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BEST OF MCR: Veggie Restaurants

Because nut roasts and mushroom burgers just don't cut it anymore...

Published on February 19th 2015.


BEST OF MCR: Veggie Restaurants
 

IN 1809 a preacher of the Bible Christian Church, on King Street, Salford, close to the present-day Eagle pub and Blueprint Recording Studios, persuaded his congregation to give up meat (and alcohol for that matter). He was called the Reverend William Cowherd. Good name for a veggie.

There are 1.3 million vegetarians in the UK, far more than that if you include people who are brought up vegetarian because of religion such as Hindus - that's big business. Very big. The vegetarian food market is now worth well over £800m.

Cowherd believed that all animal life was sacred and therefore we shouldn't chew on beasts. A principle disciple was Joseph Brotherton who, when he became a MP in 1832, was the first vegetarian Member of Parliament. His wife Martha wrote the first widely used vegetarian cookbook from 1812. By the fourth edition it contained over 1,200 recipes.

In 1847 a group of Manc and Salford veggies went south to convert southerners to the credo and set up the Vegetarian Society. They came back in 1848 to create a Manchester headquarters (appropriately on Milk Street) in the city that had over 20 catering staff. Within thirty years Manchester city centre had seven full vegetarian restaurants. The Vegetarian Society is still in Greater Manchester albeit in the slumberland suburb of Bowdon. 

1847 FoodBy1847

So...

It stands to reason we should have a whole range of feisty vegetarian specialists across the city. Good old progressive Manchester.

Thing is we don't. There are actually fewer veggie-only restaurants in the city centre than there were in 1880. Of course, just about every restaurant has a veggie option these days, though sadly the goats cheese, baked halloumi, mushroom risotto dullness of it all can be a problem. 

But there are some shining lights and also some fabulous ethnic restaurants that while also serving meat provide fine vegetarian food. 

There are 1.3 million vegetarians in the UK, far more than that if you include people who are brought up vegetarian because of religion such as Hindus - that's big business. Very big. The vegetarian food market is now worth well over £800m. If for economic reasons and nothing else restaurants shouldn't go ignoring those numbers.

                                                                                   

8TH DAY CAFE | Oxford Road

This is the oldest pulse pioneer surviving in the city dating from the dungaree days of the seventies. It opened first in the city centre in 1970 and moved to the present site on Oxford Road a couple of years later. The ground floor supermarket is superb but our target in this column is restaurants and cafes. Sadly 8th Day's dine-in options can seem the apogee of a certain type of vegetarian self-rightousness. A recent meal featured beetroot, chickpea, hairshirt and an utter lack of joy. The staff member had thrown the food onto a plate, spattering the 'gravy' all over the show. The dining room felt like a seventeenth-century puritan convention plotting to ban folk festivals because they encouraged cheerfulness. We must include 8th Day because of its pedigree but it might be better to utilise the supermarket and cook at home.

111 Oxford Road M1 7DU | 0161 273 1850 | website

8th Day8th Day - perhaps just use the supermarket

ALADDIN | Withington

This neighbourhood Arabic and Middle Eastern restaurant looks like a Turkish granny’s front room. There are clashing carpets and cat tapestries, pictures of historic ruins and fake bricks everywhere... and everybody loves it (arrive unbooked and you're lucky to get a seat). Aladdin is NOT a veggie restaurant, but the meze are a strength. Voyage across Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Turkey via plates of hummous, bready salads, piles of grains and parsley and baked or fried parcels like kibbeh (croquettes of bulghur wheat or potato, stuffed with cheese or vegetables), cheese pastries (bourak) and falafel. There's also veg stews and 47 aubergine dishes, try the baby ones stuffed with peppers, garlic, olive oil and walnuts (makdous) or made into a dip (makmour). Bring your own bottle of wine and have a great night out for £20 a head.

Menu here | 529 Wilmslow Road, Manchester M20 4BA | 0161 434 8558 | website

AladdinAladdin

BY 1847 | City Centre

Winner of 'Best Vegetarian Restaurant Outside London' at the Cook Vegetarian Magazine Awards 2014, 1847 has been a staple of the Manchester veggie scene since 2011. Since then the restaurant has been rebranded and Scandified, and the food Rogan'ed with more tendrils, pearls and artfully scattered petals than a Pre-Raphaelite stunner. Beer-battered halloumi with mushy peas is a firm favourite with the regulars, while a Yorkie pud starter with sprouts, cabbage, almond gravy and hairy bitter cress is much, much better than it sounds.

Two courses for £19, three for £25 (1847 currently offers £10 deals too) | 58 Mosley Street, Manchester M2 3LQ | 0161 236 1811 | website

1847 21847 beer-battered halloumi

EARTH CAFE | Northern Quarter

It doesn't get much more hippy-ster than a local, subterranean, 100% gluten-free vegan food & juice cafe tucked beneath a back street Buddhist meditation centre in a former soup kitchen. But then, this is NQ. Earth Cafe has been flying the veggie flag on Turner Street long before the word gluten was even invented (about three years ago), and each day create a menu depending 'on the weather and what's looking good at the market that day'. Most opt for Earth's hugely reasonable four-item mixed platter for £6 (two mains, two sides); there's usually a cracking mung bean curry, back that up with a pair of sage and lentil koftas, pile-up the salad and rice and you'll be as full as a hippo's sock. If that sounds like heavy-going you can get a decent-sized bowl of salad for £4.

16-20 Turner Street, Manchester M4 1DZ | 0161 834 1996 | website

Earth Cafe mixed platterEarth Cafe mixed platter

GREEN'S | Didsbury

Greens, West Didsbury’s popular vegetarian restaurant, turns 23 this year and if the crowds are anything to go by, it’s showing a few signs of fatigue. In an airy space on Lapwing Lane, nut cutlets, stuffed peppers and other veggie clichés are out, instead you get roast plum salad with buffalo mozzarella, toasted hazelnuts, rocket and plum emulsion or chickpea and veggie black pudding burger topped with grilled cheddar, in a toasted brioche bun with chips and all the trimmings. The restaurant is owned by 'celebrity chef' Simon Rimmer who opened the place largely because of the dull nature of most Western tradition veggie food - see 8th Day above. Oddly, some purist vegetarians are lukewarm about Greens as they are with 1847 restaurant, Confidential thinks they're just tight-fisted and don't like paying over £12 for a main when they can get amorphous slop down the road for £4.

41-43 Lapwing Lane, West Didsbury M20 2NT | 0161 434 4259 | website

Green's

Green's

HUNAN | Chinatown

Chinatown has many a restaurant that serves good vegetarian food amongst the omnivore menus. Little Yang Sing (George Street), Great Wall (Faulkner Street) and Red Chili (Portland Street) all contain good veggie food on their menus. A 2014 favourite was Hunan. The colours, the flavours, the verve of the food make it stand out. Of course, the drama takes place in an identikit Chinatown restaurant interior but you don’t even notice because the food is lighting bonfires in your mouth and dancing on the graves of bland rubbish. Hunanese food might be best-known for being scorchio but it can have great subtlety as well, especially with the veggie creations. Meat-deniers should try it out, the co-owner is vegetarian. The stir-fried potato strips with red pepper (£4.80) and the kelp in soy sauce and garlic (£3.80), for instance, are both immensely enjoyable. The cold kelp worked wonders with the heat providing a mouth-calming exercise. The vegetarian banquet is £16 and you won't then have to eat for a week.

1st Floor | 19-21 George Street M1 4HE | 0161 236 8889 | website

HunanHunan

LILY'S | Ashton-Under-Lyne

Lily's is an unassuming Indian vegetarian café in Ashton. It looks like a simple diner, a locals-only type establishment. But there’s cooking going on here that puts much of the Curry Mile to shame. No surprise, Lily’s has that foodie buzzword – 'authenticity' - by the balls. There’s a chef from Gujarat, one from Rajasthan, Mumbai and the deep south. The moment you realise Lily’s is special is after biting into the pea ‘kachori’; a type of ‘chaat’ or Indian street food that is pornographically moreish. Light pastry conceals a crushed pea paste, which you dunk into a dip so vibrantly green and fresh Gwyneth Paltrow would probably slap it on her mush. We tried so many dishes at Lily's it's impossible to list them all, just go and order one of everything, you won't regret it. The fact it's all vegetarian probably won't even cross your mind.

75-83 Oldham Road, Ashton OL6 7DF | 0161 339 4774 | More here

Lily'sLily's

TEATIME COLLECTIVE | Hulme

Perhaps restaurant is a little generous here, more of a vegan shed-caf' in a shipping container by the park on Royce Road, still what they lack in luxury (and heating) they certainly make up for in gumption. The Teatime Collective is littered with the insidious inverted commas, 'meat' (seiten... maybe) and 'cheese' (soy and coconut probably) are nothing of the sort, but the big 'cheesy' burger with fries, homemade ketchup, salad, gherkins and topped with onion rings is a pretty hefty deal for £7. The 'steak' and 'cheese' sandwich (£4.50) is another good fill with the 'steak' doing a lovely little umami dance across the tastebuds. The Teatime Collective will also open up in the evening for private bookings of eight or more (£16-20 a head) with dishes removed from the daytime cafe standards and into a more supper-club feel.

St Wilfrids Enterprise Centre, Royce Road, Hulme, M15 5BJ | 07950 469089 | website

Teatime Collective 2Teatime Collective

SANMINI'S | Ramsbottom

With only twenty covers, it’s a miracle Sanmini thrives out in the hills where trade can be sporadic. But thanks to a combination of excellent food and silver style service, the veggie-leaning Indian restaurant continues to thrive in its eighteenth-century gatehouse. Everything is cooked to order, with the majority of dishes hailing from the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Dr Dev Sankar and Mini Sankar emigrated from the region many years ago, and attention to detail is their thing. There are ‘non-veg’ starters, mains and mixed platters, but as the words ‘non veg’ suggest, vegetarian is the cuisine of choice. Opt for regionally-themed meals from districts of Cholan or Pandiyan, with mains of lentil, okra, moongdal and chickpea, and try a glass or two of Indian red wine on the side. Lunch or tiffin choices stand out (steamed rice cakes, the forementioned dosai) while desserts include sticky gulab jamun and an experimental beetroot halwa. One you’ll want to come back to.

Around £25-£30 a head | 7 Carrbank Lodge, Ramsbottom Lane, Ramsbottom BL0 9DJ | 01706 821831 | website

SanminiSanmini

YUZU | Chinatown

This traditional Japanese restaurant offers a great menu of sashimi (for the peskatarian in you) but some of the real thrills are veggie. Ramen-style broad wheat flour noodles, for example, served in seaweed broth with fire-bright squash and sweet asparagus tempura (£7.50). Agedashi tofu (£3.50), meanwhile, is comprised of silken cubes coated in flour and fried to create a savoury shell that’s both jelly-ish and crispy. Come for the special lunch menu (typically the same as that of an evening, only cheaper - from £6.95) which could include a fan-shaped black wooden tray, goblet of miso, black and brown wooden spoon, embossed bowl of sticky rice, and layers of tempura on top. This is dream airplane food, all clever compartments and sweetie shades. House tipple is a blend of Yuzu (a bitter Japanese citrus) and sake from £5.50. Sure, service can feel a little starchy, but there’s little else to fault in this high, wood-lined space, where food is cooked beautifully and presented with the utmost care.

39 Faulkner Street, Manchester M1 4EE | 0161 236 4159 | website

Yuzu

 

Yuzu

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14 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2015.

No Sanskruti in Fallowfield? What a shame!

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2015.

Soup kitchen? Their veggie/vegan Jamaican roast dinner is a thing of wonder.

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2015.

Agree..where is Sanskruti!! Lily's can't even touch it

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2015.

What about Lotus Chinese Vegetarian in Withington, opposite Aladdin?

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2015.

Manchester confidential is bribed by Lilly's in Ashton no other veggie restaurant can get on their list.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan Schofield - editorFebruary 19th 2015.

You idiot

AnonymousFebruary 20th 2015.

So why does confidential not bother going to sanskruti despite everyone telling them how good it is and trip advisor rave reviews??! I think your readers are not idiots but have a right to an opinion

Reader WildeFebruary 21st 2015.

Why would Lilys have to bribe? The food and service is excellent. Well worth being in manchester's finest.

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2015.

What about FUEL in Withington? What about budget option Sidney Street Cafe? And is that a vegetarian prawn at Yuzu? I know, I know, it' not actually a veggie restaurant. The 8th Day is great! Leave it alone!!

moragFebruary 19th 2015.

if by "purist vegetarian" you mean vegan the lack of love for greens is because they don't offer much excitement for anyone who doesn't eat cheese. I (and lots of vegans I know) am more than happy to spend cash on decent food and will travel far and wide to do so, but Greens just isn't that great. I think the only local place to rival Lilly's for Indian food is Jaipur Palace, its excellent. Not posh but tasty and all veggie: Mods at the Thirsty Scholar and V Revolution worth seeking out too, and I'm sure someone will schreech its not Manchester but The Globe in Glossop is fantastic pub food. And of course there are loads of places for great falafel. But yeah: I wish we had an excellent option for celebrations and big treats.

1 Response: Reply To This...
EditorialFebruary 19th 2015.

We visited V Rev, Morag - functional but not a 'best of mcr' by any means

moragFebruary 19th 2015.

Oh yeah - Sidney street is wonderful.

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2015.

Embarrassing you missed out Sansruki. Poor research.

Helen TaylorMarch 5th 2015.

I remember eating at Greens regularly in 1988, when I was a student and it was still BYOB and looked like someone's front room (they've knocked through into next door since then). I never was much good at maths, but I don't see how it can only be coming up 23. Also, it's a shame you missed off Fuel in Withington, which is always good for a cheap but delicious lunch.

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