Wow!! I just came home from an AMAZING meal at the Bread St. Brasserie. Normally I would feel a little guilty blogging about an event AFTER it took place – not very nice of me to rave about my meal and post tantalizing photos – but, what was special about this meal was that for one night each month the resident vegan chef, Ryan Walker gets to prepare a full 3 course Vegan menu, with 3 different choices per course. All for an extremely reasonable £15 per person (drinks are extra). So even if you missed this night, you can always give it a try next month.
I’m not a vegan (although vegetables and grains do make up about 80% of my diet) but I do have vegan friends and I want to be able to cook amazing, healthy food for all my family and friends, whatever their dietary requirements. While I was on a raw food preparation course this summer, many of the other attendees were raving about special Vegan nights at the Bread St. Brasserie however, because I like to cook, I don’t eat out a lot so had never been, but I was definitely intrigued. I went home and immediately ‘liked’ the Bread St. Brasserie facebook page and waited for the next event to come along. Sure enough, once the chaos of the festival was over, another vegan night was announced.
I roped in a willing buddy (another veggie loving non-vegan) and we excitedly made our way to Bread St. for the Vegan Dinner on the 12th of September 2013. The Brasserie and hotel were bigger and ‘swishier’ than I expected but it was a perfect smart, fresh, modern setting for equally smart, fresh and modern food (but more about that later). When we arrived I was expecting to see some ‘advertising’ of the Vegan Dinner – maybe a large menu on an easel at the entrance of the restaurant – or a small table displaying some of the produce being used for the evening’s meal? But we noticed nothing – for a second I wondered if we had come on the right night. We told the hostess we were there for the vegan night and she magically produced a special menu for the evening and took us to a comfy table in the middle of the room where we could spy on the tables around us and see what everyone else was eating.
I didn’t expect the standard menu to also be on offer, but seeing that the restaurant was part of the hotel, I can see that they would need to provide a choice for their non-vegan hotel guests as well. This does mean that if you decide to go with a group and someone didn’t want the vegan option they could select from the regular menu. However, from our strategically placed table we could hear people as they entered the restaurant and nearly everyone was saying they were coming for the vegan night. I spoke to the chef later and found out that about 95% of the meals served that night did come from the vegan menu! A clear sign that people are ready for more veggie based dishes to be on the menu, every night of the week. A quick look at the Bread Street Brasserie’s standard menus shows that they do offer vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options all clearly marked.
I like to cook but I still look at some vegetables and grains, get excited about their health benefits but have NO IDEA what to do with them!! This is what I thought was the true success of the vegan evening. Well prepared vegan dishes, such as these, allow people to try new and different produce and methods of cooking and open their minds to foods that their bodies were designed to eat; fruits, vegetables, legumes and simple grains prepared in a way that brings out the natural flavours instead of just boiling them away. The inspiration started right with the menu; it was varied, exciting, enticing and made us wish we had a third person with us so we could try every dish for each course. Normally when people think of vegan food they think beans, nuts, tofu but surprising these were not the main focus, instead the ‘stars’ of each dish were fresh, seasonal vegetables.
After much deliberation we chose:
Beetroot Hummus with pita bread wedges
Wild Mushroom, garlic and parsley bruschetta, charred spring onions and rocket
Cauliflower and Courgette Casserole with whole grain mustard dumpling and mash
Pumpkin, spinach and tofutti lasagne with chickpea salad
Chocolate Torte, Tofu Chantilly, chocolate sauce
Apple Strudel, Toffee Sauce, Vanilla ice ‘cream’ (n)
As you can see from the pictures all the food was vibrant, enticing, colourful, fresh and well presented – everything I would like my cooking to be! What you can’t see is how wonderful everything tasted! In fact, everything was so good that instead of reviewing each dish (I’m not a food critic so I don’t think my descriptions of the flavours and textures would do these dishes justice) I’ll just point out a few highlights.
My test of a great meal is one that makes me want to go home and try to recreate some of the dishes. This meal passed with flying colours! First on my list to attempt at home will be the mushroom bruschetta. The mushrooms were full of flavour, perfectly cooked (not watery, not over cooked) and well seasoned. What stood out for me was the celery. I know it’s not everyone’s favourite, but the little chunks of celery had absorbed all the flavour of the cooking juices and yet still retained a slight crispiness. Although we were supposed to be sharing each dish, I confess – I stole all the celery! Both main dishes were outstanding. The star of the lasagne was the pumpkin. It was cooked down to nearly a puree, but still had a bit of body to it – possibly roasted? It was rich, creamy and pulled all the elements of the dish together. The casserole was reminiscent of a ratatouille. Chunks of vegetables baked in an herby, tomato base. This dish reminded me of how much I love cauliflower! The delicate florets soaked up the flavour of the sauce – and like all the other vegetables were perfectly cooked – tender but far from mushy. The star dessert was the apple strudel. Every element was perfect! Flaky pastry with a crunchy, sweet, spicy nutty topping filled with diced apples – again tender but firm. The toffee sauce was sweet and rich and the ice cream was light and refreshing.
If you’d like to try beautifully prepared vegan food like this you are in luck; these nights take place at the Bread Street Brasserie on a regular basis. It started about a year ago when the resident vegan chef, Ryan Walker saw an opportunity to do something special during the quieter mid-week period. As a vegan himself, he pitched an idea to the General Manager to do an all vegan menu. This was so successful that the nights have now become a monthly feature. I have just found out that the next Vegan Evening will be Thursday the 17th of October and a little birdy told me the menu is looking good!!
Healthy Scale: Vegan Night at Bread St. Brasserie
Mind: (+) My mind was working overtime trying to figure out how each dish was prepared! A good meal should be relaxing but its and added bonus if it actually makes you think and learn at the same time.
Body: (+) I was actually very stuffed at the end, but there was no guilt as I know I ate some very healthy food.
Community: (+) This evening helped to support a local restaurant.