Veganuary. It’s a funny word isn’t it? Looks much better written down than it sounds, that time of year vegans can get excited about the influx of newbies ready to give up meat and milk for the month of January. Will they stick at it? Will they go back to their omni ways? Will they whinge about cheese?
Veganuary deals in Edinburgh tend to be offers from chain restaurants, which are…ok. Not spectacular. I wanted to try something new. Something more exciting than a vegan burger or a pizza. This January I had big plans to show my omni friends how delicious vegan food can be, and so this had to be impressive. These are die-hard chicken eaters I’m dealing with, you see. These friends have *shudder* pepperoni on their pizzas. They order *ugh* sweet and sour chicken from the Chinese takeaway. They *I can’t believe I’m saying this* have meatballs with their pasta. No, an average vegan meal just would not do here. I was planning to bring out the big guns.
At the beginning of the month I’d seen photos a friend had posted on Facebook of January’s vegan menu at No. 8 Lister Square, and then basically pestered her until she agreed to go for lunch with me. I’ve been three more times since then. Let that sink in. I’ve eaten there two days in a row, it’s that good.
Now this new vegan menu isn’t a permanent fixture…yet. They’ve added a couple of vegan options onto their regular menu, but the separate Veganuary options are just for the month of January. If you want to try them out, this is the last weekend to do it! If you love it as much as I do, let them know, as there’s still hope they’ll keep them on after the month is through.
My favourite dish? Hands down the melanzane; layers of baked aubergine, rich tomato ragu and a vegan béchamel topped with the most delicious crunchy topping. This is the most realistic cheese sauce I have ever tasted. It’s better than dairy. Even my vegan-cheese-hating flatmate loved it, which is really saying something. She still hasn’t forgiven me for that time I made her taste test a faux cheddar that whiffed of putrid feet.
The double chocolate tofu ice cream with candied pineapple was another one that won me over, and I don’t usually like ice cream desserts. The caramelised pineapple intrigued me, as chocolate and pineapple isn’t a combination I’d thought would work OH MY GOD, IT REALLY DOES. I will now be dipping my pineapple in chocolate for the rest of my days.
Last week I finally managed to go to Casa Angelina for their afternoon tea. I’ve been here before, and these guys make a regular appearance at the Leith Market Vegan Quarter with their awesome salads and cakes. They ran a 2-for-1 offer throughout January on all full afternoon teas, including the vegan ones, so of course Emily and I (and our lovely assistant Matt) had to take advantage of this. Is there anything more delicious or instagrammable than a cream tea? I mean, the wee vintage plates alone warranted several photos, and that cake tier, holy shit! There was so much food, it was beautifully presented, and it tasted so good.
There were mini bagels with roasted aubergine and fresh hummus, sesame seed buns with roasted peppers and homemade pesto, itsy bitsy bagels with the most incredible mushroom pate I’ve ever tasted, and red cabbage and wasabi summer rolls wrapped in delicate rice paper. Then jam sandwich coconut lamingtons, fudgy chocolate chip blondies, and chocolate peanut butter cupcakes. Oh, and just in case you thought that was it? That you were absolutely stuffed and would require some form of wheelbarrow situation to get you out the door? Then you spy the scones, with HOMEMADE rhubarb and plum jams.
Everything was incredible, though as always, my favourites were the savoury treats. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good vegan cupcake, but vegan savouries are rarer than a flying unicorn with glitter-encrusted hooves. Good ones, anyways. Show of hands who else is a bit bored with the offerings of dry falafel, flaccid raw peppers, and supermarket hummus sandwiched between limp slices of bread that seem to be the only vegan sandwich available. Or cucumber sandwiches. I am so over cucumber sandwiches.
I had a wee chat with the owner as we were leaving, and he mentioned that though he isn’t a vegan himself, he had always thought it was a shame that his vegan friends were often shortchanged when going out for a meal, so he wanted to provide something tasty, beautiful, and plant-based that everyone could enjoy. Casa Angelina managed to provide an entire vegan feast, using just whole foods. Everything we ate was literally plant-based. No dairy-free cheeses, no faux meats. This was a meal made up entirely of vegetables, fruits, grains and pulses.
Casa Angelina have now extended the afternoon tea offer for the month of February as well, so I’ll definitely go again at least once to stuff my face.
If you’re vegan, doing Veganuary, or even if you just love great food – both these places are definitely worth checking out!