It’s the beginning of National Vegetarian Week in the United Kingdom and if there was ever a perfect opportunity to encourage your friends and family to ditch the ‘drumsticks’ and make the transition to a plant-based lifestyle, it’s now! Even if they only want to honour the meat-free diet until Sunday, it’s still marks a positive step for vegetarians and vegans alike.
Whilst, I highly doubt my family would even attempt the challenge, I will make it my mission to remind them of the occasion and offer an assortment of vegan/vegetarian meal suggestions throughout the week.
As a matter of fact, last Sunday, my family and I made a visit to the Manna restaurant in Primrose Hill. The night in question was in fact a late celebration for my 21st birthday. My mother had organised the affair, knowing that the all-vegan Manna restaurant was a long-term favourite of mine. We have been there several times in the past and it is a place that my family and I rate very highly. The food is never less than sublime and the service is always second-to-none.
We arrived around 8.00pm and entered into a bustling and lively environment. We were immediately shown to our seats and handed the menus and wine list, whilst the waitress recited the specials. We quickly agreed on the Prosecco (all maintaining our preference to this over champagne) before perusing the rest of the menu.
Maybe it’s just me or maybe it’s something fairly common for vegans, but I always feel a little daunted by the ample choice of dishes when visiting a vegetarian/vegan restaurant. I become so accustomed to settling with the one suitable option or having to adapt the versatile dishes, that I become somewhat overwhelmed when having to choose from an entire menu. Nevertheless, whilst the Manna does offer an ingenious option, known as the Manna Meze, I did eventually manage to narrow it down. The meze allows you to pick and choose an array of starters and sides to be plated up in smaller portions as an alternative to a main course. This would essentially give you the opportunity to try a variety of their dishes, without overdoing it.
I ended up choosing the ‘Savoy Cabbage Spring Rolls to start and their famous ‘Organic Bangers and Mash’, for my Main. When the starter arrived, I have to admit, it wasn’t quite what I had been expecting, but after taking the first bite, I couldn’t have been happier with my choice. It was the perfect size and light yet distinctive in flavour. It was filled with chunks of marinated tempeh and an assortment of oriental vegetables and was brought alive by the piquancy of the ginger, lemon & miso dressing that accompanied it.
The bangers and mash were, hands down, the best I have ever tasted! I can truly see why it is such a firm favourite and so popular among their customer base. For someone, who generally isn’t that keen on mashed potato, I couldn’t get enough. It had a smooth, creamy consistency and was perfectly seasoned, which complimented the ambrosial fennel & pumpkin seed sausages. The dish was topped with onion rings and served with lashings of gravy. Unfortunately, it was so lip-smackingly good, that I finished the plate before I even had time to take a photo.
So here is one of us instead!
When it came to dessert, I was feeling well and truly stuffed. Before the menu even came up, I made it clear that I wasn’t able to manage another bite and hence, would pass on this final course. My parents, on the other hand became very adamant that I should have a dessert. “You should treat yourself, it’s your birthday” and “We’re all having something, so should you!” were just a few of the comments that were repeatedly used in an attempt to inspire an overindulged stomach. However, despite being tempted by a whole host of sumptuous-sounding desserts, I was resolute that my appetite was no longer big enough to manage a full dessert. Noticing that my family looked a little disheartened by my decision on such an occasion, I eventually gave in and requested one small scoop of Pistachio Ice Cream.
Feeling rather merry at this point, we sat, talking and laughing whilst we waited for the final course to arrive. Unexpectedly, an ensemble of voices from staff and restaurant goers echoed from the back of the restaurant, singing Happy Birthday. I turned, sighing in relief, noticing that there was a gentleman on the table beside us who was also celebrating a birthday. We joined in the cheer, before I swiveled back to face my family, announcing my relief and the embarrassment I’d feel if that ever happened to me.
I spoke to too soon!
The lights suddenly dimmed and the procession began once again! I can’t recall much else, as I had my head bowed down and my face buried into my hands. Once the singing had subsided, I raised my head to see a beautifully presented dessert, decorated in the finest vegan chocolate that I have tasted since discovering Moo Free. I thanked the lady and chatted with her briefly, before giving my family ‘the glare’.
“We almost thought you were going to ruin the surprise!”, they said.
All in all, it was a lovely evening and one that I shall not forget anytime soon. After this recent visit, the Manna certainly maintains it’s place in my mind. If anything, it has only proved to raise my expectations and reinforce my fondness for this restaurant.
To tie in with National Vegetarian Week, London’s ‘Ethical Eating’ magazine, The Jellied Eel is running a competition to find the best vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Greater London. It goes without saying that I think the Manna is certainly a worthy winner, however, there are a number of exceptional eateries listed. I’m not going to start telling you which ones I think you should vote for, but I will just point out that all the ones I would recommend are linked in the central-right column.
But I’m not saying anything!
The competition runs until the end of the week, so get voting now! If your choice is voted top, you could be in with a chance of winning a meal for two at that restaurant!