It’s National Vegetarian Week!
It’s been over a year since I stopped eating meat, and it’s been so much fun trying out new foods that I’ve not missed it for a second. My mum rarely eats meat. I was raised with the idea that tofu is totally normal. It wasn’t that much of a stretch for me to go vegan, and London is one of my favourite places to visit for animal-free eats.
Last month I decided to take a weekend trip down to catch the Alice in Wonderland exhibit at the British Museum. It’s been my favourite book since I was old enough to read, and I’ve even got my whole arm tattooed with scenes from Iassen Ghuislev’s illustrations of Alice. There was absolutely no way I was going to miss it.
I’m one of those pesky travellers who doesn’t feel quite right going on a trip without thoroughly researching everything I want to eat, see, buy and do. My boss jokes that I am a living travel guide of all the vegan eateries in every city he’s ever sent me to on business trips. I’m pretty sure he sends me on ahead to suss out the food situation!
The morning I was due to travel home, I stood outside the Covent Garden Hotel for ten minutes before I realised Brasserie Max* was inside. I’d walked up and down Monmouth street and thought I must have written it down wrong. This place was on my list because I’d heard great things about their brunch. I’m sorry Edinburgh, but I have yet to find a good solid vegan version of a full cooked breakfast to start off a perfect Sunday morning. Someone should sort that out.
A man at the next table was ordering only a bowl of almonds. This place just screams brunch. Of hotel breakfasts before the words “continental breakfast” became synonymous with sucky coffee, citrus fruit that had been left in a bowl too long and some strangely limp croissants.
I went for the crispy tofu with chilli baked beans, spinach and mushrooms and some sautéed potatoes. For so many places, especially those attached to a hotel, the veggie and vegan morning options are a sad afterthought. Just imagine a traditional cooked breakfast, but without the sausage and bacon. The fact there was crispy tofu AND wilted spinach on the menu made me love this place just a little more. TOFU FOR BREAKFAST! YES! Give me all the tofu!
I hate baked beans. 9 time out of 10 they come from a tin and taste diabolical. These weren’t regular baked beans, they were tangy and spicy and sweet, like they had actually seen the inside of a kitchen, not just a tin dumped into a microwave bowl. This was top drawer stuff.
I love proper tea, served in proper teacups. When I was a kid my parents took me to the Peninsula in Hong Kong, and I remember the dainty cups, and my first taste of a proper fruit scone with real strawberry jam. This was what I was promised British food would be like. This is still how my mum thinks I drink cups of tea all day long at work,and I don’t have the heart to disillusion her.
I asked if they would make the bubble and squeak vegan, and they did. I was pretty sure at this point that if I kept eating, I might miss my train for unforeseen circumstances of severe food coma. I still kept eating. Pretty sure I’m a Labrador.
I’m so used to cities like Edinburgh and Toronto that still have that vibe of being a town; I love that I get to work in London occasionally, and it’s places like this that make me want to spend more time there. The fact there is such choice as a vegan is one of my favourite things about the place.
* NOTE: Brasserie Max isn’t vegan. It’s not even vegetarian. They just do vegan food really well.