vegan pancakes the morning before I left! I used this recipe but we didn’t have any soy milk. I decided to just use water and see what happened. I added vanilla and it turned out pretty great! The girls were skeptical but then totally liked them. Here’s little Sophia.
That’s all folks! There’s your vegan guide to London! Live it up, bitches.
*I’m bringing it back! Quién es la bomba? Yo soy la bomba!