Deptford Project and Chiconia (FREE bonus heritage waffle!). Deptford, SE8.

What do want? "Proportional Representation!" When do we want it? "After a properly thought out free vote and referendum!"

After a productive afternoon “protesting” at the Take Back Parliament Fair Votes rally on College Green, I decided that I needed a bloody good coffee. Having read at Londonist that the Deptford Project cafe (that fancy-looking spraypainted train carriage on the High Street) boasted some of the “finest coffee you’ll find in the local area”, I opted against struggling to find a decent coffee amongst the chains and expens-o-rama of the West End and instead caught the next train Deptford (and homeward) -bound.

After a quick mooch around the market, as it was packing up, I rolled up at Deptford Project for my eagerly-awaited cup of joe. Fully expecting either a soya latte or a simple espresso, I was mightily surprised when that highly-prized mainstay of Aussie and Kiwi baristas, the flat white, was on the menu.

Being a relatively sunny day (as nice as it can get in London before July…), I took my seat on the deserted deck and awaited my drink from the ever-so-funky-and-friendly staff.

A proper cup of coffee in a proper coffee cup.

Whilst I was expecting the ubiquitous latte art that tends to come with a flat white (which, incidentally, I first learned of through coffee-obsessed vegan Evan McGraw‘s blog), I care more about the flavour and consistency of my coffee. The consistency was great – a nice thin layer of smooth, dense microfoam with no large bubbles. And the flavour was good – well-roasted beans (not burned like some of the big chains), but let down by the use of the newly-reformulate (read: tastes worse) fresh Alpro original soya milk. Also, the temperature was perfect. After a few seconds to ‘eat’ the foam with a spoon (as is my wont) and the main body was at drinking temperature. These guys know how to make a good flat white – unlike Starbucks, who seem to think it is a cooler latte…

Well, that was nice.

At only £1.80, with no extra charge for soya milk, this was a sustainably-sourced, fairtrade, UK-roasted, delicious bargain.

Lounging and caffeinating completed, I ventured home on the High Street’s veritable carpet of rancid chicken bones and fishwater with my next suprise find awaiting a serious devouring.

For those who don’t know me that well, let me brief you: I have Trinidadian heritage. My Dad, after being adopted by a mixed race, mixed nationality couple (Trinidadian  calypso-musician and English shopkeeper) in the early 60s, spent his formative years growing up in the West Indies. However, despite my paternal grandparents’ relationship being tumultuous (and ended with my Dad returning to the UK with his Mother in the early ’70s), my Father retained a distinct love for the T&T culture – particularly for music and food – which was impressed upon me and my brother when we were growing up.

Pretty much every weekend would see our family taking a trip to Whalley Range (I grew up in Manchester) to get my Dad’s beloved patties, sugar cane and scotch bonnets. Also, every week, my dad would make a massive batch of his famed Trini “meat and rice”, a highly-spiced, chilli-fired blend out meat, oinions, herbs, scotch bonnets, spices and tomatoes, all served with rice & peas. However, when I turned 15 and decided to become vegetarian, this went out of the window. Not for want of trying, though. My Dad did try to concoct a vegetable-based version but, because he used the same salty, pungent spice mix as for the meat, even though the vegetables obviously didn’t absorb and distribute the flavours quite as well as the fleshy type. Shame, but that was my very last taste of traditional Trini food.

Until today.

Vegan trini roti from Chiconia

I have in the past walked past the Caribbean takeaway and bakery Chiconia (trivia: named after the Trinidadian national flower), situated at the newly Tesco-fied South end of the High Street, wrongly assuming that all that would be sold would be the meat-filled patties, roti and stews of my youth. This time, however, I decided to have a glance at the menu in the window. Seeing that their menu was over 50% vegetarian I figured that it would do no harm to ask the proprietors whether any of the evidently vegetable-based-sounding dishes were suitably for my sort.

Wow. Almost ALL of the freshly-made stews still available at that time of day (5pm) were vegan. After a brief chat about the veganity of the dishes with the two servers, seemingly representing both first- and second-generation Trinidadian immigration, they suggested a roti with the appropriate vegan fillings. Explaining as he did it, the chap fetched a fresh, warm roti (Indian-style wholewheat flatbread) and stuffed it full of three stews – pumpkin, potato and channa (chickpea) – adding a spicy hot pepper relish on top and folding into a giant burrito-style wrap.

Although the gent serving forgetfully offered my some of their homemade coleslaw, the servers (one of them had cooked that days vegetable dishes) were very aware of cross contamination, ingredients and dietary requirements – a big plus for when a vegan has to put theur trust in an independent, omnivorous eatery. A cheery goodbye and best wishes later, I headed home.

And what a treat I had waiting for me when I got there. The roti was, in all seriousness, one of the best things I have ever eaten in London. Now, of course I am biased, given my expectations, history and palette, but honestly. It was amazing. The warm, soft roti, spicy soft potatoes, tender, curried chickpeas and sweet, melt-in-the-mouth pumpkin all combined to be full on Trini perfection. And the aroma, heat and flavour of that scotch bonnet relish! I have MISSED that so much! I, or rather my palette, had forgotten that chillis weren’t just heat or sweetness. They can be all that and more if treated with respect. And Chaconia treat their food with respect – and it shows.

Did I mention it was only £3.70 for effectively a whole meal? If you know me, and how I devour platefuls of food, you will know that if one wrap can fill me up it must be one HELL of a beast!

Now, I know that a lot of vegans and foodies will baulk at me either: getting sentimental about pre-vegan food; waxing lyrical about an omni cafe; or, dedicating over 1100 words to what are in effect a sandwich and a cuppa. But I want to let people know a couple of things. Firstly, don’t write off omni places – they can help you explore world flavours and cultural heritage that a vegan fusion place may not ever do. Secondly, don’t think that Deptford and New Cross are such vegan wastelands – open your eyes when in seemingly vegan-hostile places and you never know what might slap you in your gizzards.

And thirdly, lastly, but most importantly, don’t ever diss a good sandwich.

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THREE WEEKS without a post?! How DARE you.

How very dare I, indeed.

Well, to (not quite) make up for it here’s a roundup of what I did yesterday.

Firstly, we got the shiny new Overground train along the shiny old East London Line to the shiny new Shoreditch High Street station.

Look at the shiny shiny!

So, what was I there for? An art show? Off-West End oblique theatre? Or just browsing overpriced ‘vintage’ clothes shops for 60-year-old corduroys?

Would it surprise you that is was one of the above? No? Good. Because Iwasn’t. I am, after all, not a complete twat.

I am, however, still a bit of a twat – simply because we went all that way (15 minutes – you just count ’em) for lunch at a vegan joint that I had sworn NEVER to set foot in. Unless, perhaps, it was free. But even then I’d probably barter for booze as well.

Purdy lunch setting

That’s right – Rootmaster. Now, I know that this post may get me some flak from the London vegan community, so revered is it, but I PROMISE you that I literally have almost no reason to like it. The first (and last) time that I had dined here was about six months ago, in the evening, and with a whole heap of friends. Two of these were positive aspects of the night. Others were: the bus itself (well-decorated, twee and surrounded by crumpled vintage cars and urban artwork), the service (my meal was taken off the bill when complained about – how very un-British of me!), and the veganity (100% vegan, if you didn’t know already).

The food that I had on that occasion was, however, vile. From the over-spiced-but-underflavoured curry to the hard pastry and mouth-cloyingly oily cream of the banana cream pie, I felt very unhappy to be having to pay my £20 bill. So I didn’t. Well, not for the main, anyway.

I really, honestly, SERIOUSLY wanted it to be different this time. It was a different menu (lunch, not dinner), wasn’t packed (we were the only ones on there), and I had a£10 voucher, making any damage that might be made to my wallet by poor value food a lot less painful.

Anyway, after a couple of minutes poring over the lunch menu we decided on both the Rootmaster Curry (£6) and Panini (£5, though they marked it on the bill as £5.50…), to share. I mean, if you can’t trust a venue’s signature dishes, what can you trust?

The panini, whilst it left me with the oft-felt “could have done better myself” feeling, was actually quite nice. It had grilled marinated tofu, salty sundried tomato puree, zingy house-made mayo and cool cucumber, pressed on their light, crispy signature “bus baked” bread. A nice, balanced panini. Not £5 worth of panini, but nice all the same.

The curry. The fucking curry. Sorry for the language, but just fucking look at it. The website description states that their Rootmaster Curry consists of “Organic, seasonal vegetables and chickpeas in a creamy coconut masala & tumeric sauce served on organic brown rice”. Whilst I’m pretty sure that all of those things were in there, the description does not conjure up what appeared in front of me. A description of “Yesterday’s Rootmaster Curry, stirred together with yesterday’s brown rice because you are the only person to have ordered it today and we didn’t quite see this coming” would have more accurate.

A quick Flickr search has brought up the following picture of what my food SHOULD have looked like:

Looks tasty, no?

Seriously.

And look again at what I got:

Bleurgh

This is allegedly the same dish. I am not happy, Rootmaster. Not happy at all. We paid up (balance mostly taken up by the voucher, of course) ASAP and went elsewhere for dessert.

Having only learned that morning of magnificent vegan baker Ms. Cupcake‘s debut at all-vegan boutique Vx in King’s Cross, I decide that a walk (yes, from Shoreditch) was in order. An hour and a goose attack later we were in dire need of a sugar fix. And, oh my, Ms. Cupcake does not disappoint.

L:Cookies & Cream Cupcake/R:Irish Cream & Chocolate cake

At £2.50 for a cupcake and £2.10 for a (slightly bigger) slice of cake, this portion of delight does not come too cheap. However, when you consider that: a) a dessert at Rootmaster would have been twice the price; b) all of these desserts are handmade with love, care, attention, and quality ingredients, and; c) these are the best vegan desserts I have every had, outside of NYC.

No word of a lie. And if you know how I am with desserts (and NYC…), then you will know how high that praise is.

I am told by Vx’s Rudy that they are selling very well and will have a rotation of flavours throughout the week, every week. Additionally, if you can’t make it to Vx, you can catch Ms. Cupcake at Greenwich market every Thursday and Friday, as well as the occasional alternative spot (she is debuting at Brick Lane this coming weekend). Follow her on Twitter for the latest goss!

Right, that’s all from me now. Time to go and sleep off the remainder of yesterday’s sugar high.

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Brighton; and, an apology.

I’ll start with the latter first – sorry for the lack of updates. My absence is not for lack of inspiration – quite the opposite, in fact. There is an increasing number of topics on which I want to post, with more coming to my attention every day. But there is a limit to what I can do with my meagre time. In addition to just starting a full-time apprenticeship, I also have to do the shopping, clean the flat and so on. However, having the long Easter weekend off (i work in the City) will benefit you, dear, faithful reader.

Now, back to business.

Last Saturday, I woke up with the full intention and good time to venture to the relatively new Bermondsey Farmers Market. Whilst I don’t want to betray my love for Blckheath and Islington FMs with an SE1 fling, a major reason for visiting was the presence of vegan Caribbean foodies Global Fusion, a company who occasionally have a stand-by stall at Blackheath.

However, this did not happen…

Instead, we got an early morning message from a trainee pilot friend inviting us on his practice flights over Brighton that afternoon. Five minutes, a phone call and a £15 ticket payment later nd we were set to go to Brighton.

As most of you my know, Brighton is pretty damn vegan-friendly. So we knew we wouldn’t go hungry!

We disboarded in Brighton a couple of hours later a little hungry, but not ready for a meal. Right to the uber-vegan-friendly pie place Our Cornish Pasty we headed. £3.15 may seem steep for a pasty (we chose the Mexicana), but it was plenty snack for us two, so would be a decent small meal for one. They do three varieties of vegan pasty, plus a sausage roll and two desserts. Add that to soya milk for you coffee and you’re all set.

Next, with time against us, we popped into Infinity Foods health food store. With plenty of stock ranging from fresh organic produce to house-baked bread, from vegan chocolate to dairy-free yoghurts, and from animal-friendly toiletries to frozen vegan ready meals, and everything inbetween. The day that we visited happened to be a sample day for Brighton-based The Raw Chocolatier.

I had a little chat with the chocolatier herself, and her passion for her craft really comes through, as it does in her gorgeous-tasting choccies (try the orange cardamom – delightful).

Following this, we took a short walk through the Lanes to get to Aloka. Part-yoga centre, part-holistic meeting centre, part-cafe, Aloka has a rather minimalist, smart, new age feel to it. We couldn’t stay long so perused the dessert offers, all of which were vegan. We chose (wisely, I feel) the dark chocolate and pear layer cake with a scoop of vegan mint choc chip ice cream. Both were delicious, and I would definitely have both again.

Then we went flying. Brighton, an exceedingly attractive city at ground level, looks equally (or perhaps more) beautiful from the air.

Buckets of adrenalin and sweat later (I’m terrified of heights…), we were back in Brighton, tiring and famished. Time for veggie pub The George. When we visit Brighton, we always gravitate towards this vegan-friendly haven to enjoy a steaming plate of vegan bangers in fluffy mash with red onion gravy or baked enchiladas, served with copious amounts of salsa and guac. This would be then followed by a vegan dessert of some variety, all washed down with a chilled cider.

A quick glance at the menu and I could tell that the rumours were true – vegans were no longer The George’s dish of the day. Quorn sausages, cheesy chilli and no vegan desserts were combining to whisper “unwelcome” softly but viscerally in my shocked and dismayed face.

All was not lost – the burger could be made vegan (minus the mayo and cheese, not with a vegan substitute). It was meh – the burger bland and mushy, the salsa a supermarket’s own-brand disaster, the salad bizarrely salty (I bit into a huge chunk of sea salt more than once) and the ketchup from Aldi (yes, really). It goes toshow how disappointed I was when I say that the highlights of the meal were the chips, the availability of Brothers’ strawberry cider, and Soft Cell’s Tainted Love. Played very loud.

I love Brighton and can’t wait to return – but I shan’t be going back to the George.

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Vx, the new home of Secret Society of Vegans

Firstly, let me start by apologising for my lack of posts over the past couple of days. But I do have good reason! I started on Monday morning a venture that will hopefully make my life a whole heap better: enabling me to grab hold of my own future and to further my skills. I have, in short become an apprentice chef! (In vegetarian, mostly vegan, kitchen of course) More news on this shall come in good time.

So yeah… sorry.

Anyway, onto the pressing matter to which the intriguing title of this post alludes.

That of the Verily Voluptuously Vegan Vx.

I could go for pages about how fantastic it is to have a wholly vegan shop in Central London, one which is positively overflowing with otherwordly deliciousness and coolmaking attire, but I cannot. I fear being damned for nepotism (I know Rudy, ssov’s chief leader) and cast out of blogland.

Instead, I shall merely outline what Vx is all about:

  • ssov-branded merchandise;

  • Fresh baked goods from London-based vegan companies (including gluten-free options), as well as hot and cold drinks to enjoy them with in the downstairs lounge area;

  • Packaged vegan (and kosher) candy, crisps and cookies (including vegan oreo-style ones!).
  • Sandwiches, salads, truffles and yoghurts;

  • Vegan canned dog food, dog biscuits and dog chews;

  • Central London location (5 minutes walk from Kings Cross).

Any questions? Just drop a line to the man himself on twitter: CLICKY!

EDIT: All photos courtesy and copyright of Rudy Penando

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Telegraph Hill Farmers Market

Only time for a quick post today, so forgive me my brevity.

Telegraph Hill Park, a walk to and around which is one of my favourite endeavours in London, holds a Farmers Market on the third Saturday of every month, from 10am-3pm.

It was (from a vegan point-of-view) rubbish. Out of nine stalls, three were ‘happy’ meat, one was ‘cheerful’ cheese, another of unfriendly wine and another was eggy cupcakes.

The other two were an overpriced tomato stall (with a couple of other items), an extremely expensive olive table and a generic Kentish fruit &veg vendor, the quality at which seemed somewhat dubious.

I bought nothing. The best part of the journey from my flat was just that – the journey. The walk (from New Cross Road) is invigorating and has some breathtaking views.

However, I think I’ll continue to make the train to Sunday’s Blackheath market.

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The Shop on the Hill

Bored, all DVDed out and in need of pizza ingredients, this evening I had a look on the web for anything that would avoid my venturing into Central London (my nearest two Holland & Barrett had closed at 6pm). Fate smiled sweetly upon me when I stumbled upon the wonderful Brockley Central blog, an online news, views and reviews about (you guessed it) Brockley, SE4 and its environs. This particular entry was regarding a quaint-sounding store called “The shop on the hill”, which was open until 8pm, and was seemingly very vegan-friendly.

As it was a pleasant evening (and by ‘pleasant’ I mean the weather had decided to stop drowning worms, instead opting for a light drizzle), I decided to take my chances with an easy Google Map-routed 30-minute walk.

Took me fifteen.

So, shins burning and hooded top soaked, I wandered into the empty shop. First impressions: Bulk rice and muesli! A rarity round these parts, so that’s a plus already. Following this, my eyes caught the fridge with the vegan (a selection of raw, sugar free and regular plain) chocolates. This might well be my kind of place. In the next fridge there were fresh salad vegetables, vegan (and vegetarian) cheeses and faux meat products (Redwoods). A shelving unit across held Ecover (PAH!) and Bio D (YAY!) cleaning products, including (another rarity round here) refill stations!

One main thing I noticed about this section of the store was that, with the exception of the Taifun tofu-weiners, the prices were either the same as the larger chains of health food stores or a smidge cheaper. Which is highly unusual for an out-of-the-way, small, independent store.

In addition to all of this, there were the usual organic vegetables (with the option of ordering a bespoke organic veg box), nut butters, free-from loaves etc.

The delightful, enthusiastic shop assistant with whom I spoke (not the owner, incidentally) seemed very knowledgeable and excited about the range of vegan products available and wound things up by convincing me to take one of the locally-made Coxeter’s Fayre‘s raw truffles for the road. Which I nearly walked out with without paying… Anyway, the chocolate (80p for a just-less-than-ping-pong-ball-sized truffle) was delicious, its nutty raw cacao and dried fruit centre reminding me of a Picnic bar from my pre-vegan days.

Whilst it may not stock close to as much as Holland & Barrett (and definitely not Whole Foods), Brockleyites are lucky to have this little gem on their doorstep.

p.s. For the late-night Brockley vegan, the Costcutter around the corner (open well after ‘The shop…’ has closed) stocks a few Redwood chilled ‘meats’, some Fry’s and other frozen ‘meats’ and ready meals, about 8 different non-dairy milks and a couple of vegan and organic Vintage Roots wines.

You lucky devils.

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A Quick Introduction

Hello everyone! This here is just a quick introductory post as to who I am:

  • Bryan, 23-years-old and happily married to a wonderful nurse;
  • Vegan, have been for five years, and will be for the rest of my life;
  • I live in New Cross/Deptford, but I’m not from ’round these parts.

And what the focus of this blog will be:

  • succinct, helpful reviews on vegan products, cafes and services in Deptford SE8/New Cross SE14 and the surrounding areas of South East London.
  • developments in the vegan world in the wider London area and wherever else in the UK I visit (mostly Manchester and Edinburgh). Also the rest of the world, should I venture outside these borders.
  • however, this blog shan’t be solely vegan. I’ll be looking at interesting developments in the local area and other parts of London, should I stumble upon things that I find blog-worthy.

Enjoy!

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