Alright, so I didn’t exactly hang out with Aldo Zilli but I did happen to meet him when we were dining at his Soho restaurant on New Years Eve!
I couldn’t believe my eyes when he emerged from the kitchen earlier in the night to deliver some dishes to a nearby table. Celebrity chefs are not usually seen in their smocks so I was mega stoked to see the man himself was mucking in on such an incredibly busy night.
When Zilli Green closed not so long ago I was mega disappointed, as it had become a firm favourite of mine after I went there on my 30th birthday weekend last year. Their vegan menu was extenstive, the staff were knowledgeable and the atmosphere spot on, i.e. it didn’t feel like a vegetarian restaurant – you know what I mean!
Thankfully many of the vegan and vegetarian options seen on the Zilli Green menu are now offered at Zilli Fish – yay! And……Aldo is in fact releasing a new Vegan/Vegetarian cookbook this year and that information came straight from the horses mouth my friends. You heard it here first!
Here’s their veggie menu for your perusal….
I heartily recommend the sweet potato quesadilla (sans feta etc.) and their thin chips are fantastic too…..
ZILLI’S VEGETARIAN OPTIONS Toasted Ciabatta Bread topped with Seasonal Tomatoes, Basil & Wild Rocket (v) £4.90 Seasonal Soup of the Day (v) £5.00 Caprese Salad, Tomato, Mozzarella, & Pesto (vo) £6.50 Quesadilla with Sweet Potato & Feta, Guacamole & Sour Cream (vo) £6.50 Penne Arrabbiata with Roasted Chilli & Basil Oil (v) £8.50 Spinach & Ricotta Ravioli with Butter & Sage Sauce £8.50 Chefs Salad- Quinoa, Cashew Nuts, Pomegranate & Apricots (v) £7.50 Fettuccine with Grilled Vegetables & Goats Cheese (vo) £8.50 Gnocchi with Fresh Pesto & French Beans £8.50 Risotto with Wild Mushrooms & Truffle Oil (v) £9.90 Vegetable & Rice Burger with Avocado & Pickled Cucumber, Thin Chips (v) £8.50 V = VEGAN VO= VEGAN OPTION
What a weekend! It doesn’t get much better than camping in Cornwall (beautiful Porthleven to be specific) especially when the weather is glorious and the company rocks. I’m well and truly exhausted but strangely invigorated at the same time and still trying to wrap my head around the fact we are going to be living there! I honestly can’t believe how lucky I am and all the better that we have found the perfect property.
My husband was a little reluctant to return to his hometown of Penzance and this was not helped by the fact I discovered a fantastic flat next door to his old home – weird or what? I managed to convince him to at least view it before writing it off and we both instantly fell in love with the place. You would not believe the view! As I type I’m nervously waiting on a phonecall from the estate agents because unfortunately it would seem someone else is also interested:( I don’t know which way it’s going to go but it helps that we also realised how much we loved Penzance and after seeing a rather grim property in St.Ives and battling with the tourists it became apparent this was not the place for us. Don’t get me wrong, I adore St.Ives – in my opinion one of the most picturesque towns in the world – but we’re leaving London to get away from the crowds and Penzance offers the best of both worlds.
What has all this got to do with food? Well, whilst exploring Penzance we chanced upon the most amazing health food store called Archie Browns. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better I learnt there was a great vegan cafe upstairs where I then had a delicious three bean chilli and salad. It came topped with a minted yoghurt dressing and my immediate reaction was to question the waitress thinking I had received the vegetarian version. I was a little embarrassed but pleased, of course, to be told it was in fact vegan yoghurt and let me tell you, it tasted go-od:) I know how progressive that part of the world can be particularly when it comes to cuisine but that didn’t detract from my sheer delight in realising I have a vegan haven on my doorstep. I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg too and I can’t wait to get stuck into my Cornish vegan lifestyle and hopefully contribute some of my own food to the local scene.
I’ve always known Cornwall was my spiritual home but visiting somewhere and living there are two very different realities. This weekend, however, has just reinforced my love for the place and I know we’re going to be so happy there. Just when I thought Cornwall couldn’t give any more we stopped off in Falmouth on the way back to Solihull to grab a bite to eat and had the most amazing meal in a wonderful little establishment called The Hut. They were so incredibly accommodating in meeting my vegan needs and ensured there was no dairy in my risotto and soup. The chef topped my risotto with half a roasted garlic that blew me away – I was a very happy diner. Everything was so fabulously fresh, seasoned to perfection and the blue poppy seeds in the salad dressing were a touch of genuis – we’ll definitely be back! The food was helped by the cosy atmosphere that just screamed Cornwall – so snug, so cute, my kind of place. It was the end of a long weekend so you’ll forgive me for just filling my face and not taking any photos.
There were some other good eats to be had – we had tofu wieners (purchased in Archie Browns), which we ate in fresh wholemeal rolls from a local bakery. Our camping pals Matt and Michelle (my Sister in law and her partner) were a bit dubious about these only to be totally won over by their wonderful taste and texture. Michelle is vegetarian and isn’t keen on fake meats, which I totally get, but she actually really enjoyed these and Matt also liked them which chuffed me no end. These are absolutely getting bought again – I’m thinking a wiener dog and soy shake house warming, oh yeah!
On Monday morning after a fun filled weekend and maybe some overindulging on the alcohol front (vegan cider and red wine) my garlic mushroom sandwiches went down a treat:)
Oh and totally randomly the costcutter near to the campsite had a fantastic spice and herb section where I managed to pick up some mega cheap bits and bobs including blue poppy seeds, which thanks to The Hut, I’ll be adding to my salad dressings.
The only bizarre vegan moment the entire weekend was when I asked about the vegan options in a pub and had crab suggested to me – you win some, you lose some!
Oh man, I am so excited now but am trying not to wish these two weeks away – all part of the new ‘enjoy the moment’ attitude I’m trying to implement. It’s so hard though because I’ve got that sea air in my lungs, those views burned into my mind and I just want to get down there pronto. Patience is not a strength of mine! For now though I just want that phone to ring and put me out of my misery. Wish me luck x
Summer means barbecue and barbecue means sweetcorn. In my opinion there is nothing better or more summery than a deliciously charred corn on the cob, which I’ll admit to previously smothering in butter but since going vegan I’ve finally been able to appreciate how divine that naked corn actually is. What was I thinking masking that fabulously sweet flavour all these years? Bbq’d corn needs nothing to enhance its already perfect taste.
I was more than surprised then to find this most perfect of treats in a rather unusual place. Unusual in in the sense that it would never normally have entered my head to visit this establishment when I was a meat eater and more so now that I do not consume animal products. But when you’re in a strange city at 10 o’clock at night starving hungry and surrounded by nasty take-out joints and noisy bars, Nando’s seemed like a safe haven.
Am I seriously saying that the home of Peri-Peri chicken was a safe haven for a vegan? Well, kinda. What I will say is that I was more than pleasantly surprised at their veggie offerings – three ‘burger’ options: veggie, beanie and portobello mushroom. I went for a portobello mushroom pitta with pineapple and a side of corn on the cob. I was slightly concerned about the sauce which looked creamy so I had to ask what the ingredients were. I sorta felt like a dufus because Nando’s is basically one notch up from McDonalds and I wasn’t really expecting the employees to know anything about the food and what went into it. So when the waitress brought out a book with all the nutritional information laid out clearly I was amazed. There it was in black and white - ‘safe for vegans’. Written in the official Nando’s book! I can’t believe us vegans were even taken into consideration given that the place is famed for it chicken.
Now, I do realise many vegans would take issue with me even contributing to the consumption of an unhealthy amount of white meat but I gotta tell ya I was pretty darn happy I discovered another place I could frequent in the ‘real’ world. Why do I even want to be part of the ‘real’ world? Well, it’s like this really – I figure if I don’t eat in ‘normal’ restaurants and make a point of enlightening these places to the fact that not everyone eats meat or dairy then they’ll be more reluctant to put any veggie options on the menu because no-one is ordering it. Whether we like it or not that’s the way the world works and all I’m trying to do is change it one meal at a time – or two if you include my Hubbie’s order;) Sure I could take myself out of the equation completely and only eat at vegan places or at home but what good is that going to do? The more we bring awareness to our vegan needs the more likely we are to be catered for in the future.
So I take my hat off to Nando’s for thinking of us veggie’s when they had no real need to because there are no shortage of peri-peri chicken lovers out there. Maybe the next time you find yourself in a Nando’s why not broaden your horizons and try one of their non-chicken options. I know I’ll be having a side of ratatouille as well as that sumptuous chargrilled corn.
savoury sweetcorn pancakes (make 6 medium sized pancakes)
1 cup flour (I finished off the buckwheat flour I had but will use plain next time)
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup soya milk
1 can organic sweetcorn
2 cloves garlic
pinch of chilli flakes
small handful chopped parsley
salt and pepper
Heat a little oil in pan. Finely chop the onion and add to pan. Season, add the chilli flakes and allow to soften for a few minutes.
Mince the garlic – I like to do it by hand because I hate washing the garlic press and there’s no waste! Add to pan and cook for a few minutes.
Drain the sweetcorn, add to pan and allow to heat through before tossing in the parsley and mixing thoroughly.
In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour in the soya milk bit by bit until you get the correct consistency – thicker than a normal pancake batter but still pourable. You may need a little less milk or a little more, that’s why I recommend not pouring it in all at once.
Lastly mix in the sweetcorn ensuring it is evenly dispersed throughout the batter. Wipe the pan clean, heat a little more oil and ladel or pour in the mixture – I was able to fit two medium sized pancakes in my pan. Wait until it starts to bubble slightly and then turn over for a minute or so until the other side is cooked. Keep warm in the oven (a very low heat is recommended) or in a pancake warmer – I want one sooooo badly:(
I served mine with a baked sweet potato and a colossal salad – yum!
What a wonderful weekend of eating it has been! I am well and truly stuffed and cannot wait to tell you about the delights I’ve had. It all started on Friday night – well, that is typically when the weekend begins - when me and the girls took ourselves to a favourtite haunt of ours in Brixton.
Negril serves genuine Jamaican/Carribean fodder that will make you smile and smile. But it’s not just the food that is the attraction, for me, anyway. As with any great restaurant that you want to return to time and again, it is the ambience, the people who frequent it and of course the staff that make it stand out from other places. It always amazes me how much restauranteurs underestimate the environment in which their food is served. However, in saying that, if anyone tried to recreate the vibe found in Negril they would simply fail because this is not something you can manufacture. There’s nothing contrived about this little bolthole and that goes for the food too.
I’m one of those really annoying people that always orders their same favourite thing on the menu. It’s not something I’m proud of but there is reasoning behind the theory. You see, I know that said restaurant/cafe/diner serves said dish well and I always thorougly enjoy it. So why would I take the risk of ordering something unfamilar and risk it being just not quite as good as my usual order? When it comes to Negril, that said dish is their coconut, chill prawns. Sounds good, doesn’t it? So I was a little thrown on Friday night when I discovered a new addition on their menu……curry goat! It caught my eye, made me do a double take and made me reconsider ordering those heavenly prawns. I ummed and ahhed but eventually gave into instinct – I’m never too far wrong if I go with my gut and never is your gut more important than when you’re deciding what to put in it.
Now, I should explain at this stage that Negril is very popular, particularly at the weekend. Add to that the fact they have to cope with delivery orders and it’s a family/friend run affair and the fact that they may be on Jamaican time (I’m very familiar with this being Irish myself) and you’ll understand that the service is somewhat relaxed. Although our watiress seemed slightly less than relaxed, as she was basically waiting most of the tables in the restaurant. Usually when waiting staff are under pressure their friendly exterior cracks but not in Negril.
The waitress that normally deals with us is actually the proprietor but tonight she is cook, although at the end of the evening she did make an appearance to say hello to her guests – would you find that anywhere else? I think not! And when I say guests I mean it because the atmosphere is so welcoming it almost feels as if you’re having dinner at a friend’s house. I’m sure this is a major contributing factor in why the food tastes as good as it does.
When the food eventually arrived we were all a bit merry from the wine we had brought with us (yep, it’s BYOB and corkage fee is 2.50 – bargain!). My taste buds were still in full working order, however, and the first bite of those tender pieces of stewed meat melted in my mouth like none that I’ve had for a very long while. The curry was mild but deep and flavoursome and I used the roti bread to make myself little bit-sized wraps. Other delights on offer where the always lovely rice and peas – I can’t quite remember whether they were gungo or black-eyed peas (must’ve been the wine) but I do know I prefer them to kidney beans . The festival(like a savoury doughnut) is always a winner, as is the coleslaw but the star of side-show (get it!) has to be the fried plaintain. My goodness they are beyond lip-smaking, fried to perfection, morsels of greatness that have to be eaten to be believed. All the girls enjoyed their choices, amongst them seabass, coconut chilli prawns and chicken but I have a feeling there were more than a few envious eyes on my goat:)
They’ve rennovated since the last time I’d been so they can fit considerably more diners in now but without compromising the intimacy. The only disappointment was the toilet, which used to have cuttings from magazines plastered over the walls for some light reading whilst on the loo:) Gone too was a sign that urged you to not spend too much time in there, as someone could be waiting outside; this always tickled me. I’ll forgive them this one tiny thing though.
Finally, the price. Put it this way, reasonable would be putting it lightly. For the quality and quantity you recieve it is downright outrageously good value for money. Everyone agreed it was the best Negril we’d ever had but I have a feeling there is much more where that came from, which is why I’ll be going back again and hopefully again.
For details of the location of Negril please click on the link below.
p.s. I was having such an awesome time I forgot to take any photos. Apologies!
So I promised this blog would be about other people’s food as well as my own and last night gave me the perfect opportunity to put this into practice. Before I got married last year my lovely girlies took me out for a pre Hen, pre Wedding hoopla beginning with dinner at a place called Leon (I had never heard of it nor been) and ending with Dirty Dancing in the Westend:) A glorious night was had by all and I was particularly impressed with this little establishment, which served quality but cheap as chips food. It’s a little bit like a fast food joint but there’s nothing greasy or soggy or even mass produced about this grub. It tasted fresh, flavourful and it all came served in recycled boxes. Add to that the fact that you wrote down your own order using the menu card and pencil’s provided and within minutes (and I do mean minutes) your meal has arrived as if it has been cooked with as much love and care as you’d find in any family run business. The place itself feels like a little bistro with a hotch potch of nik naks, tealights on tables and a wonderful warm red on the walls that succeeds in engulfing you and creating a cosy atmosphere.
You can imagine how excited I was then to introduce my hubbie to this wonderful ‘fast food’ experience. I had regailed the whole story with such enthusiasm that he was more than a little intrigued to try this place out. Something is different this time, however, as we enter through the door. No greeting from the waitress, in fact I do believe she actively blanked us. Do we seat ourselves? Wait. Nothing. I guess we seat ourselves. We find a corner – I do love eating in corners, don’t you? I just hate feeling exposed when I want to chow down. We soon cotton on to what’s happening, you go to the counter and order for yourself, much like in a McDonalds and the penny finally drops – only waitress service at dinnertime and we are just on the cusp of that. We grab a menu and peruse the delights on offer. Gordon Ramsey recommends the meatballs, decision promptly made.
I’m uncomfortable though and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I don’t know whether it was the unwelcoming feeling when we entered or the staff members who are clearly on a break and have pitched up beside us with feet on chairs, chatting loudly to the rude waitress. You should know, I need to feel relaxed when I eat and I did not feel relaxed, not by a long stretch. My hubbie, who’s still recovering from his rotten cold bless him, is also distinctly on edge. First impressions are not good I’m told:( Anyway, we order: I go for the morrocan meatballs and fresh lemonade and hubbie has the chilli chicken and power smoothie.
It looks good but already we’re having problems getting at the damn food because of the annoying boxes, which have flaps that jut out and make eating very difficult. It’s luke warm too. We eat with gusto, however, because we are absolutely starving having only had fruit and yoghurt all day – we’d been saving ourselves for a nice meal and from what I could remember the portions were decent. That is still true. All dishes come with rice and slaw, which is fine except that the slaw is sliced in such a way that it is a hindrance to eat – do they not want us to be fed? Uber long strings of cabbage are tres, tres annoying. The peas are a strange addition but they don’t bother so much as the distinct lack of flavour in general. Ditto all of this for my husbands meal – he described the chicken as being a bit like kebab meat but luckily for him he is a major kebab fan. My lemonade was fine but needed to be sweeter although I must admit my meatballs were wonderfully moist and the sauce was moreish.
Now, this sounds like a scathing review and it kinda is but funnily enough I would go back because I am ever hopeful that they were just having an ‘off ‘ night. I know there was a change of shift and they were preparing for the dinner service but is it too much to ask for a hello or even an acknowledgement of your existence? Is it too much to ask that the staff don’t sprawl themselves out beside diners and act as if it’s some kind of youth club. Even McDonalds can serve their food moderately warm and ironically the employees are more attentive – surely that can’t be right? I’m pretty sure whoever owns or runs this place would not condone any of this and because of my previous wonderful experience I am willing to be proved wrong. I will visit again but this will be their final chance to redeem themselves. Leon, I hope you are listening.
I ate at The Strand Branch of Leon, in Aldwych, London on Thursday 25th February 2010.
p.s. apologies for the poor quality photos, I had to use the iphone because my camera ran out of battery!