Thursday, 28 November 2013

Restaurant review - tibits, Heddon St. London


Regular readers will know that I have a bit of an issue with some vegetarian restaurants - in that most of them are not that 'contemporary'. Fabulous tasty food - yes, but decor (and sometimes service) that appeals to the omnivore masses? - no.

outside tibits - a little oasis in the City

So when I was kindly asked if I would like to dine at tibits and write a review, I was very excited indeed!...

tibits is situated in a fabulous location - in a leafy little oasis just off the hustle and bustle of Regent Street. It's a haven of plant-based deliciousness.

With modern Swiss styling, yet a warm and welcoming vibe it did not disappoint. Ahhhh! Bliss!!!! 

Even worth leaving my Devon oasis for...

fresh, funky & unusually contemporary - hurrah!

It's bright, clean, tidy and set over 2 floors with plenty of eclectic seating and room for special events if you need to hire a great space. When I was there it was lovely to see such a mixed clientele and that even on a Monday lunchtime it was buzzing. 

The service was relaxed, friendly and efficient.

a boat of vegan food you could just sail away on!
The format is a help yourself buffet - with salads, soups, hot dishes, breads, desserts & fresh juice options - all set out in an eye catching boat-shaped island! I'm not usually a fan of the buffet scenario (yes, really!) but given that vegan choice is usually quite limited - to suddenly be presented with masses of it (80% of the 40 daily dishes) all clearly labelled as vegan, it was like being the proverbial 'kid in the sweet shop'! 

Decisions decisions.....
Now you WILL want to try everything. And indeed I'd recommend that you do take small morsels of everything that takes your fancy! Why not?!

Here were just some of the day's dishes when I visited:

My 'starters plate:

My 'mains' plate: 

There's just a teensy catch though...

You pay for your food by weight.
[no, not your weight - if that was the case I'd have been in serious financial trouble!] The weight of the food you've taken. I've never come across this before, and admit to some trepidation at having my food weighed! I'm unsure as to the business reasoning behind this, but given the tendency for many to overindulge at a buffet it does actually prevent you from taking too much, and consequently eating too much and possibly wasting too much?

And little samples of several different dishes does make for a varied, yummy meal experience. And tasty it was! I found plenty of variety, everything tasted different, all was well seasoned and flavourful. One more note though - go easy if you want to make it to pud! And you should. My combination of sticky toffee pudding, passion fruit 'cream' and fresh pineapple was inspired, if I say so myself.


Some other typical dishes on the menu:

Mulligatawny soup

Oven roasted veggies - shallots, carrots, pears, figs

Glazed chestnut, pupkin, sesame tofu avocado & dried bean salads

black hummous with olive bread

Pricing: My starter plate weighed in at approx £5.00, main at £8.50 and dessert at £4.50 - incredibly reasonable for London pricing and indeed for good food anywhere!

So what else can I say about tibits?

Well, to me, it's the ideal place for brunches, lunch dates, dinner dates, business lunches, food on the go and casual 'I can't be bothered to cook tonight' dining .

Obviously if you're veggie or vegan it's a joy to just go and eat free from worry and the need for a magnifying glass to read small print. But I adored the fact that a non veggie/vegan would still love it too. tibits champions all that's great about meat-free, plant-based foods - the infinite colours, flavours, tastes and textures - all presented in a style for 2013.
THIS is what's needed. Something that omnivores can be tempted by, try and love. As a passionate vegan advocate, yes of course I'm looking for 'converts' - I make no secret of it - and tibits is now one of my secret (peaceful) 'weapons'. TYTYTY! Keep up the great work guys.

p.s. Please open a branch in Exeter!

Chantal x

Next up! I shall be reviewing the first tibits cook book! Stay tuned for my recreations of some of their favourite dishes at home.


Vision:  tibits was founded and is run by three brothers - Reto, Christian and Daniel Frei, together with business partners Rolf and Marielle Hiltl, who run Hiltl, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, which is located in Zurich.

12-14 Heddon Street
off Regent Street
London W1B 4DA
Phone +44 (0)207 758 4110
Fax +44 (0)207 734 0428

Opening Hours:

Monday to Wednesday
9am – 10.30pm

Thursday to Saturday
9am – midnight
11.30am – 10.30pm
Food served until 30 mins before closing.

Disclaimer: Whilst I was a guest of tibits on this day for lunch, my review, is, as always, entirely without bias and reflects my honest opinion.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Restaurant Food Review - Willow Vegetarian Restaurant, Totnes, Devon

Those of you who've read my review of The Jack in the Green Inn, Rockbeare may remember that I started my perfect day with a visit to Totnes and lunch at 'Willow'.

Just because my vegan fine dining experience in the evening was so incredible, doesn't mean that my visit to Willow was none-the-less worthy of a review and so here it is:
Willow was recommended to me by a Twitter friend and having wafted the length and breadth of the high street in Totnes I'm glad that I had the recommendation - because shockingly it would seem that there aren't actually that many vegetarian eateries in the town! In fact Willow seems to be the main one! [If you've ever been to Totnes or know of it - you'll understand my surprise...]

Anyway - its tucked at the top of the high street so if you fancy working up an appetite park at the bottom of the town and walk up.

doesn't quite look like this now
I never used to know quite what to expect of vegetarian restaurants, but I'm getting the sense now that many of them are similar in style. Willow is no exception, eclectic in design (rustic some might say) with a mix of wooden benches and chairs and a mixed clientele as well. Posters, paintings, plants and paraphernalia adorn the walls in a random fashion and the restaurant is clearly signed as a mobile-free zone (I didn't dare disobey).

The first thing that hit me was the delicious food smell though! And so, space at a communal table well and truly nabbed, I went up to the serving counter to make my choices.

Willow serves a hot buffet style selection of freshly prepared dishes for lunch every day - which include several vegan main options and three salad sides suitable for vegans too. There are also a number of desserts and cakes - well labelled and easy to chose veggie, GF and Vegan. This makes life so much easier.

The food is served to you in rustic crockery and the team there are warm and friendly and were happy to advise on the vegan dishes of the day.

We both opted for the same thing - a mixed vegetable curry, which came on a mound of wholegrain rice and huge scoops of three different mixed salads all around the side.

The food: 
oops bit blurry but you get the jist...

Absolutely packed full of flavour this food really did live up to expectation. It was truly delicious. I would hazzard a guess that there must have been 20+ different types of veg and salad on my plate and its such a pleasure to eat this way - carnivores - you should try it. The sheer variety and flavour is wonderful. With that home-cooked feel and portions that would definitely be at home in my home [ ;) ] it felt like having lunch with good friends.

They don't do fancy coffees (kind of a relief because I truly think the cafe culture has gone a step too far sometimes) but cafetieres of mild, medium or strong roasts and steamy hot soya milk on the side. We opted for the medium blend and it was perfect.

I would love to have had some cake or pudding - but even I couldn't manage any on this occasion - I was so full and very relaxed - content.

I have two gripes with Willow however - one was the state of the toilet facilities - frankly not clean enough and the other (which is possibly more subjective) the fact that this resembles some other vegetarian eateries in its style. Regular readers will know I prefer contemporary as opposed to hippy (and yes I also know some of you find this offensive - but it's the word that will best conjure up an image in peoples' minds because it meets that stereotype!) and I can't help but think that it will never attract non-vegetarians/vegans because of this.
I personally think this is a massive shame when the food is so good!

Attracting new people to the ways of plant-based living could be so easy to do - good for them, and good for business too and I wish someone, somewhere would create a modern cafe / restaurant that doesn't even advertise its vegetarian-ness - it is just about the fabulous food that happens to be meat free, egg free, dairy free.

For these reasons I fear Willow may be missed by many people who would / could actually love it - and that's a shame.
But for now I'll go back whenever I need a perfect day out - even if I can't totally blend in the food is yummy.

Soups, sandwiches filled jacket potatoes (£4–£5.90). Three mains (£5, £9.50 with mixed salads), one or two vegan, often gluten-free, such as blackeye bean bake, curry, or savoury tofu flan. Thalis £9.90, £11.50. Evening starters (£3.20–£5.80) feature dips, soup, garlic bread.
Lots of cakes (£2.20–£2.40) include oaty fruit slice, sticky tofu date cake, and chocolate beetroot cake. Evenings there are also desserts (£5–£5.50), such as sundaes and you can add (vegan) ice cream and sorbets too.

My tip: Have an early lunch because the restaurant clearly is patronised by regulars who know that getting there early means they have the pick of the daily menu - cos once a dish is gone its gone. We went in at 12.30pm and already things were being crossed off the board.

87 High Street
Tel: 01803 862605
Open: Mon–Sat 10.00–17.00 (Fri from 9.00); also Wed, Fri–Sat 18.30–21.00; Sun closed

Friday, 1 November 2013

BREAKFAST - wake up to vegan deliciousness!

Happy World Vegan Day and Month!!!

Never has there been a better time to learn about and experience a plant-based lifestyle.
A lifestyle that's kind to you, to animals and to our beautiful planet.

Whatever you've heard about veganism or think about veganism - perhaps: how hard it is, how boring it might be, how bland the food must be - FORGET IT!!!

Negative perceptions - are just that - PERCEPTIONS - because a lot of industries want you to doubt how good a life vegans have.

But I'm here to let you in on the world's best kept secret - being VEGAN is WONDERFUL!!!

I'm going to show you even more ways that your diet can make a difference - through scrumptious breakfast, brunches, lunches, suppers and treats. And throughout this month I'll highlight small simple lifestyle changes that YOU can make very easily too. 

Reconnecting with yourself, with all sentient beings and with our amazing planet is something you can't afford to miss out on.

Right then - let's wake up with some scrummy breakfasts!

[All the meals you see here have been made by me, from scratch, in my kitchen at home. I take my inspiration from everywhere and love to be creative too. No time to add all the recipes, so please contact me if something takes your fancy and I'll send you your very own recipe sheet. Chantal xx]

Fri 01.11.13
cinnamon porridge with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds & grated fresh apple
Sat 02.11.13
spinach buckwheat pancake with mushrooms, tomatoes & marinated tofu filling
 Sun 03.11.13
fusion: southern style corn bread & maple syrup, with indian spiced saag potatoes
 Mon  04.11.13
warm peanut butter muesli with soya yoghurt & blueberries
Tue  05.11.13
mini shredded wheat with chocolate oat milk (yum!) & fresh banana
 Wed  06.11.13
berry 'sunrise' smoothie with vegan dairy-free croissants (I know, who knew!)
 Thu  07.11.13
sweet creamy coconut porridge with tropical fruit (banana, mango & kiwi)
Fri  08.11.13
'pbj' wholemeal bagel - poshed up with cashew butter & low sugar apricot jam
Sat  09.11.13
spiced breakfast bean burrito with marinated tofu and pineapple
 Sun  10.11.13
scrambled savoury tofu with mushrooms, tomatoes and toast
 Mon  11.11.13
orange and cinnamon couscous with poppy seeds & fresh fruits
Tue  12.11.13
homemade sour cherry & almond granola with added flax - great with almond milk
 Wed  13.11.13
peanut butter on toast with a green juice (apple & kiwi)
Thu  14.11.13
rice and buckwheat flake porridge with griddled fresh apricots & agave syrup
 Fri  15.11.13
hummus on toasted olive bread with yogurt & berries on the side
 Sat  16.11.13
sweet potato cakes with spinach, raisins & pine nuts
 Sun  17.11.13
chilli potato hash with fried bread & baked beans (well it is sunday!)
 Mon  18.11.13
mixed citrus salad with (guilt-free) date & oat cookies
Tue  19.11.13
mixed wholegrain (Nature's Path) cereals with almond milk, yoghurt & berries
 Wed  20.11.13
banana, walnut, omega smoothie with amaranth quinoa rye toast & marmite
 Thu  21.11.13
oat porridge with pumpkin seeds & organic dried apricots
 Fri  22.11.13
'creamy' herby mushrooms on organic amaranth rye
 Sat  23.11.13
wholemeal tortilla wrap with fresh spinach, mushrooms & mexican refried beans
 Sun  24.11.13
baked portabello mushroom muffin with sweet potato pecan hash
 Mon  25.11.13
toffee apple pancakes - nuff said.... mmm [no eggs, no dairy!]
 Tue  26.11.13
cherry & almond granola with grated fresh apple
 Wed  27.11.13
red pepper, carrot & tomato booster juice with granary sourdough & marmite
 Thu  28.11.13
porridge with bruleed plums
 Fri  29.11.13
cranberry & pumpkin seed toast with fig preserve & fresh orange
Sat  30.11.13
vegan sausages with portabello, tomato, baby watercress & focaccia

So there you have it! 30 delicious breakfasts and brunches!
Vegan - never a dull start to the day ;)