Plant-based Pizza in London

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I have been happily eating my way through many of London’s plant-based and plant-eater-friendly restaurants over these past few months. During that time I have also had my share of vegan pizza – the best of which I’d like to familiarize you with, for when those pizza cravings hit!

The Basic: Zizzi’s vegan pizza

I’d seen this pizza on Instagram quite a bit, and had marveled at how “normal” it looked. I had to try it, and, my not-exactly-a-health-freak sister staying with me, I’d decided it was the perfect opportunity to give Zizzi’s a go. The great thing about Zizzi’s is that it’s perfect for a meal with non-plant-based friends or family. All you have to do is ask for the vegan menu or, when you order your pizza, say you’d like the one with vegan cheese. No fuss, and practical, as it’s such a wide-spread chain. I’ve been there twice, meanwhile, and had a classic vegan mozzarella pizza with spinach, and both times seriously enjoyed it. Proper, satisfying pizza – very similar to the kind I ate before going plant-based. The cheese is coconut-based (don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like coconut in the slightest!), but it was quite soppy, and not like real cheese in texture (maybe good if you’re on a date and don’t want to battle the cheese strings) 😉

Overall verdict: a good, basic option, especially if you’re out with people who don’t share your excitement about plant-based eating, but definitely the most boring one on my list, so read on for more exciting options!

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The Classic: Farmacy House Pizza

Farmacy is one of those places where simply everything is a winner – at least in my experience so far. This naturally extends to the cashew-cheese and herby roasted veggie topped pizza, which was probably one of the tastiest pizzas of my life. A good sourdough base, classic Italian flavors, but the intensity of the flavors – incredible! Now, bear in mind, it was my first ever vegan pizza, so that might have added to the experience (such a treat after months of no pizza!). But I’d go for it again in a heartbeat. I’d probably share it with someone next time, as it was quite oily and, therefore, incredibly filling!! Gotta have room for the amazing desserts!

There’s also a Calzone on the menu, with macadamia cheese, which is on my list of things to try!

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The Original – The Nr. 1 from Franco Manca

I’m calling this The Original, as they use a traditional Neapolitan method of making their pizza, and because it may very well be the original vegan pizza. How come? No cheese my friends. Just a fabulous super doughy sourdough base with a flavorsome tomato oregano sauce. You can also add extra toppings, such as romanesco, as I did. This one is another great option for when you’re out with your omnivorous friends. There are a whole bunch of Franco Manca’s scattered around London, so it’s easy to satisfy that pizza craving without having to go somewhere “special”. Also, at under £5, this was the cheapest dine-in pizza I’ve ever had in my life! Hard to beat.

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And, saving the best for last:

The Exotic: Pickywops

On the other side of the spectrum, we have a pizza place that doesn’t simply try to emulate “regular” pizza, but goes above and beyond with innovative pizza bases and crazy topping combos. It is also one of the pricier pizza places on here, but so worth it! I discovered it on Instagram, and am so glad, as I never would have seen it otherwise. My boyfriend and I walked past it and only when we doubled back saw the black sign indicating to head into what looked like a dark, run-down shopping area, somewhat over-confidently named “Shopping Palace”.

Inside Pickywops, though, there was a very welcoming, olfactorily pleasing atmosphere, and one of the owners immediately came up to us and took the time to explain the concept and all the different options. And there are a lot of options! Besides all the topping combos there are also the different bases: Hemp, Burned Wheat (need to try this one next!), Multigrain, Kamut, Turmeric and Spirulina.

Of course I went for the only pizza I’ve ever seen with blueberries on top: the Vegan Temptation (mozzarella, kale, broccoli, almond ricotta and blueberries). The hemp base tasted incredible, and was wonderfully soft yet also had a nice crisp. I also loved the kale and broccoli on top, which went so well with the almond ricotta and the blueberries providing little bursts of freshness. Honestly up there as one of my top food memories… sitting at a little square out in the sun with my boyfriend, sharing mind-blowing pizza out of the box, messing ricotta-covered kale on myself and feeling so blissfully happy.

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The pizza pictured at the very top of this post is also from Pickywops (mozzarella, kale, walnuts and sliced pear on the hemp base).

Hope you enjoyed reading about these various plant-based pizza options!

xoxo

Balance Festival

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Today I was back at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane for another great wellbeing event – reminiscent of Fare Healthy, but with its own awesome vibe. While I had an amazing time at Fare Healthy back in February, I learned a few things that I am pleased to say I implemented at Balance Festival: 1) less talks, more food sampling, and 2) not just sampling, but also buying!

This way I didn’t feel like I’d missed out on some awesome brands, rushing from one talk to the next. The talk I did attend – on brain health and diet by Kimberley Wilson (who proved she is not only great at baking cakes!) – was incredibly interesting. Nothing that I hadn’t somehow come across before, but it was good to hear it all in context, with the emphasis on what’s truly important. (Which, in case you’re wondering, is: omega 3s, lots of fruit and veg – especially leafy greens – nuts, seeds, beans, vitamin D, polyphenols; and did you know: eating berries boosts brain function 90 minutes after consumption! Definitely will keep that in mind for Friday’s exam – might make some energy balls using the Arctic Power Berries I got 😉 )

To keep this post as short and sweet as I can, considering my ability to babble on forever about these kinds of things, I will share with you the two stand out food brands that I came across, and two of my favorite products I sampled.

Stand Out Food Brands

Escape & Bake

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This newly launched gluten-, refined sugar- and dairy-free treats business garnered lots of “ooohs” and “aaahs” by the people gathering around, and it’s no surprise why. There was a truly divine array of desserts, from millionaire peanut butter bars and donuts to red velvet layer cake and an incredibly indulgent looking raspberry chocolate tart. Everything looked an absolute dream. I was literally in a state of distress trying to make a decision! I ended up getting a Raw Snickers Bar (unadulterated bliss) and a Raw Chocolate Peanut & Almond Butter Brownie (can’t wait to have that tomorrow!!). They are selling these two treats as well as some others online. Definitely keep on eye on this brand!

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The Vurger Co

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This was honestly the best burger of my (not just plant-based!) life. I wasn’t planning on having one, as I tend to avoid mushrooms and onion, but I couldn’t resist a bite of my friend’s burger, and was so smitten that I had to get one of my own. (Nevermind the fact that I’d just had a raw snickers bar and wasn’t even hungry). I had the “MLT” Vurger, with walnut pesto, rocket, sundried tomatoes and vegan cheese. Every bite was packed with amazing flavor, and the bun was a dream. I know they also do a truffle mac & cheese (also fully plant-based), which I’m dying to try. Definitely check out where they pop up next – their food is too good to miss!

Favorite Products Sampled

Mindful Bites nut butter – I was really taken by the Almond & Maca and the Hazelnut & Berries nut butter. Especially the hazelnut one, as it was not only delicious, but also truly unique – something that I think is hard in a nut butter nowadays. These nut butters are proper “treat” nut butters, for a slightly more special nutty occasion than your every day quick spoon-in-the-jar fix. The only reason I didn’t buy any is that I have already quite a few nut and seed butters open, to state it mildly, and they are a bit pricey. Definitely on my list of treats though!

Pollen & Grace – I sampled their Sweet Potato & Peanut Butter Flapjack as well as the Raw Cacao Protein Bar and was in raptures! I didn’t get any this time around, as the shelf life is not too long (a good thing, as they’re not full of junky preservatives!), and I felt like I’d bought quite a few things already, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for these in future at Planet Organic. They were super tasty and full of goodness! A fabulous, nourishing treat. (Note: the sweet potato ones are plant-based,  but not vegan, as they contain some honey).

Short and sweet? Definitely sweet for me – so many awesome food memories 😀 But as always, these events are about so much more than just the food. It’s the people you share the food with, the people whose eyes light up with yours at the wonderful things you taste and discover, the people who inspire you and those vital ones who will tell you if your mouth is covered in chocolate.

Hope you enjoyed reading, and if you happen to be going to Balance tomorrow, do check out some of these brands!

xoxo

Leggero – An Evening of Light & Laughter

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Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of accompanying my lovely friend Leila, her equally lovely sister Sasha and the wonderful Catrina to the re-launch of a gluten-free Italian restaurant in Soho.

Formerly La Polenteria, Leggero serves delicious and innovative gluten-free Italian food. Italy, with all its pasta, pizza and bread, is pretty much synonymous with gluten, as owner Gabriele Vitali – an Italian with an obvious passion for what he does – joked. Seeing the gap in the market for catering to pasta-loving, gluten-avoiding individuals, the team embarked on a mission to create high quality Italian food for all to enjoy. This idea has gone beyond offering coeliacs an enjoyable dining experience, by making the kitchen and menu accommodating to people with various allergies and special dietary requirements. The fact that, minutes before his talk, we were enthusing about how refreshing it was to have such a restaurant where everyone could find something exciting on the menu and not have to worry about “being complicated”, is surely a testament to the success of Leggero’s mission.

While you certainly can find everything from unrefined sugar-free raw vegan to a meat eater’s paradise in London, it’s harder to find a restaurant where there is common ground for people with different preferences and requirements, i.e. where the carefree omnivore can enjoy, let’s say, lamb meatballs with mint and grilled butternut squash (as was served last night), while the gluten-free vegan can tuck into the courgette burger with mixed vegetables and homemade hemp bread muffin – and all from the same menu. This seems to me more important than ever in this age of ultra-individualism, where you can find all kinds of specific needs catered to, but, in the world of food at least, not necessarily at the same table.

At Leggero last night, we ended up with gluten-free Leila insouciantly dipping handmade artichoke, tomato and olive focaccia into oil and balsamic vinegar, dairy-intolerant Catrina having her (almond and orange) cake and eating it too, my plant-based self delighting in handmade sorghum and hemp tagliatelle (the culinary highlight of the evening for me!) and the omnivorous Sasha being in the happy position of sampling all the delightful dishes.

All this ties in perfectly with the restaurant’s new name – leggero, or light, as it means in English. Gabriele explained that the concept embodies not just “light” food, that makes us feel good, but also a light and happy way of life – something that couldn’t have come across any better in the wonderfully bright, intimate space, filled with the sounds of live music and laughter.

Let me conclude by once again thanking Leila for inviting me along and the lovely people at Leggero for having us. I can’t wait to go back for a big plate of delicious pasta!

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(This was the sorghum hemp tagliatelle – absolutely divine!)

Goody Bag Gems – Part 2

I’m back with more of some of my favorite new foodie discoveries (you can check out Part I here in case you missed it). Once again I am – obviously – not being paid by any of these brands, but just genuinely love these products and find them worth recommending 🙂

Almond Milk Yogurt – Nush

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Thoughts: Where have you been all my (plant-based) life?? This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! The one thing I truly missed while switching to a fully plant-based diet was yogurt. I loved having a pot of creamy greek yogurt as part of my breakfast or an afternoon snack. Unfortunately, soy yogurt didn’t agree with me and while I do sometimes have the odd bit of coconut yogurt, I just find it too heavy to eat much of. I had some Coyo in a goody bag once but I haven’t included it in this list because I simply didn’t enjoy it. (It was as dense as cream cheese and I couldn’t eat more than a few mouthfuls per sitting). So, what to do? For a long time I gave up on having a nice light plant-based yogurt… until now! This almond milk yogurt that I had in a goody bag from a recent Protein Baking Event by Livia’s Kitchen had the taste and texture of real yogurt!I had the Peach Melba flavor one with granola and berries and it was such a treat! I highly recommend it.

While it may not be the cheapest yogurt out there (at around £2 for a 125 g pot), it’s definitely worth it if you’re looking for the “real deal”.

Ingredients (Peach Melba flavor): 80% live almond milk yogurt (almond milk [almonds, filtered water], tapioca starch, carob gum, live vegan cultures), 20% Peach Melba (peach, raspberries, fruit extract).

Tip: also check out the other flavors: Blueberry (can’t wait to try it!), Natural and Caramel & Hibiscus!

 

Three Cinnamon Tea – Pukka

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[image from http://www.pukkaherbs.com]

Thoughts: I used to hate all things cinnamon-y (the only time I remember liking cinnamon as a child is with waffles and vanilla ice cream) and one of the most horrific things to me was the idea – and smell – of cinnamon flavored gum. Tea would have seemed just as bad if not a worse offender!  While I’ve grown to like cinnamon (especially in Christmas bakes, turmeric lattes and sprinkled on peanut butter covered apple slices), I can safely say I never would have bought it in tea form. However, from my first cup of this I was sold! It’s such a warming, sweet, comforting taste and it’s become one of my favorite ways to end a meal (a square of dark chocolate will always be number one – but who says you can’t have both?).

Ingredients: Vietnamese cinnamon bark (60%), Indonesian cinnamon bark (16%), licorice root, Indian cinnamon bark (10%).

Tip: If you like this, check out other teas from this range. I’ve also tried and loved the Three Ginger and will definitely try the Three Chamomile when I see it.

Extra Tip: the longer you leave the tea bag in, the sweeter the tea gets – after about 10 minutes you’ve got a fantastically, naturally sweet tea that perfectly satisfies post-meal dessert cravings (although I tend to indulge them anyway 😉 )

 

Organic Fruit Blend – Naturya

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[Image from http://www.naturya.com]

Thoughts: This is yet again a product I wouldn’t have bought if I hadn’t tried it first. I would have seen the 50% banana powder and 15% hemp protein powder on the ingredients list and put it back thinking: why do I need to add this to my smoothie when I already add banana and hemp? I have to say, though, that the flavor of this powder is fabulous. As you can see below there are some other great ingredients that give this blend an amazing tropical and sunny flavor that will cheer up even the coldest and darkest of mornings. I honestly find it a great way to snazz up my regular smoothie, as one teaspoon of this makes such a difference! I’ve just run out and I think this will be on my shopping list for my next health food haul!

Ingredients: 50% banana powder, 20% goji powder, 15% hemp protein powder, 10% pineapple powder, 5% acai powder.

 

Chocolate Lip Balm – Hurraw!

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[Image from http://www.hurrawbalm.com]

This last item is not edible, sadly, but I couldn’t help adding it to the list as it was in fact in a goody bag and I absolutely love it! Just lifting the lid and sniffing it – as I repeatedly did just now – makes me simplistically happy. The smell must go directly to my brain and light up happy chemicals. It also feels good on my lips and seems to really hydrate. Just make sure you don’t catch yourself licking it off! (Glad to say that hasn’t happened… yet). Also, I suspect it’s tantalizing for the people sitting near me when I reapply it in lectures – I saw a head turn the other day and someone seemingly sniff the air in an intrigued and puzzled manner.

 

That’s all for today folks – hope you enjoyed it!

xoxo

 

Goody Bag Gems – Part 1

If you’ve had a look at the What I’m Up To section of my blog, you’ve seen that I love attending events centered around plant-based eating and/or fitness. And more often than not I leave them with not just great new memories, but also a little paper bag of exciting goodies. These goody bags are definitely always a nice little cherry on top. (Who doesn’t enjoy, at least momentarily, feeling like a carefree kid at a birthday party again?).

For the companies providing the contents of these bags it’s obviously a great advertising strategy. This way they are ensuring that their products are falling directly into the welcoming hands of the very people most likely to buy them again (as I have) and spread the word about them (as I am about to do here 😉 ).* For me it’s definitely been a fun way to discover and try out products that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have bought. The ones that I’ve been most impressed with I’d like to share with you here.

The goodies in this first part are all from a Christmas Yoga Supper Club that my friend Lauren invited me along to. Besides being a truly lovely event it probably had the most memorable goody bag, as I discovered the following great products:

 

Birch Water – Sibberi

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[Image from: http://www.sibberi.com]

Thoughts: I’ll be honest, when I first saw this I was more than a bit skeptical. Birch tree water? I’d never heard of it and was unsure why I should be drinking it. Probably just another expensive but overrated product out there clamoring for the attention of health-conscious consumers, or so I thought. While I was right about the first point (at £2 per 250 ml bottle it costs the same as a liter of Rude Health almond milk), I have to say I was genuinely and positively taken aback by this drink. The best way I can think to describe it is that it was like drinking the purest, clearest, cleanest most refreshing water you could imagine – with a slight hint of sweetness. If only regular water tasted this amazing!

While this definitely doesn’t go into my basket every supermarket trip, I like to treat myself to a bottle every now and again.

Ingredients: 100% birch tree sap.

Note: Also check out the sister products, Maple and Bamboo Water.

Tip: Try this at room temperature. The second time, I had it straight from the fridge and I felt like some of the flavor was lost. (Just a personal preference.)

 

Sweet Potato & Cacao bar – Rude Health

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[Image from: http://www.rudehealth.com]

Thoughts: How can one not be intrigued by a bar containing sweet potato and cacao??  I’ve tried many different brands of such fruit and nut based energy bars and this one is the only one I know of with this genius combo. Now, you wouldn’t know there’s sweet potato in there, if that’s what you’re wondering, but the addition of this tasty tuber creates a really moreish texture and also intensifies the cacao flavor, making the whole experience truly satisfying. Definitely getting these again!

Ingredients: dates, cashews, sunflower seeds, sweet potato (8%), cacao powder (7%), cacao butter (6%), vanilla.

Note: There is also a pumpkin version – not with pumpkin purée, as I originally thought, but with pumpkin seeds and apple and ginger – which is also highly recommended!

Tip: If you’re craving this combo but can’t get your hands on these bars, check out these sweet potato brownie recipes from Deliciously Ella (original – really delicious, but maybe not quite chocolatey enough, which is why there is now a “new and improved” version).

 

Wyldsson Promix

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[Image from http://www.wyldsson.com]

Thoughts: These little test tubes of goodness are an awesome way to treat yourself if you’re looking for something fun to eat on the go or sprinkle over your food for decoration. They’re little portions of trail mix intended for healthy snacking, but to be honest I mostly just use them for my smoothie bowls, as I find they add a really nice touch (not just aesthetically but also to the taste and texture). I had the Strawberry & Raspberry one in a goody bag and liked it so much that I ordered the sample tube package of 10, which comes with other exciting flavors like Organic Mulberry, Californian Pomegranate, Cherry & Dark Chocolate and even a savory one: Chilly Picante. I was also super happy with the service – the tubes arrived promptly and came with a short personalized message on the box and a free tube of the new Strawberries & Belgian Chocolate mix.

Ingredients (Strawberry & Raspberry mix): Argentinian peanuts, sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, Californian almonds, Greek Zante currants, pumpkin seeds, strawberries (6.6%), raspberries (2.2%).

Tip: sprinkle these over your morning smoothies, porridge or add to your cereal for extra crunch, nutrition and color 😉

 

Chia Vanilla Protein Bar – Body Me

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[Image from: http://www.bodyme.co.uk – seems they’ve changed the packaging]

Thoughts: I love a chunky, generous protein bar with good ingredients and good flavor – and this one ticks all the boxes! I was seriously impressed, as not only was it absolutely delicious, but it also has the highest protein content I’ve yet had in a vegan protein bar: 16g. Not much else to say here except big thumbs up!

Ingredients: [all organic] plant protein blend (pea protein, sprouted brown rice protein, hemp seed protein), cashews, dates, coconut nectar, chia seeds, cacao, coconut oil, vanilla extract, water, sea salt, and – apparently – “a lot of love”! definitely felt it 😉

Tip: check out the other flavors too – cacao mint and cacao orange – as well as the vegan protein blends.

 

Stay tuned for more recommendations!

xoxo

 

* It’s almost too embarrassing to add the disclaimer that I haven’t been endorsed by any of these companies, as I should think it’s obvious 😀 but let me just clarify all the same: I have no personal interests tied up with these brands or products and I am recommending them purely because I enjoyed them and think they are worth sharing with people who may not be aware of them.

My favorite places to eat in London (Part II)

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I promised you more great plant-loving places in London and here they are (check out part I, if you missed it). Again, these are in my eyes all a 10/10 and highly recommended!

JAZ AND JUL’S CHOCOLATE HOUSE

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This is maybe one of my favorite places ever -full stop. I stumbled upon it a few weeks ago wile walking home and couldn’t resist a peek at the menu. Once I saw fully plant-based French toast and chocolate smoothie bowls I knew I had to go back. Since then I’ve gone every weekend, always taking someone new with me to share in the joy of Jaz and Jul’s.

Best for: brunch, or a rainy day (or any day!) hot chocolate 😉

The food: There is sweet and savory (both often containing some form of chocolate – doesn’t the cocoa nib and olive tapenade toast sound intriguing?) and everything from smoothie bowls to waffles and french toast. I’ve had the insanely good french toast (in a coconut, almond and banana batter, cinnamon and cocoa dusted, with berries, berry compote & maple syrup), tried some of the chocolate waffles with berry compote, coconut cream and granola), the chocolate avocado smoothie bowl, tried some of the berry & almond smoothie bowl (pictured below), and had the dark rye sourdough with Seggiano chocolate-hazelnut spread and fresh blueberries (pictured at very top) – and I’m still going back for more!

While it’s not fully vegan, there are so many great fully plant-based options that I do honestly find it difficult to decide what to get every time I go there. It doesn’t help that the counter displays numerous indulgent looking vegan baked goods (the chocolate espresso cake I had last time was so good)! What I love about this place besides the scrumptious food is the cozy atmosphere and the fact that it has genuine personality – something that has unfortunately become rare these days.

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The drinks: Their hot chocolate is amazing (13 different kinds, if I counted correctly) and all the flavors are available to be made with almond instead of regular milk. I started off with the single origin Brazil (70%) and then moved on to the Peru (75%), which I’ll be enjoying again in future, until I work up the guts to try the Madagascar (100%). There are also flavored ones with fabulous names such as Caramelicious, Mintchievous and Gingerbread, man! , the mix for which you can also buy in the cafe (they also sell other speciality chocolate items).

The location: 1 Chapel Market, London N1 9EZ.

 

 

THE MAE DELI

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This is an obvious one for anyone who knows me, as the Deliciously Ella books are what partially inspired and greatly facilitated by transition to a fully plant-based lifestyle. I followed the opening of the deli from afar, eagerly anticipating my move to London so I could go there myself. Since moving here I’ve been four times and absolutely loved both the food and the positivity exuding atmosphere. I think it’s safe to say that it’s one of my happy places 😉

Best for: casual lunch or tea and cake with friends or a healthy take away

The food: Central to the menu is the Mae bowl, which consists of four of the seasonal dishes you’ll see displayed behind the counter – you choose what you want and can have it to eat there or as a take away. I’ve eaten from the September menu and also recently tried the new dishes and have loved both. The new cauliflower falafels were a wonderful consolation for finding the sun dried tomato falafels gone – in fact, I think they’re even better! I also love the lemony butter bean hummus and the spiced sweet potato as well as the black rice salad that are currently on the menu. Make sure you leave room for dessert though, as there are lots of eye catching options to chose from. The Mae cake is divine and I’m told the carrot cake is incredible – I desperately need to try that. They also sell the Deliciously Ella Energy Balls, at a discounted price compared to stores (just recently had the Cashew & Ginger one, so good and perfect for this colder time of year!).

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The location: 21 Seymour Place, London W1H 5BH (a second one will be opening up on Weighhouse Street).

Note: If possible, go in the evenings as lunch time is usually very busy. In summer it’s no problem to grab a take away and enjoy it in nearby Hyde Park, but in winter this is obviously less ideal. Afternoons are also a good option – just stop by for some cake and a turmeric latte 🙂

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MILDRED’S

Best for: A yummy meal with non plant-based friends

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The foodMildred’s is a vegetarian restaurant with many delicious fully plant-based options, such as the fabulous rose harrisa hummus with pine nuts, spicy tempeh and chargrilled flatbread (a starter that I had with the mixed leaf salad with organic sprouts for a light yet incredibly satisfying meal – had to keep stopping myself from exclaiming how good it was, as the friend I was with is not a foodie and would probably have thought me strange had I kept interrupting her with ecstatic proclamations as to the divineness of my meal). The tastes and textures were amazing and the soft, hot, doughy flatbread was everything flatbread should be and more. The menu is full of other exciting vegan dishes, as well as some marked with the option of being vegan, such as the black turtle bean and squash burrito. I really need to go back and try the sweet potato fries and the turkish rose pistachio truffles! The place has also got a really nice and relaxed vibe – at least the one at King’s Cross did on a Sunday noon.

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The location: 200 Pentonville Road, King’s Cross, London N1 9JP. There are also restaurants in Soho (45 Lexington Street, Soho, London W1F 9AN) and Camden (9 Jamestown Road, London NW1 7BW).

Hope you enjoyed reading about these places. Let me know what you think or what your favorite places for plant-based options are!

My favorite places to eat in London (Part I)

So I’ve been in London for over a month now and I feel fully qualified to share with you some amazing places for delicious, nourishing and exciting food! They are not all plant-based but all obviously have great fully plant-based options. Now, if you’ve read my post on recommendations for New York, you’ll have seen that I use a blueberry rating system (10 = the best). For this post I’m not going to bother, as they are all a 10/10!! In order not to make this a massive post I’ll be doing this in parts, so stay tuned for more restaurant recommendations 😉

FARMACY

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Best for: celebrating! 🙂 Eating here feels like a real treat, and if you have something special to celebrate, this place will make the occasion extra memorable.

The food: The main menu is full of amazing options such as salads, mezze, vegan pasta and pizza,  “earth bowls” (£1 of the price is donated to Drop4Drop, an organization funding sustainable clean water solutions) and yummy sides, including sprouted grains, hummus, steamed greens and sweet potato fries.  I opted for the Mexican Bowl (one of the earth bowls), which consisted of sprouted coriander rice, romaine, guacamole, frijoles, tomao ceviche salsa (so fresh, spicy and flavorsome!), salsa and “sour cream” topped with purple potato mash, corn chips & chipotle mayo. There were so many interesting components in that bowl and they all tasted amazing in their own way while still complementing each other. It was a veritable feast. My boyfriend went for the Farmacy Burger (millet, black bean & mushroom burger served with garlic aioli, goji ketchup, avocado, pickles, tomato & potato chips served in a wholemeal vegan bun – which can be ordered gluten-free). But seriously, let’s talk dessert. The highlight without a doubt was the fully plant-based and refined sugar-free Nice Cream Brownie Sundae (brownie served with vanilla nice cream, seasonal fruits, raw cacao and housemade maca caramel). This did not taste healthy, let me tell you! It tasted sensationally sinful and every bite had us in raptures. This was hands down the best and most extravagant fully plant-based dessert I’ve ever had and it left me feeling happy and energized hours later.

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The drinks: Along with the sundae I had a hot chocolate (the first in years!) – we were celebrating, afterall 😉 It was made with almond milk, cacao powder, dates, cinnamon, vanilla and was the perfect indulgent accompaniment to the sundae. Besides smoothies, juices and lattes Farmacy also offers “Farmaceutical Syringe Shots”, which are amazingly healthy sounding shots served in an actual syringe. My boyfriend couldn’t resist the novelty and had the “Melt Away” one (gingko, turmeric, gotu kola, garcinia, milk thistle and cucumber juice – not going to pretend I know what everything is!); definitely a fun way to end your meal.

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The location: 74 Westbourne Grove, London W2 5SH

Note: They do not take reservations, so you may have to wait a bit, depending on the time you go. We went for lunch on a Sunday at around 1.30 pm and got a table just after 2pm. If, like my boyfriend, you’re too hungry and need some sustenance while waiting, check out the nearby Yogland, (the green chia bowl was good!) 😉

REDEMPTION

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Best for: date night or drinks and a meal with friends

The food: All dishes are vegan, gluten- and refined sugar-free, fully in line with their cheeky motto of Spoil Yourself Without Spoiling Yourself 😉 The menu may not appear extensive, but you’ll still be spoilt for choice! Everything sounds and looks intriguing. My first time there I had the raw courgette spaghetti tossed in basil and pumpkin seed pesto, rocket and cherry tomatoes, topped with brazil nut “parmesan”, which was really indulgent. For some reason I was expecting a meager little portion and was therefore positively surprised to get a plate stacked high with courgetti and lots of wonderfully flavorsome pesto. My friend went for the Tokyo salad (brown rice and avocado salad with cucumber, radish, chilli, hijiki seaweed, an (incredible!) citrus-miso dressing and sesame seeds). When my boyfriend visited me last weekend I knew I had to take him there – solidifying my status as girlfriend-with-impressive-knowledge-of-great-places-to-eat. This time I went for the maki rolls platter – an enticing tray of maki rolls filled with quinoa, avocado, enoki, sesame seeds and micro amaranth shoots. I also had some of my boyfriend’s asparagus black rice risotto, which more than justified its recommendation and high praise by the waiter. It had a wonderful flavor that I can only somewhat lamely describe as unique. The food at Redemption  tastes like nothing you’ve ever tasted before – it surprises and teases and highly pleases! I can also recommend the nibble platter, with amazing kale chips, and the raw chocolate mousse (made with avocado) with cashew cream.

The drinks: all non-alcoholic, with fun names and interesting ingredients. I tried some of the (oh no, I’ve forgotten the name!!) one with beetroot and orange, which was really refreshing, but I’ll definitely have to go back and try some more.

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Locations: 6 Chepstow Road, London W2 5 BW (the one I went to) and 320 Old Street, London EC1V 9DR.

Note: You can find a sample menu on their website and most of the dishes and drinks on there I saw offered in the restaurant. We were told the menu is about to change though, which means new exciting – and seasonal – options will be offered!

THE GATE

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Best for: a nice evening out with family or friends

The food: Everything at The Gate is vegetarian and the menu focuses on lots of wonderful fresh veggies. The first time I went to eat here I ordered the Mexican-inspired sweet corn and cilantro fritters, accompanied with salsa, avocado and beans – a wonderful harmony of tastes and textures (the fritters were so fluffy!). I’ve also had the Green Dragon (salad of glazed smoked tofu, avocado, sweet potato, red cabbage, pak choi, daikon, heritage carrot, peppers with a teriyaki and sesame dressing), which was fresh and light but packed with amazing flavor. The portions here are maybe a bit on the smaller side, but that just means you have more room for dessert, which is a great thing at this place! Vegan banoffee pie anyone?? This was literally one of the best (closely following the epic Farmacy sundae) vegan desserts I’ve ever had. It was utterly divine and I could not stop making noises of appreciation and wonder with each bite. Everything from the caramelized banana and banana coulis to the caramel-y base was scrumptious and the top layer of the dessert was soooo incredibly smooth and silky. It was a dream.

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The location: 370 St John St London EC1V 4NN (The Gate Islington); there are also restaurants in Hammersmith (51 Queen Caroline Street, London w6 9QL) and – as I just found out this minute – there will be one in Seymour Place (22-24 Seymour Place, London W1H 7NL) from December 1st onwards.

Note: Make a reservation! This place is always packed. The staff was kind enough to give my boyfriend and I the couch when we stopped by spontaneously 😀 comfy, but a bit difficult to eat with the low table (but hey, great food, cozy atmosphere – what more do you need?)

Hope you enjoyed this and please let me know what you think if you go to any of these place – I’d love to know 🙂

Delicious plant-based food in New York

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I was in New York for a few days in the middle of August this year and – my first time in NY as an eager plant-eater – I was keen to see what the big apple had to offer in terms of healthy, whole plant-based foods. I was lucky enough to stay with a friend, so I didn’t eat out every night, but also enjoyed some simple meals at her apartment. Healthy food is expensive, I discovered. Probably not so surprising for most people, but visiting from Switzerland, a notoriously expensive country for eating out, I did have some naive hopes that I could have my açai bowl and eat it too (while feeling good about the price). Regardless, here are some places I ate at and would definitely recommend if you’re in NY or planning to visit. They are not all fully plant-based, but they all have good plant-based options. Before we sink our teeth into them let me just say that I will be awarding them blueberries, 10 being, obviously (the more blueberries the better, right?), the best.

Beyond Sushi Version 2The food: The name already gives this away – sushi, but 100% plant-based sushi. When I mentioned this to my friend she wasn’t very excited – vegan sushi probably conjured up images of boring cucumber rolls and not much else. Well, there was not a single cucumber roll in sight. The menu had only wonderfully unusual and creative sounding rolls, such as „Sunny Side“ (black rice, braised fennel, sun-dried tomato and avocado topped with butternut squash and almond pesto), which all look like works of art – on your plate and hung up on the walls as large printed images. It was tough making a choice but I went for the „Spicy Mang“ (black rice, avocado, mango and English cucumber topped with spicy veggies and toasted cayenne sauce) and also tried some of my friend’s „Chic Pea“ (black rice, roasted eggplant, artichoke and English cucumber topped with saffron chickpea purée and parsley with tahini sauce). Besides the 8 different kinds of sushi rolls they also serve soups, side salads such as seaweed and kimchi, rice bed salads (bowls of black rice topped with greens, various toppings and sauces), rice paper wraps and noodle soups. Besides my fabulous rolls I also had a “green root” noodle salad (green tea noodles, seaweed salad, roasted almonds, sesame seeds, parsley and cilantro with ponzu sauce), which was absolutely delicious. It was a great meal that was almost as pleasing to the eye as to the taste buds. You might be thinking this sounds like some seriously expensive sushi, but it was amazingly affordable: I paid only around $13 (water was free) for the meal. In Switzerland you would probably get 6 measly little cucumber rolls and some water for that price.Version 2

Location: I was at the Midtown one (62 W 56th St.), but there is also one at Union Square (229 E14th St.) and Chelsea Market (75 9th Avenue). The Midtown one was quite small and looked more like a takeaway place, so not exactly a fancy venue or anything, but it was relaxed, bright and full of colorful, mouthwatering pictures of sushi rolls.

Blueberries: blueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberry 9/10

 

Souben 

The food: This place is all about natural, organic, macrobiotic food in traditional Japanese style. I had to look up what macrobiotic means, but it’s basically a nutritional philosophy that revolves around balanced, seasonal and unrefined food to promote physical and spiritual health. The food at Souben is all about fresh vegetables, grains and plant protein, such as beans, tofu and tempeh. I went for the Macro Plate, which is an “ideal balance of steamed greens, vegetables, brown rice, beans and hijiki seaweed” with a sesame vinaigrette. I have to say that the food was tasty and the whole atmosphere very calming. It was around 2pm when I ate there, so there wasn’t much of a hustle and bustle and just knowing that I was eating something health-promoting and based on traditional principles made me feel good. I might mention at this point that I’ve been suffering from chronic stomach problems for several years now and 99% of the time I have symptoms in the evening, before, during and/or after dinner. On that particular day, I was symptom-free after lunch all the way till I went to bed. Coincidence? Maybe. But either way, it was an interesting and beneficial experience.img_6403Location: There’s one in Soho (210 Sixth Avenue at Prince St), which is where I went after some Soho shopping, and another one at 326 East 6th St, between 1st and 2nd Avenue).

Blueberries: blueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberry 8/10 (My meal didn’t excite my taste buds quite as much as the one at Beyond Sushi and the overall style of the place felt a bit muddled to me somehow. The atmosphere was good though and the servers friendly).

 

Franchia Vegan Cafe Version 2The food: Korean, vegan and delicious. That’s all you need to know. Among other things there are kale dumplings, salads, noodle dishes and something called bibimbap – a popular Korean rice dish (choice of white or brown) with vegetables, tofu, tempeh or soy “meat” and various sauces. I went for the Kale and Brown Rice Noodles in Black Bean Sauce, which was an absolute dream. I ate it in a slow, semi-meditative state, enjoying each blissful bite of deep, satisfying flavour. (The extremely relaxed tempo had more to do with my lack of chopstick skills concerning the slippery noodles, but added to the zen-like experience. About half way through though, once my white shirt was already spattered in black bean sauce, I admitted defeat and shamefacedly asked for a fork and spoon.) To accompany my meal I sipped their Organic Lotus Tea, which was wonderfully soothing. They have a very interesting selection of teas, which I would definitely recommend checking out if you’re there.

Location: 12 Park Avenue. I would recommend a reservation, as I wasn’t able to get a table the first time I wanted to eat there, which was for lunch on a weekday. I had no problem getting a table at around 6pm though on a Sunday evening, when I needed an early meal.

Blueberriesblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberry 10/10

 

Saigon Market The food: This Vietnamese place serves up a large variety of dishes – both with meat and vegetarian. I hadn’t researched this place, but met up with some friends here, one of whom had discovered this place while on a particularly bad date. The menu has a section of vegetarian dishes, such as Curry Tofu and Bamboo Steamed Vegetables (which could be paired with a side of brown rice for a healthy plant-based meal). Under the section labelled “Noodles” you’ll also find some fully veggie options, such as the flavor-packed Rice Vermicelli with vegetables, bean sprouts, crushed peanuts and a delicious sauce, which is what I went for. It was a huge bowl and I wasn’t able to finish it, but at the same time it was a very light meal, not making me feel sluggish at all.

Location: 93 University Place (near Union Square)

Blueberries: blueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberry 7/10 (The meal itself was delicious, but I’m taking points off because the atmosphere wasn’t particularly warm or modern or exciting, and also due to the fact that there weren’t as many interesting plant-based options as at the previous restaurants.)

 

Whole Foods Takeaway img_6386Since I was staying only 5 minutes away from the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle and have been a fan of this place for years, I came here at least three times – maybe four. It’s perfect for a yummy and nutritious takeaway and what better place to enjoy it at than Central Park, which is literally across the street. (The first time there we ate at the food court area inside, however, as it was just too ridiculously hot and humid to venture outside).The food: While the takeaway area is quite large, with options such as sushi, sandwiches, wraps, pre-packaged salads and a warm buffet, I always made a beeline straight for the cold buffet area where I’d start with some greens – a mix of spinach, rocket and mesclun and add things like quinoa, seaweed, beans, different kinds of hummus, grilled veg and drizzle some balsamic on top. You pay by weight and my large box was between $8-13 (once, after a particularly impressive amount of walking I carbed it up a bit more by adding a whole wheat bagel).Version 2Location: 10 Columbus Circle is the one I went to and there are two more: 250 7th Avenue and 95 E Houston St.

Blueberries: blueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberry 8/10 (It’s invaluable for putting together a healthy meal according to your preferences without having to be fussy. I did, however, have some extremely smoky baba ghanoush once, which completely ruined everything it touched, and the quinoa lacked flavour. In terms of veggie choices for on the go, you can’t beat it though, in my eyes).

 

Juice Generation img_6107This chain was also conveniently located, so I ended up coming here three times during my stay. Besides the actual food I enjoyed the atmosphere in there, even though it was only a take away place. It’s super clean, colourful and fresh – you can see and smell the ingredients they use and everything in there exudes health and positivity.The food: Açai bowls! There are six different kinds: PB Açai, Amazing Green, Protein Revolution, Almond Butter Bliss, Aloha Açai and XO Coco. I tried the first three and they were all incredible and beautifully decorated with fresh fruit and toppings such as cacao nibs and hemp seeds. If I had to pick a favourite it was probably Amazing Green (acai, almond milk, avocado, banana, blueberries, hemp granola – this stuff is so good! – hemp seeds, kale and spinach). It had just enough subtle sweetness and I loved the green colour and the feeling of additional virtue due to the fact that I was having my greens for breakfast. The peanut butter was, in one word: indulgent. If I’d have to fault it I’d say there was too much peanut butter (if that’s even possible!).Version 2Besides açai bowls this place also has wonderful sounding smoothies and juices as well as health shots, vegan lunches such as the Macro Bowl, sushi, Jackfruit Tacos and a Kale Quinoa Burger – I have to admit, though, that I was too much enthralled with the açai bowls to have the attention span for much else – and interesting baked goods (vegan matcha baked donuts anyone?).Version 2

Location: There are quite a few, so I’ll only list the one I went to: 979 Eighth Avenue btw 57th and 58th – check out their website for locations near you.

Blueberries: blueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberryblueberry 10/10

Restaurant Review – Swiss Edition: Hiltl

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I love love love coming to this place for a delicious, healthy yet indulgent meal. It has become a bit of a birthday tradition and I’ve also treated friends to lunch or dinner here for special occasions. Eating out in Switzerland – especially Zurich – is generally more expensive than in some other countries, so for the average student like me, a visit to Hiltl is a wonderful treat, to be savored moment to moment.

It’s a vegetarian restaurant, so not completely plant-based (for example there are curries with paneer). Most dishes are fully plant-based though, so you won’t feel limited at all if you don’t eat any animal products. Also, all dishes have labels, so just look for the “v” for vegan symbol if you’re unsure.

Fun fact # 1: Founded in 1898, Hiltl holds the Guinness World Record for being the “oldest continuously open vegetarian restaurant in the world”.

Fun fact # 2: Restaurant by day, Hiltl turns into a club by night. Just don’t show up in fur – you won’t be allowed to enter!

The food: While you can order à la carte (can’t understand those people!), my recommendation is that you fill up your plate at the enticing and wonderfully colorful buffet. There is an array of cold dishes ranging from exotically flavored salads to lentil and chickpea dishes, bowls of quinoa, vats of good old guacamole and hummus etc. etc. Above the cold options are the warm dishes, where you’ll find falafels, vegetable samosas and other delights. To the side of this buffet area there are hot dishes of curries, rice, sweet potato mash and much more! Oh and don’t forget: you get a complimentary little bread roll or slice of pita bread with your meal that you can pick from a basket (usually includes a glutenfree option).

For dessert you’ll be spoiled for choice again. Besides fresh fruit there are various vegetarian and vegan (soy-based) mousses, such as chocolate, mango and passion fruit, cakes and brownies (at my most recent birthday dinner there I had a vegan sweet potato brownie so good!) and crumbles. To one side of the room there are also glass jars filled with various nuts, seeds, dried fruit and granola. 

My favorite dish: definitely the cold orecchiette pasta salad with a tomato-balsamic dressing, olives and tofu (see picture below). It’s divine and I never miss it. Other favorites that usually make their way onto my plate are the falafels, the seaweed salad, hummus, green beans with walnuts and some fresh mango.

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How does it work? You take a small or large plate and pay by weight. To give you an idea of the price: my large plate usually racks up around CHF 25, while my boyfriend pays between CHF 35-45. My sweet potato brownie, chocolate mousse and mango were around CHF 7.

Bonus: Free water! This is something thrifty students will definitely appreciate, as it’s the exception in Switzerland. Unlike the US where you are always served water free of charge, in Switzerland you’ll probably raise an eyebrow or two if you ask the waiter for tap water in a good restaurant and your request may even be turned down.

Location: I always go to “Haus Hiltl” which is located at Sihlstrasse 28 in central Zurich, close to the Orell Füssli bookstore. There is also “Hiltl Sihlpost” at Europaallee 1A, which opened earlier this year. If you’d like to enjoy this awesome plant-based food with a view, why not check out “Hiltl Dachterrasse” at Bahnhofstrasse 88?

Another place to grab some Hiltl goodies on the go is in the department store Jelmoli, on the lowest floor. Confession of a Hiltl-addict: I slyly suggested we go to the food court area of that department store the day after my most recent birthday dinner (which was at Hiltl, of course), tricking my unsuspecting boyfriend into more of their food. As it’s so delicious and full of variety he didn’t mind though!

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Extra tip: If you like Hiltl you’ll also want to check out tibits, the slightly more casual sister of Hiltl. The vegetarian pay-by-weight buffet joint was founded by three Swiss brothers in collaboration with the owners of Hiltl. Today there are eight tibits restaurants in Switzerland and… there’s one in London as well! As I’m moving to London this September I was pleasantly surprised to discover this. If I get homesick I’ll know where to go 😉