The Grounds, Alexandria

I’ve been a little quiet, plus Bondi has been a little boring. As per any seaside town, there is very little to do in perpetual rain (or at least sunbathing is ruled out, so my afternoons are suddenly a little empty). Thus, where Sundays would usually be spent beached up on a towel, soaking up the sunshine, I suddenly have a very free day. A little Instagram touring of the local brunch hotspots drew me to The Grounds, and despite being an hour’s bus journey from home base, the thrill of Sydney’s $2.50 opal limit on Sundays encouraged the expedition.

Popping off the bus right in the middle of an industrial centre, I’m not sure quite what I was expecting. It certainly wasn’t chickens, pigs, goats, and an abundance of greenery. The Grounds capture a little bit of wilderness and farmlife, and have stuck it right in the middle of Sydney’s suburbs. Thought up by a creative entrepreneur alongside a coffee guru, it’s no wonder.

The Grounds boasts numerous little internal venues to choose from for food. We went for the Café, for a hearty breakfast (avocado toast as always), but The Potting Shed offers a more upmarket dining experience, whilst the The Garden does soda and burgers, and the Bakery…well, you guessed it. The Grounds also offers weddings, with one taking place during our leisurely stroll (rather waiting the hour and a half required to snap up a table – buzzers were provided to allow you to try lose some time before food!).

The food was of course delicious, the service swift. The menu offers an array of homemade breads, meat dishes as well as plenty of vegetarian options. Coffee was also very upmarket, with fully trained baristas and an endless menu.

The Grounds offers an exciting and unique experience, perfect for weekend outings for all the family. Despite being based a little out of the way, the abundance of plants will fill you with fresh air and leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated before your return to the city, full of good food and perhaps with a rainbow rose in hand.

Open Monday – Friday 7am-4pm
Weekends 7.30am – 4pm
7a/2 Huntley St
Alexandria
NSW
Sydney

Breezing out to Australia for my gap year, I was all ready for the blazing sun, blue seas and colossal waves topped with sandy haired surfers. Having found that the middle of Sydney didn’t cater to this field, we made out for Bondi and were unfortunately greeted by dismal skies which gradually developed into a cataclysmic pouring of rain

(I didn’t think to bring any rain gear with me so a towel sufficed in place of an umbrella. This is also a prime example of the time I waste tailing behind stray cats all over the world)

img_7108

The rain then progressed into a good old thunderstorm, fairly common round these parts, so the beach day and plan for tan enhancements was written off in favour of lunch and lurking at the back of Bondi Wholefoods, peering out at the skies.

img_7035

The cafe was fairly quiet, it being mid afternoon, but passers by started flooding in with the rain, sheltering from the outside tables in the collection of plush chairs and assorted cushions within.

I have nothing bad to say about this little cafe apart from a little disappointment at them having run out of the mixed salads on offer! The service was swift, and the staff really friendly in providing the well sought after wifi and accommodating for us swapping tables three times to escape the rain. I went for the avocado toast (buried under the rocket), and Alice the sweet potato wrap.

img_7036
img_7037

The menu is extensive, and not vegan would you believe it, but based rather on whole and healthy. Other options include cacao berry pancakes, a pesto chicken sandwich, or a huge list of smoothies with health boosters such as maca an spirulina. They also have an amazing variety of raw snacks and cakes, and a shop section selling all the upmarket goodies such as buckinis, tea and organic fruit and veg. I’ve personally fallen a little in love with carob chocolate and the Banjo bears sold here.

img_7040

After lounging about and waiting pitifully for the rain to cease, we gave up, sprinted for the bus stop under towels and gave up on Bondi until slightly sunnier weather shows.

img_7038


open 7 days a week, 7am-7pm!
30a Hastings Parade
(Corner Wairoa Avenue)
North Bondi Beach
NSW 2026

Peanut Butter Problems

I’ve gained quite a reputation over the recent months, and for good reason. I’ve turned up for nights out equipped with small Tupperware pots of peanut butter. A friend, whilst scrolling through my Tinder matches, pointed out a rather large and alarming facial deformity on one of the boys. Even I was a little puzzled – although found on second inspection that this was just in fact a stray smear of peanut butter on my screen. I’ve been collecting empty jars of Nuts-n-more and have been repeatedly asked why. Unfortunately I can’t even really answer that question myself. I suppose the 40 odd empty jars of peanut butter are some claim to my peanut butter throne/proof of the large quantities I manage to get through.

A creature of habit, I’ve stuck to Nuts-n-more (particularly the salted caramel variety) with a ferocious devotion. I have however strayed afield on the odd occasion, and have decided to spread my peanut butter knowledge far and wide, to promote the best of the nut butters and save you all from making similar mistakes.


fullsizerenderfullsizerender-10

BRAND Nuts-n-More (Salted Caramel)
TASTE One of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Not too sweet, but then again I do have a desperate sweet tooth and this is probably the sweetest out of my peanut butter collection. Melt in the mouth soft caramel taste.
TEXTURE You have to stir like hell upon opening to mix in the upper layer of solid oil. I made the mistake of once pouring it out and the result is a thick and grainy spread which you can’t really do much with – mixing it in leaves it smooth and spreadable.
NUTRITION 100g for 553cals, 35f 23c 35p
PRICE Various, £7 on Musclefood.com

fullsizerender-11fullsizerender-14

BRAND Nuts-n-More (White Chocolate)
TASTE Not as good as the caramel but still really pleasant and sweet – less discernible as white chocolate and more overall sweetness.
TEXTURE A little thicker than the caramel.
NUTRITION 100g for 582, 36f 27c 36p
PRICE £7 on Musclefood.com

fullsizerenderfullsizerender-2

BRAND Dr Zaks (Salted Caramel)
TASTE One of the runners up for second to Nuts-n-more, although I’ve found taste can vary between batches of this. Dr Zaks has a slight burnt caramel taste which is quite pleasant.
TEXTURE Grainier in texture than most other nut butters but otherwise smooth and spreadable, but does usually require ardent forearm strength for stirring in the excess oil on top before opening.
NUTRITION 100g for 590cals, 44f 10c 35p
PRICE £9.95 for 3 on Musclefood.com

fullsizerender-8fullsizerender-9

BRAND Proper Nutty (Smunchy)
TASTE Recommended by a friend and not my usual style (there is a sad absence of artificial sweeteners here…). However I do feel like the picture of health when eating it, due to the absence of salt and sweetener.
TEXTURE Smunchy, get it? I’m not a big fan of crunchy peanut butter but the half/half here is a nice change.
NUTRITION 100g for 632cals 53f 4c 28p
PRICE £3.99 on Amazon

fullsizerender-5fullsizerender-15

BRAND GoNutrition Whey More Nuts (Cinnamon Spice)
TASTE Alright if you’re a big fan of cinnamon, which I am, but lacks sweetness in favour of full on cinnamon blast.
TEXTURE Very thick, not quite crunchy but not smooth either, I’m guessing due to the presence of whey.
NUTRITION 100g for 512cals 35f 8c 51p
PRICE £9.49 on Amazon

fullsizerender-6fullsizerender-7

BRAND Peanut Butter & Co. (Cinnamon Raisin Swirl)
TASTE Probably on par with Dr Zaks as my second favourite peanut butter (and probably due to the higher sugar content and absence of infused whey!) The cinnamon flavour here is light and sweet, the peanut butter itself darker and aromatic, with the extra treat of little raisins floating about inside.
TEXTURE Doesn’t need mixing as the oil doesn’t seem to separate, but thicker than their other flavours – more for spooning than pouring.
NUTRITION 100g for 500cals 34f 40c 18p
PRICE £6 on Amazon / sold at various

fullsizerender-12fullsizerender-13

BRAND Peanut Butter & Co. (Mighty Maple)
TASTE Super sweet with a very light taste of maple.
TEXTURE Sort of ideal peanut butter texture; not too runny but neither too thick.
NUTRITION 100g for 562c 43f 37c 18p
PRICE £6 on Amazon / sold at various

fullsizerender-3fullsizerender-4

BRAND Pip & Nut (Crunchy Maple)
TASTE Like I said I’m not huge on crunchy nut butters but this finds a good balance between the less processed, health advocating side of peanut butter life, and subtle maple sweetness.
TEXTURE Although runnier than most other peanut butters, this doesn’t require stirring – runny enough to pour on to things.
NUTRITION 100g for 588c 46f 14c 26p
PRICE £6 for 1 on Amazon or £13 for 6 (I don’t know…)

I’ve dabbled in many other peanut butters but these are the only survivors in my cupboard. I’m keen to continue reviewing any others that I try, and of course would never be adverse to reviewing any peanut butter posted my way!

no hints or anything…

Maitreya Social, Bristol

Exeter doesn’t unfortunately offer a a budding vegetarian community, and after touring Thailand’s vegan cafes and chowing all the tempeh I could get my hands on, I was rather missing a good dosing of vegetables. Luckily enough my sister lives in Bristol with her clan, and also hoping to migrate the great seas (from Devon to Somerset) in the coming months, I thought an exploration into Bristol’s vegetarianism would also be worth the visit.

img_4786

Maitreya Social offers purely vegetarian food, with vegan options available. The menu is mainly plant based (so less of the tofu and tempeh I come to love and more vegetables on vegetables, with a glazing of some other pureed and sautéed piece of veg). The creativity of their dishes is their standpoint; the smoked aubergines with whipped tahini and date molasses were the star of the meal here. I have a soft spot for slightly burnt food (who doesn’t feel for some carcinogens here and there), and am partial to anything smoked and barbecue flavour. The glaze and pomegranates balanced out the savoury with a touch of sweet.

img_4790

We also shared the smoked cauliflower with curry dahl and pilau crackers, which was pretty tasty for a curry dish although the actual cauliflower seemed to be a little undercooked – or under smoked?

img_4791

Maitreya is worth the trip if you’re out and about in Bristol, offering tasty vegetable dishes and a casual setting, although they encourage bookings since the seating is limited with a quick turnover. Mains are all under £11 which is certainly cheaper than a sirloin. They also offer vegetarian catering in the Bristol area if you’re trying to convert your event-goers to the vegetable side of life.

img_4787


open 6pm-11.30pm Tuesday-Thursday
10am-11.30pm Friday-Saturday
10am-4pm Sunday
closed Monday
89 St Mark’s Road
Easton
Bristol
BS5 6HY

Karma Kafe, Ko Phangan

I’m still dubious about how one pronounces Ko Phangan and have been laughed at upon every attempt. Nonetheless the island is serene, the least touristy of Koh Tao, Ko Samui and itself. We stayed at a resort where I had insisted that a fan room as opposed to air conditioning was worth the drop in price. We did as a result spend the night sweating profusely, trying to convince ourselves that the breeze from the fan, blowing stray hairs over to the left, then back to the right sides of our faces was just like the soothing wind of nature (which it very much was not).

IMG_4197

Ko Phangan boasts a huge number of vegan restaurants in Srithanu, which turned out to be a thirty or so minute drive from the port, Thong Sala, and where we were staying. Taxis on Ko Phangan were less abundant than in other areas, with most people turning to scooters as an easy way of access around the island. I didn’t venture out in hiring a scooter myself, but I don’t think a license or experience is required to do so, with scooters on offer for miniscule amounts of money, two or three pounds per day from our hotel.

IMG_4199

We decided not to risk a scooter journey but instead hitched a communal taxi to Srithanu, and explored several quaint jewellery stores as well as picking up some well needed after sun in the local pharmacy. We ended this little exploration in the Karma Kafe, with stylish décor and dark wood. The sign in the toilet was hugely amusing, something along the lines of ‘don’t flush toilet paper / sanitary products / kittens and puppies / your ex’s belongings’.

FullSizeRender-1

The food here was also one of my favourites amongst our travels. Hungry, as usual, I ordered two mains. The first was a rice bowl with the most deliciously spiced pumpkin, the second a burrito with beans and the same tasty pumpkin and squash puree. My friend ordered raw tacos, slightly let down upon discovering that the tacos were in fact not the crispy carb shells back home but cabbage bowls, but still insisted the dish to be worth the initial disappointment.

IMG_4203

If out and exploring Ko Phangan and brave enough to hitch a scooter trip, Karma Kafe is well worth the trip!

20/18 moo 8, Koh Pha Ngan, Surat Thani 84280, Thailand
open 12-10pm

Atsumi Raw Cafe, Phuket

We landed in Phuket town centre to find it a little disappointing, hardly blue seas and white beaches but rather a busy and jostling city with little in the way of vegetarian foods on offer. A good distance from the beach which was more of a port than somewhere where we could expose our pasty British skin, the only vegan café I could find was a fair drive down to the South of the island of Phuket, near Rawai.

IMG_3801

We originally had planned to alter our hostel accommodation and move from Phuket town centre to the more tranquil beaches tripadvisor promised us of Rawai – this was later altered again to the fantastical nightlife and equal beach opportunities offered by Patong, on the West. It was rather dark and dreary on arrival, with my friend imbued with a desperate cold, both of us hungry and damp. We set out on a fairly expensive taxi ride to Atsumi raw café, planning to also check out Rawai and assess if a hostel swap was worth the cost.

FullSizeRender-2

The café is situated on the side of a main road so easy to locate. It is linked with the Atsumi Wellness Centre, where yoga, detox and even fasting plans are on offer (fortunately we came for the food, not the fasting). A café is situated to the front of the restaurant, with the dining behind. The food here was absolutely superb, perhaps the best raw options available. I chose a vegetable burrito in a corn tortilla, with an array of sauces. After travelling for the day I was decidedly hungry and do have to admit that vegan food is not the most filling – so I moved on to a raw Caesar salad, with cashew cheese to follow. My stomach still growling, I ended the meal with a raw vegan brownie. I’m not a huge fan of raw desserts and would rather eat an actual brownie over mashed dates, but it did certainly taste like the picture of health, filled with cacao, banana and almonds.

IMG_3800

The food here towards the higher range of all places we visited, but the service was swift and wifi even faster, so if in Phuket, Atsumi is definitely worth the trip, perhaps tied with a yoga session to really hammer down on the health.

IMG_3804

99/1 Moo 7, Wiset Road Rawai district, Phuket, Thailand
atsumirawcafe@hotmail.co.th
Tel: +6676289224

open 9am – 8pm

Vegetarian Travels in Thailand

I’m not a vegan but sometimes I pretend to be. Several times whilst travelling Thailand I’d insist I was a vegan, GIN JAE, probably with a very doubtful pronunciation to our restaurant caterers. My travelling partner wasn’t always keyed in to my attempts to ensure our food wasn’t peppered with cunningly disguised meatballs or fish sauces.
”What? No you’re not Liv you’re vegetarian, questbars aren’t vegan anyway”, would come answering back. My backpack did actually come back a full 3kgs lighter thanks to my daily consumption of protein bars and products in a vain attempt to protect my mini muscles, in a country where chicken, fish and rice dishes are available left right and centre but vegetarian protein is limited to eggs, or tofu if you’re lucky and looking straight ahead.

However, with a little help from tripadvisor and the Instagram #veganthailand hashtag, I was able to source out a huge number of brilliant vegan and vegetarian friendly restaurants all across Thailand. Less appealing to the locals but filled with fellow veggie travelers and harems of yoga lovers, with great manes of dreadlocked hair and sunkissed skin (and usually a shiny iPhone, seeking out the available wifi like ourselves as these restaurants are usually a scale above the local haunts in price), Thailand offers a great range of vegetarian friendly cafes and restaurants in all main areas.

I hope to review several of the restaurants we visited over the course of the next few weeks, whilst the delicious meals are still fresh in my head. Here are a few samples of my favourites;

IMG_3932
Rustic and Blue, Chiang Mai

IMG_3821
Chalong, Phuket

IMG_4403
Greenlight Cafe, Ko Samui

FullSizeRender-3
Pud, Ko Tao

Fed by Water

I’m not really the sort of person to just drop into the nearest restaurant, give the menu a quick scan and order a speedy dinner. This is reinforced by my vegetarianism, having had one too many pea risottos with it seeming to be the most popular vegetarian option at any traditional pub style diner. Fed by Water, in Dalston, is somewhere I’ve had my eye on for months, having browsed the tripadvisor reviews alongside instragram uploads for delicious looking vegan options of pasta, pizza, and an array of salads.

IMG_3325

In all honesty, I didn’t even notice the restaurant’s mantra upon first inspection; fed by water. I assumed water connoted the natural world and this was some vague praise for ethical veganism. The restaurant instead prides itself on using only purified water. As stated on their website,

“FED’s filtration system is based on an active carbon filtration which removes impurities like lime scale, chlorine and unwanted bacteria, while retaining the minerals and nutritional elements present in the water”.

This is in turn claims to boost the nutritional properties of all food and drinks on offer. I’m not wholly convinced by basing the entire restaurant concept on filtrated water, it seems to be an attempt at finding some niche style of branding, but the website does also encourage recycling and an environmental awareness.

IMG_3327

Many will turn their nose up at veganism for the banal thought of resigning themselves to a life of undressed salad leaves, or, like FreeLee, so many bananas you might indeed turn yellow. The potato detox and other fad diets have shocked many into categorizing vegans as pitiful people who exist on a sad diet of sad salad leaves. Fed by Water demonstrates how this need not be the case for a vegan diet; you could call it vegan junk food, if you like, with no restrictions on pizza toppings for even your meat eating friend who couldn’t possibly cope with a pizza without salami. ‘Fake’ meat options are readily available in the form of seitan carpaccio and salami, and cheese is swapped out for cashew nut equivalent. The novelty of these huge pizzas is increased by the availability of black charcoal dough, just in case you want that gothic snap for your food diary.

IMG_3355

We shared the carbonara and ballox between two – salads also still on offer in case you are a leaf loving type of vegan. The portions are generous, with plenty of beautifully flavoured pasta sauce and salty pieces of seitan. It didn’t quite live up t my memory of bacon but came the closest I’ve been in six years.

The star dish were the veggie and cheese balls, accompanied by grain salad, avocado puree and charcoal infused bread. The highlight of Christmas dinner was always stuffing for me, and you can imagine by disappointment, upon my first vegetarian Christmas, in discovering what exactly stuffing was and where it came from. These balls tasted very much like the stuffing I remember, and almost aromatic. The cashew cheese spreads were also individual and delicious.

IMG_3333

Prices are moderate, £12.95 for the salad and £13.95 for the pasta. Arriving just a little after four for an early pre theatre dinner, the restaurant was fairly quiet, and service faultless. With commendable ethics and enticing food, Fed by Water can’t really be faulted. Whether or not your free bottle of purified water does taste any different from the tap water back home, I’ll have to leave up to you.

Open everyday, 11am – 11pm

FED BY WATER™
Unit 1b Dalston Cross Shopping Centre,
64 Kingsland High Street E8 2LX
London, United Kingdom

Jamie’s Italian

I am a notoriously picker eater, as I think I’ve loosely described in other posts. I’m sure I’ve caused countless waiters notable irritation at requesting the pine nuts not adorn the salad, although no I’m not allergic so the kitchen need not send out a warning flare should I break out in hives. Having spent a great deal of these past few years thronged into domesticity, I could at thirteen scour a supermarket shelves, set loose like a bloodhound to a scent trail, and return obediently to the master with a basket full of undoubtedly the cheapest offers (fairy liquid tablets are notorious for making this as difficult as possible with their mismatched deals). I also prepare and organise my own meals, nowadays half eaten out of scrubbed Tupperware dishes like a true frugal busybody. Any form of travel, for instance through Paddington station, no longer requires the frantic hand signal and mad dash into M&S or YO-Sushi for train snacks – whilst the attendant drolls on over the boarding train status – as my handbag is neatly crammed with hopefully leak-proof Tupperware finery.
Following my brother moving from the UK to New Zealand, there was talk of his girlfriend having joined the local Tupperware conventions, and having reached the status of a proud host of many Tupperware parties. I’m patiently waiting to reach a similar level, Empress of convenient plastic lunchboxes.

IMG_0349

Of course I must sometimes reach out beyond the slightly hairy forks lurking at the bottom of my handbag. Exeter isn’t unfortunately rife with restaurants, people tending to instead flock to local pubs which aren’t always veggie-friendly, unless you want that Steak & Chips without the steak?
Jamie’s Italian was only opened recently, in 2015, but has fast become one of my favourites. Expanded over two floors, you can dine amongst the friendly chatter between booths on the lower floor, or in the slightly more secluded upstairs. The atmosphere is relaxed and intimate, the lights dim, the odd cured leg of animal swinging in the breeze from the kitchen décor.
Order a ‘plank’, and it’ll often come propped up on two very authentic retro pasta cans, for the full effect.

IMG_2828

The menu is broad, and caters appraisingly for meat eaters and vegetarians alike, alongside the fussy fingers who really just care for a bowl of tomato pasta at the end of the day. Portions are also available in half sizes, for the gaggle of office ladies watching their waistlines in the lunchtime run, or full for those with neverending black hole of a stomach, when it comes to pasta.

The staff are undeniably efficient, this I noted from the word go. After an interesting run in with YO-Sushi in the first week of it’s opening (I don’t blame the new staff, looking at battered tofu you wouldn’t always think that the white jelly substance does require cooking), I’m a little dubious over visiting newly opened restaurants. However the staff were so avidly attentive, more so than most other chains. The presence of the specials board adds a classier aspect to your meal, which will be recited by your waiter or waitress of the evening, with an added recommendation of their own.
(I do sometimes wonder if they do truly have the time to try every special, to advocate the duck as really so divine)

IMG_3387

Nonetheless, my latest Jamie’s venture was equally tasteful. Being boring I opted for the squash salad with ‘whipped ricotta’ for a second time and yes all pine nuts were scarpered away from my dish.