Om nom nom. I do like a bit of good food every once in a while.* As a vegetarian hailing from the land of sausage, where no part of an animal is considered too inferior to be turned into something supposedly edible, I was shocked to find a wealth of meat-free offers on British menus. After years of eating side salads (and not even those sometimes, as the potato salad is traditionally made with beef stock in the Southern regions of my homeland), I was introduced into the delicious world of Asian food, pies (PIES!!), ubiquitous falafel, and generally delicious animal-free pub grub. It’s about time for a round-up of my favourite (and not-so favourite) vegetarian and veggie-friendly places in the rainy city. Without further ado:
The Greenhouse, Great Western Street, Rusholme
Ah, good old Greenhouse. Definitely not a place for a romantic dinner, but always fun with a big group. The menu is roughly the size of two phonebooks and ranges from vegetarian haggis (nice!) and old-fashioned classics such as nut roast and stuffed vegetables, to international dishes like curries and stir fries, with occasional excursions into the slightly freaky – deep-fried avocado or peach and stilton dip anyone? From the outside the Greenhouse looks a little bit like a voodoo cottage, while the interior seems to have been put together with finds from yard sales all over the world. If I was to describe the Greenhouse in one word, I’d say “interesting” – worth a try though!
Greens, Lapwing Lane, West Didsbury
Saying that Greens used to be nicer before they doubled in size makes me realize how long I’ve been in Manchester (4 years today!). It used to be a cosy little place with nice and sometimes a little bit fancy food and expensive wines (people tell me that back in the old days it used to be BYO, but I’ve not been here *that* long yet), the place to go to celebrate small achievements, birthdays, and for general treats. Unfortunately, it has now turned into a place that tends to get incredibly noisy, even midweek, with rushed service, and actually bad tables (the one near the kitchen / bar is just… awful.). This is a real shame, since the food is still great (even though it’s a little cheese heavy for my taste), with one of my favourite dishes ev-ah being veggie bangers and mash with a chutney-like gravy, which have been residing on the menu since my first visit.
Fuel, Wilmslow Road, Withington
Oh yes, I love Fuel. Like, super mega love it. Conveniently, it’s also my local. The food is exclusively vegetarian with some vegan options, covers everything from a proper fry-up, a giant cheesy spinachy breakfast omelette which is incredibly tasty and unhealthy in equal amounts, burgers, the best potato & sweet potato wedges combo, delicious homemade hummus, as well as stews and daily specials. The prices are okay (the most expensive item on the menu is around £7 or £8), they’ve got a huge selection of fancy beers, the Tuesday quiz is fun, and there’s always free gigs on.
Earth Cafe, Turner Street, Northern Quarter
Well. Earth Cafe in the basement of the buddhist centre is… okay. I kind of understand why you pay extra for sides like veggies and gravy (fair for those who don’t want it), but at the same time, this makes the meals rather expensive. The food is quite nice, home cooked stews, dhals, bean burgers, lots of rice, and mostly vegan, but it’s also a little bit… boring. There, I said it. I’m also not a massive fan of basements, and the atmosphere at Earth Cafe is not exactly cosy.
8th Day, Oxford Road
8th Day is not too different from Earth Cafe (cafeteria style, queue for food with a tray, basement), but somehow they managed to make the place slightly more appealing and comfortable. The food is nice and filling, with a daily selection of soups, stews and a couple of specials (hmm veggie lasagne!), and reasonably priced – and hey, they even do student discount. While they have a rather generous selection of cakes in the cafe downstairs, the highlight of every visit is a chocolate cherry slice from the shop upstairs: dark chocolate, gooey sticky cherry jam, and an incredibly sweet crumbly flapjack-like base guarantees a sugar rush and happy faces for the next two hours.
1847 Vegetarian Bistro, off Mosley Street, City Centre
The new kid on the veggie block. I went when it was still “DetoxRetox”, which was quickly changed into a slightly less juice bar-y name. The restaurant looks very, very nice both from the outside and the inside, and the staff are super friendly. Things might have changed since I’ve last been, but the food was a bit hit and miss. My starter of blue cheese stuffed mushrooms was, well, exactly that: 4 hardly grilled mushrooms, stuffed with a bit of blue cheese, neatly arranged in a square. My cheese binge continued with a cheesy souffle, with was in fact delicious, and went really well with the piece of fake fish & chips (battered and fried haloumi aka heart attack on a place) I stole from my dining companion. The pudding, again, was a nice idea (sticky toffee pudding with, I believe, lavender custard… or was it rosemary?), but ended up being a bit of a gloopy disappointment. Having said that – 1847 has so far been the cosiest and prettiest veggie place I have been to in Manchester, so I’m more than looking forward to coming back and giving it another chance.
I suppose that’s enough food for now. I’ve not covered all the places I usually frequent, so check back for the 2nd part of SAM EATS MANCHESTARRR.
[Pictures by Ian Koh, Rain Rabbit, Binary Ape]
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