Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Review: Old Dresser Cafe

Well, what can I say?  It has been the craziest of times lately - life has been turned upside down for us all.  Although I've not been blogging/Tweeting too much lately, I hope that you're okay and that you're staying safe and well.


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Literally, the weekend before lockdown we managed to squeeze in a meal at the Old Dresser Cafe in Bearwood, just across the Birmingham border, on the main Bearwood Road (by the primary school).

It's been on my radar for a while after hearing some positive plaudits, so I'm glad we had the opportunity to visit.


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Old Dresser Cafe upon first inspection looks and seems quintessentially English, with its name, chintzy object d'art and Union Jack imagery.  However, take a look at the menu and it has a heavy bias towards Polish cuisine with a little sprinkle of Mediterranean influence, so there is a little bit of mixed messaging happening.


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The restaurant is run by 2 Polish guys who are promoting their repertoire of Polish cuisine with a host of Polish spirits and beers if you fancy a change from a pint Carling or a glass of chardonnay.  MCH had Debowe (meaning oak) beer and I had a couple of glasses of quince flavoured vodka.

MCH had the 5 Course Special (£40) which was meat and fish laden.  He absolutely loved it, true home cooked style, good portion sizes and everything he exclaimed was delicious.


Vegetarian Bigos:   Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

I wished that they had the Polish stalwart Pierogi (filled dumplings) on the menu, but alas no.  However, they did have Vegetarian Bigos which I love having when I can.  Cabbage, sauerkraut and mushroom stew with a tart, sour hit to it.  Served with slices of homemade soda bread, hearty and filling.  Just a thought, it would've been good to see a couple more Polish vegetarian items on the menu so I could've had more to choose from.


Celebration Cake:  Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Both of us had a slice of Celebration Cake from the menu which was very moist, moussey, very much like a party/birthday cake, but it made for a 'just enough' lighter dessert option rather something too heavy.

It's a really nice little find and the guys put their heart and soul into the food and try to make it a home-from-home experience which makes it all the more endearing.

Obviously in these unprecedented times, visiting the restaurant for a sit down meal isn't possible, but I note that they are open for deliveries and takeaways.  If you feel like trying something different, then do give them a try and in turn you'll be supporting local community, business and economy.  Smacznego!  https://www.olddressercafe.co.uk/ 


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Note:  I paid for my food and drinks in full.  The venue did not know I was visiting or that I am a blogger or that I would be conducting a review/article.  








Sunday, 9 February 2020

Review: Bora Coffee - Shirley

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

'Saturday Night Fever' was booming out of the speakers as I walked into Bora Coffee  last year.  Not what you expect when you step out of the suburban hum-drum of the Stratford Road for a quick caffeine fix, but discotheque beats on a weekday afternoon are not to be sniffed at, it may not be a 1970's New York disco, but it is a mood booster - a pick me up.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The other pick me up is the coffee, which incidentally is very good.  With every sip you take you are supporting Bora Coffee's mission of promoting ethical African coffee.  As a social enterprise, not only do they re-invest some of their profits into The Zuri Project charity but they champion African farmers that are paid above Fairtrade and current market price for their coffee.    For every 250g bag of coffee sold in the cafe, they plant a coffee tree to support sustainable development projects in Uganda.   

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Food wise, the Light Bites menu leans towards veggie/vegan options, offers good value for money, and is spot on if you're in a hurry and just need a little something.  

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


The Hummus and Cucumber Bagel (toasted) for £2.60 endorses this.  Very nice.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Looking around, I realised that 'Saturday Night Fever' came courtesy of the record player in the corner that allows customers to DJ during their visit with vinyl a-plenty to choose from.  Tempted to unleash my inner Pete Tong, I was beaten to it by an immaculately dressed older man who had made a choice which was unfortunately somewhat dreary and polar opposite to the Bee Gees ditty I heard upon arrival.  He positioned himself right next to the stereo so there was no way I, or anyone else, could change it.  But not to worry. 

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


I love supporting local businesses and one with an ethical stance is a bonus.  I've been back a few times since the visit I've described above,  I enjoy it there and it's become a welcomed addition to Shirley's shopping hub.  

For my next visit I'll dig out some old Abba vinyl to take with me and I'll make sure I get that table by the stereo!


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Note:  I paid for my food and drinks in full.  The venue did not know I was visiting or that I am a blogger or that I would be conducting a review/article.  

















Sunday, 22 December 2019

Review: Pampushka London

Like there was any doubt that I wouldn't visit here, my DNA wouldn't have it any other way!  My opportunity came earlier this month when I had planned a day in London and Pampushka was earmarked where I'd be dining.




Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


Pampushka, in fact, is a Ukrainian word which is given to garlic bread rolls typically eaten with borscht (beetroot soup) but can also be a cheeky reference to someone who is plump!  I think the word has a cute ring to it and lends itself well as a restaurant name.



Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


It's currently in pop-up restaurant status up until March 2020 in rented space within The Sun & 13 Cantons Pub in Soho, London.  The owners Maks (from Odessa) and his English wife Elisha (front of house) with chef brother-in-law Rob, have created an east-meets-west vibe with Ukrainian hospitality in a typical London boozer and combining it all together,it all kind of works.   The tables are adorned with traditional black and red patterned tablecloths, a vision I've grown up with in my own family home, my Godmother's and in fact, in all Ukrainian homes I ever visited - it gives me a sense of warm familiarity.  For everyone else, I hope it gives a glimpse of Ukrainian homeliness. 


Photo: Word In Veg Ways



The menu has variety, but isn't over extensive, but gives the diner a true measure of Ukrainian food and is an excellent introduction if someone hasn't sampled it before.  Borscht, Holubtsi (stuffed cabbage rolls) and Kovbasky (traditional sausage) all make an appearance.  But the other main item no Ukrainian menu should be without is, Varenyky.  They have their own mini section within the menu.  Varenyky are filled dumpling parcels, a similar concept to Italian ravioli, but they are made from a slightly different type of dough.  Typical fillings you can have are potato & onion, mince etc.  However, Pampushka have created contemporary versions such as Truffle & Balsamic Savoy Cabbage and a pescatarian option of Mackerel, Beetroot & Horseradish.


Varenyky
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways



We both went for Varenyky.  I had a mixed portion of Truffle & Balsamic Savoy Cabbage and Potato, Caramelised Onion & Smoked Cheese.  MCH went for Mackerel, Beetroot & Horseradish and Blood Sausage & Stewed Apple.  They were served with little ramekins of sour cream, crispy onions and garlic dill oil.  As expected, nice and filling and tasted very authentic.


Ukrainian Baked Cheesecake
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways



For dessert, I had Ukrainian Baked Cheesecake with Maks' Mum's Jam and MCH had Spartak Cake (layered chocolate & cream cake).  We tried each other's desserts and we both thought that they were light without being too heavy and rich, so an ideal dessert option after carb-laden varenyky.


Spartak Cake
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways



It was filling up by the time we had finished our early dinner and there were numerous reservation plaques on the tables so it was clear that it has its own following and is popular amongst city dwellers.  Elisha said things were very promising and had gone well, so perhaps a standalone venue may be on the cards next year, here's hoping.  If so, it would be good to see more dishes on the menu with traditional beers and drinks on offer, as currently the drinks are obtained from the pub bar.  Personally, I'd love some Ukrainian background music too, some kozak, zabava tunes.  Memories of which for me go hand in hand with the patterned tablecloths.  Let's hope it all comes off for Maks & co and in the meantime, you've got until March to sample a little bit of Ukraine in the heart of London and as per their tagline ( будьmo xей)- 'let's be hey!'


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Note:  We paid for our food and drinks in full.  The venue did not know we were visiting or that I am a blogger or that I would be conducting a review/article.  

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Postcard from Vilnius - Lithuania

Sparing a few indulgent moments to think about 'this time last year....', memories come flooding back of preparing for our trip to Vilnius, Lithuania.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

We called Vilnius (Lithuania's capital), a 'Baltic Stratford Upon Avon' in the sense it replicated it with regards to size, population, history, busyness and mood.  It was one of those long weekend trips that 'worked' and all the logistics fell into place adding to our enjoyment.  

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The draw of going in December is the snowfall (if you're lucky), the opportunity to wear cosy knits and the Christmas market they have in the main square by the cathedral.  It is much, much smaller than the versions found in nearby neighbouring Germany for example, but still holds its own with a large decorated tree, booths with crafted goods for sale and the all important mulled wine on tap.


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Tourist attractions centre around Vilnius's history and religious stronghold with the cathedral, umpteen churches and the palace to see, with the more sombre attractions of the KGB Museum and Jewish Museum to visit that bring an understanding of city's challenges during the last century.

But let's talk food.  What is Lithuanian food?  I would say, very similar to Polish/Eastern European food, so we talking hearty portions, lots of stews, meat, potatoes etc.  There are vegetarian options in most places, but it isn't as prevalent or mainstream as it is in the UK.

Kvass
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Where it wasn't strongly featured, I created my own dishes from the side order section of the menu, choosing from items such as buckwheat with mushrooms, potatoes, beetroot salads etc.  Nicely washed down with a pint of kvass - a fermented drink made from rye popular in a lot of places within Eastern Europe and more refreshing than you might think.


Doughnuts at the Jewish Bakery
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

A large number of the restaurants in the old town are located within the maze of streets in tardis-style buildings, some of which have brick cl
ad interiors in underground cellars which is so different from  the UK.  The majority of restaurants are Lithuanian in style, although there are a few restaurants around the city offering different cuisine if you wish to find them.  We visited a very pleasant Georgian restaurant for instance and also a Jewish Bakery which was running a Hanukkah menu as our time there coincided with the festival so we had freshly made potato latkes and doughnuts.

The Cat Cafe
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The popularity of kitty cafe culture is also present in Vilnius with The Cat Cafe possessing a heavy footfall on one of the main central streets.  Assured of good cat welfare,  we absolutely couldn't resist a Cat-uchino coffee with a kitty cookie and equally, it is very easy to get carried away with purchasing the merchandise on the way out.  I was amazed how disciplined I was to only walk away with one fridge magnet.


Photo: Word In Veg Ways

I think tales from Baltic States of "50p a pint..." are antiquated so think UK prices, but perhaps a fraction cheaper and then you won't be disappointed.  It was truly a wonderful, festive inspired weekend away woven together with a smattering of cultural experience and good food.   I hope you too get the chance to go and if you do, then buy yourself a bottle of quince infused vodka from duty free on the way home.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Review: The Swan Inn Newland - Malvern

I'm going to be honest, when it comes to restaurants in semi rural areas, vegan-friendly isn't a phrase that instantly springs to mind.  Trendy areas in city suburbs yes, that's what I think of, but I've found that the further out you go, vegan-power isn't so strong.  But before anyone shoots me down, I'm generalising here of course, I'm just talking from experience.

However, bucking the trend in the district of Newland on the outskirts of Great Malvern in Worcestershire, is The Swan Inn.  


Malvern Hills View - The Swan Inn
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


When you pull into the car park, the Malvern Hills stare down at you offering stunning scenery, whilst the pub exterior on the other side beckons you in with its homely 'Darling Buds of May' vibe.  Cottage style, with lots of pot plants dotting the pathway to the red front door, you feel like you're visiting an old friend.

Inside, the bar area to the left has a retro feel to it with dark furniture and thick carpet.  Bric-a-brac to the hilt, I may have even spied a horse brass pinned to the wall.  To the right, we were led to the Garden Room which was their conservatory.  Dangly plants from the shelves and ceiling and mis-matched furniture dressed with ornaments, gave it a whimsical charm appeal.  My Mother enjoyed pointing things out in between a bit of indulgent people watching.


Vegan Menu

If we're going for lunch, we're going for lunch not sandwiches is my Mother's stance so we both opted for something hot to eat.  The vegan menu was bountiful and not what I expected, so a very pleasant surprise to see so many options.   I chose a hearty sounding Seitan Bourguignon, Horseradish Mash and Seasonal Vegetables.  You don't see seitan that often on menus so I jumped at the opportunity to have it.  Cooked well, nicely doused in gravy, it was supported by a subtly infused mash and chunky vegetables.  A homely style cooked meal, it was filling and tasty.  My Mother had Salmon with Stir Fried Vegetables which she enjoyed and also commented on the good sized portions, although she had a bit of food-envy when she saw my dish.


Honey & Bee Pollen Ice Cream
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The Swan Inn make their own ice cream on site and for £1.50 a scoop, you can sample their many flavours.  I opted for Honey & Bee Pollen and my Mother had Damson & Gin flavour.  Both absolutely delicious, they were an absolute bargain as a dessert/palette cleanser.


Damson & Gin Ice Cream
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


Leaving there full and content, I was pleased that this place was recommended to me.  I would definitely return as there were many other things on the menu to try.  The owners are very proud of their vegan array and rightly so, I feel they've put in more effort than some who claim their forte is vegan offerings, so bravo!  The fact that you get some stunning scenery thrown in for free, is a sheer bonus.


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Note:  We paid for our food and drinks in full.  The venue did not know we were visiting or that I am a blogger or that I would be conducting a review/article.  

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Review: The German Cafe

I don't know if I really want to share my little happy cafe with anyone, but then I feel it unfair if I keep it all to myself.


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


I'm talking about The German Cafe on the Stratford Road in Shirley, Solihull.  (By the BP Garage, next to the Driving Test Centre if you need to get your bearings).


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


Originally called Cafe Shirley, it soon became known locally as The German Cafe as customers made reference to its German owner Andrea and the German fare sold.  So the awning and menu cards were changed accordingly.


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


Its decor is a little nod to the continent, I'm even thinking Bavarian forest here, with a special homage to deer/stags with many (fake) ones on the walls and ornamental ones dotted around the cafe, all very cute, homely.


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


The menu is quite broad for a small cafe.  There are crowd-pleasing favourites on there such as jacket potatoes, paninis, sandwiches etc as well as German classics such as schnitzels. There are some items which can be 'veggie-fied' (such as Nurnberger Sausages with Mash & Sauerkraut that can replaced with veggie sausages) so that you still experience a bit of German 'essen'.  Now that Quorn have launched Bratwursts to their range, perhaps those will be incorporated?


Sauerkraut & Fried Potatoes
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


Traditional English breakfasts are one of the most popular selections from the menu, MCH holds the sausages in high regard and always comments that they're of good quality.  Vegetarian and vegan versions are available, but again with a Germanic twist, you can opt for dark pumpernickel rye bread instead of toast.   Vegans are catered for with a standalone section on the menu including soup, burger and breakfast.  In addition, my Mum is a big fan of their Lentil Soup which is like a meal in itself.


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways



Little things like friendly, helpful staff and the fact that the cappucinos are served properly and have full frothy, foamy heads, make a big difference.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


Any friends we take here love it and we love the fact that something so cosy is so local and that in turn we're supporting an independent business.  

So yes, I am happy to share it with you.


~~~
Note:  For all my visits, I/we paid for my/our food and drinks in full.  The venue did not know I/we were visiting or that I am a blogger or that I would be conducting a review/article.  







Monday, 19 August 2019

Review: Honey & Smoke (Honey & Co)

Take a little walk down Warren Street and its surrounding roads in London; and as well as noticing a Bagpuss windowed emporium featuring a 'We Love Pat Butcher' bust in the window (much LOLs),  but you'll also see a number of Itamar Srulovich's enterprises prefixed with 'Honey & .....'.


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


Itamar's CV boasts years of experience from chef work in Tel Aviv to working at the hailed Ottolenghi's and now he has his own restaurants and food businesses serving Middle Eastern food supported by a plethora of plaudits from customers.

You have the original of Itamar's restaurants on Warren Street, Honey & Co with Honey & Spice a few doors down which is a Middle Eastern deli/food shop.

Photo: Word In Veg Ways


Round the corner on Great Portland Street you have Honey & Smoke which has the same kind of offering as Honey & Co but with more of a grill menu and is perhaps a little bigger in size.


Photo:  Word In Veg Ways


So that's where we went a couple of months ago after a long day of sightseeing.

We'd got there early, pre-5pm, walking through the small reception area filled with cook books and store cupboard items for sale.  We came to the tabled area where there were only a couple of other people dining, but our welcome was warm and our waiter was exceptionally jovial and ready with the banter.

Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Tempted by the £32.50 Seasonal Sharing Menu, we liked the idea of the mezze starter selection so that we could sample a wide range of dishes without committing to particular ones.  This price also included a main course from the Grill menu.


Mezze
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

The mezze starters were amazing!  We couldn't get enough them.  Each dish served in small, typical mezze bowls, it was all replenish-able so we could keep eating our favourite items.  The items listed in the link above, slightly differ to the ones we had, but are in the same vain.  Our waiter was very helpful in describing each dish and making recommendations.  He was also excellent in ensuring that my chilli allergy was observed and asked the kitchen to modify a few of the items so that I could enjoy them.  With the whole mezze menu being vegetarian, it was a delight to be able to experience everything.


Aubergine & Burnt Yolk with Tahini
Photo:  Word In Veg Ways

Trouble is, we were fearful that our over indulgence with the mezze would affect our appetite for the main course.  We were getting full truth be told, but ensured we still had room.  I opted for the Aubergine & Burnt Yolk with Tahini.  It was hearty and char cooked giving it a smokey taste but with multi-textured layers.  Delicious as it was, having tasted the variety within the mezze, in some ways I wish I would've had them the other way round so I could get the cornucopia of flavours at the end via the mezze but in no way did it affect my enjoyment of the meal.

We really enjoyed our visit and by the time we finished and were ready to go, the restaurant was filling up and the atmosphere building.

A great standard of food which is changed seasonally, superb for those who frequent the restaurant regularly keeping the menu fresh.  If you like places such as Ottolenghi, The Palomar and the like, then it is worth detouring from the West End chain outlets packed with tourists to try what is now part of London's gastro scene.  So take a walk down Warren St where you can start loving Honey & Co and loving of course, Pat Butcher!


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Note:  We paid for our food and drinks in full.  The venue did not know we were visiting or that I am a blogger or that I would be conducting a review/article.