Demuths (Bath)

Demuths' existance has been at the back of my mind for a while now. In a minority of vegetarian restaurants that don't seem to cater too well for vegans however; I've not made an effort to check it out before.

That said, when I asked twitter for a list of restaurant suggestions a few weeks ago I realised that it's one of the few "good" vegetarian places I've not been to yet. We were planning to drive down the M5 on Easter Saturday (for a few days in Dorset) anyway, so a detour via Bath made for a welcome break to the journey (as opposed to Welcome Break, which is quite the opposite for vegans!).

Given that we were still in bed in Warwickshire at 10am, it's a miracle we made it there at all. What was meant to be getting on the road at 10.30 somehow warped into 11.30. We weren't the only people who thought of going to Bath that day either: once we hit the outskirts we sat in a 20 minute queue. Parking was a bit of a challenge too, the best onstreet I could find was 2 hours.

We eventually found Demuths at 2pm, fully expecting there to be no tables free. As they don't allow you to book for Saturday lunchtimes and it was over Easter we didn't fancy our chances at all.

First impressions? It's really small. Quite a lot smaller than I imagined, with only about 10 tables in total. It was also half empty!

The weather on Saturday was unseasonably warm and sunny. I've not been to Bath before and the experience was reminiscent of the French summer holidays I had in the 80s. The restaurant too had similar proportions to ones I've visited in France, with small rooms, high ceilings, wood panelling and large sash windows. We negotiated a table by an open window and with a small breeze and bottle of chilled water; bliss was achieved for a few moments at least.

The lunchtime menu seems to consist mainly of the evening menu's starters, re-branded as "light bites". Luckily the majority of these were vegan, compared to the main courses where the only choice was a curry. Given that it was the hottest day of the year so far (that I've not been stuck in work anyway), this really didn't appeal.

We ordered 3 "light bites" and 2 sides, which seemed to be a reasonable amount of food for 2 people:
Roast Red Pepper Bruschetta (vg) £6.95
roasted red pepper & creamy cannellini beans with toasted sourdough bread.

Coconut & Lentil Kebba (vg/gf) £6.95
with date puree, coriander & salad.

Purple Sprouting Tempura (vg) £6.75
with rhubarb ketchup & tamari reduction.

Balsamic Red Onion Bread (vg) £3.95
with garlic & herb oil.

Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary & Garlic (vg/gf) £2.95
Service was friendly and waiting time reasonable. As usual we ordered things we both liked the looks of and shared them out between us:

Being the brocolli hater I am, it was with extreme pleasure to find they'd run out and had substituted it with asparagus instead:

Where as the asparagus tempura from Terre a Terre (review and photo here) was exceptional, this attempt was more in the OK bracket. The batter was heavier than usual and asparagus not yet in season. I'm not sure what the rhubarb ketchup bought to the dish, but it looked pretty overall.

We both agreed that the Kebba was by far the best thing we experienced there. We weren't entirely sure what it was when we ordered it and the best description I can really give is large bhaji meets curry kiev. We ate it far too quickly to take a photo, but the inside was potato based with coconut curry in the centre. I'd certainly order this again and will probably have a go at making it sometime soon.

I wasn't really looking forward to the bruschetta. It didn't look overly appetizing either (I shalln't say what it reminded me of):

It was pleasantly nice however. The beans were really creamy and overall taste good.

The red onion bread appeared to be flatbread with caramelised onions on top. It tasted pretty good. Not outstanding, and there wasn't enough of it (maybe I'm just greedy though? :)

The big bowl of roast potatoes were just that: a big bowl of roast potatoes.

I'd have paid a pound more for them to be crispier and have sea salt, rosemary and cloves of roasted garlic included, to make them a bit more interesting. I think they may have missed a trick here.

In the name of research, we ordered the 2 vegan desserts they currently offer:
Cashew Cream & Coconut Praline (vg/gf/n) £6.75
with toffee almonds & berry compote.

Rich Chocolate Mousse (vg/n) £6.75
on a chocolate sponge with a bitter orange sauce & a coriander & pink peppercorn tuille.
It's really difficult to gauge this one, as it's quite unlike anything I've had before. I was expecting panna cotta, but it was more like coconut ice. It was pleasant but odd - we ate it all but I'm not sure I'd order it again.

I normally groan when I see vegan option of mousse on restaurant menus, but this one was a lot more decent than a pot of tofu tasting cocoa sludge.

The layer of sponge and puree on the side complimented it well and it was overall a good dessert. Whilst the tuille had novelty appeal, I'm not sure it added anything beyond aesthetics.

I've read several reviews that complain the food's overpriced. Our bill was 50% higher than we normally pay for a similarly sized meal at other vegetarian places.

Was it 50% better? Probably yea. It wasn't outstanding like Saf or Terre a Terre, but it's pretty decent food and the overall experience was an enjoyable one. I can see how they came up with their pricing and I think it's reasonable for what you get.

If they increase their choice of vegan options and/or change their menu then I certainly expect that we'll return.

I noticed on Google that there are 2 for 1 vouchers available on mains, so if they have more than 1 vegan main in the future then it'll be pretty good value.

Outdoor Summer Eating

I love being outdoors, and I love food. It isn't often warm and dry in the UK (at the same time), so I try to make the most of every opportunity I get.

This post is an introductory guide of ideas for anyone planning a vegan picnic/bbq. It'll be useful for me in the future too - my memory's terrible at the best of times.


The main reason why my partner and I have National Trust membership is so that we can make use of their grounds for regular picnics. Equally, when I go walking I try to include a picnic on the route (preferably on the top of a hill, with a good view). We even have picnics in our garden in the evening after work (sitting on the grass is sometimes nicer than at the table).

Investing in a set of watertight plastic containers (such as Lock'n'lock) is highly recommended. Thermos now sell freezer boards (as opposed to blocks), which are cheap and fit rucksacks better. Picnic baskets look nice, but aren't overly practical. Always remember to take some bin bags, both for waste and to stop hummous from getting smeared inside your rucksack!

  • Sandwiches - left over fajitas can be good too
  • Corination 'Chicken' - mix 'chicken' pieces in mayo, curry powder and apricot jam (sultanas are optional). It's less gross than it sounds!
  • Sausage Rolls - cut Linda McCartney sausage rolls into 3 and brush with soy milk before cooking
  • Pasta/Couscous/Noodle Salads - Jar of sauce, chopped pepper (if feeling healthy), job done
  • Pizza - cold can be better than hot. Use puff pastry as an alternative to dough if you fancy
  • Indian Snacks - You can often buy samosas, bhajis and pakoras in packs that require little or no cooking
  • Cake!! - how could I forget? Biscuits too. Scones + jam + cream are quintessential
  • Chocolate Mousse - there's a recipe on here somewhere, but it's basically soya whipping cream + melted chocolate + booze. Careful it doesn't melt thou
  • Vol Au Vents - Jusrol sell ready to bake cases. Fill with left overs :)
  • Potato Salad - boil new potatoes, chop and stir with mayo, mustard and chopped clives.

Buy 'ready to eat':
  • Fruit Salads - Though I'm aware that it's possible to make these yourself; I can rarely be bothered.
  • Desserts - They do exist occassionally - things like jelly and summerpudding are sometimes suitable
  • Dips - Hummous, salsa, gucamole etc. You can make these too, but they're generally cheap to buy.
  • Sausages - Redwoods sell a few varieties of ready to eat ones
  • Pasties - H&B sell ready to eat pasties in various flavours, which are semi edible
  • Quiche - now sold in H&B. It's alright, but not amazing
  • Scheese & Crackers - scheese works better than cheezly
  • Crisps / Nachos - not the world's biggest fan myself, but can be good for dipping
  • Nibbles - olives, sundried tomatoes, antipasti etc
  • Nice bread - I love making focaccia, but it doesn't happen often!
  • Oil & Vinegar - infused oils and balsamic vinegar, for dipping bread into
  • Interesting Salads - Tesco / Morrisons / Asda tend to be a bit shit when it comes to vegan pre-prepared salads that may actually want to eat. Sainsburys, Waitrose and M&S score much better.

  • Cold - I normally make up a smoothie, but juice works too. A thermos + ice helps.
  • Hot - Tea, coffee, hot chocolate - more useful on autumn walks than summer picnics
  • Booze - I generally end up driving later in the day, so tend not to include this

BBQs are great. I use a gas one at home and the disposable charcoal type when visiting non-vegans. I can't really tell the difference in taste between the two, but gas is a lot more convenient (and less wasteful).

There are lots of vegan burgers available that really don't BBQ well at all. Tofu based ones like Beannies do work, but will often split in two and need rescueing half way through cooking! I bought a vegan BBQing book a few years ago which is utter crap - it suggests using a baking tray on the BBQ with all recipes - what's the point?

You can get hickory chips that you throw on the coals to create smoke. It's a bit of a gimmick though and doesn't make a lot of difference. I've heard people say that various brands of liquid smoke are vegan, but I've not been interested enough to pursue it.

There are lots of great marinades available in UK supermarkets. Sainsburys have several that are labelled vegan - I generally use their TTD brown ale stuff on kebabs.
  • Fake burgers/sausages - Frys works the best (by far). Serve with plenty of relish, mayo and salad in a warm ciabatta roll (Sainsburys sell the best ones)
  • Kebabs - I usually do mushrooms, peppers, onion, smoked tofu, courgette. If you put a mushroom at either end then it stops the other things coming into direct contact with the grill and hence they're less likely to stick when marinaded
  • Mushrooms - Large mushrooms can be cooked on their own, either marinaded in source first or just in a little oil, soy sauce and mixed herbs. Press them down a few times during cooking to release excess moisture
  • Tofu - You can marinade firm tofu and cook directly on the grill if you fancy. It probably will stick though, so don't be surprised if it does!
  • Potato Waffles - BBQ remarkably well. Plus the leading brand is no longer owned by Unilever! :)

Steamed Cocktails

I realise that I'm probably missing the point of having an espresso machine.

I'll blog about coffee another time. In the meantime, I've found that various soya milk based cocktails work rather well when steamed.

The above was tonight's:
  • 1 shot Kahlua
  • 1/2 shot Frangelico
  • So Good (fresh)
Steamed directly in a whisky glass (foamed to 40oC, then plunged and heated to 60oC creating microfoam). It could probably be improved by adding some grated chocolate to the top - the foam's a bit bland otherwise.

A while ago I poured a little creme de menthe into shot glasses, then topped with steamed chocolate alpro, topped with froth. Works really well.

I'll keep you updated :)

Bakewell Tart

I've tried many bakewell tart recipes from the interweb over the years and none have been quite right. Too stodgy, too moist, not almondy enough; just plain nasty.

Commercially available vegan cherry Bakewells exist in the UK, but they're also gluten free, overpriced and come with disgustingly cardboard-like pastry. It's been years since I've had a good tart (no pun intended).

Therefore, I started again from scratch.

I'm not really used to my recipes not working within 1 or 2 attempts, but this one took 7 iterations to get right.

I started with my basic sponge recipe: adding ground almonds and replacing vanilla with almond essence. The result wasn't nearly almondy enough though, and consistancy far too sponge like (funny that?).

By attempt 4 I'd really cut down the amount of flour and increased the almond content. Whilst this gave great flavour; I'd essentially created marzipan - too wet with soggy pastry underneath.

Eventually I came up with a set of ratios that actually work, give good flavour and the right consistancy (moist, but not too moist). It's effectively a sponge, but with the maximum amount of ground almond you can get away with and almond essense to boost the flavour.

Filling Ingredients:
  • 100g Ground Almonds
  • 60g White Sugar
  • 80g Self Raising Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Power
  • 2 tbsp Sunflower Oil
  • 100ml Water
  • 3 tsp Almond Essense
  • Shortcrust Pastry
  • Fondant Icing
  • Half a Glace Cherry
  • Raspberry Jam
Start by making a pastry case. I use blocks of frozen Jusrol shortcrust; they're cheap, convenient, in every UK supermarket and certified vegan. Blocks are better than pre-rolled as they're cheaper and you can roll the pastry a bit thicker.

If you've too much time on your hands and want to make pastry from scratch; I assume that adding some ground almonds to the dough will improve the flavour.

Roll out the pastry, prick, cover with greaseproof paper and rice/beads, then bake in a greased pie dish for 25 mins at 200oC (180oC fan).

Allow to cool slightly, then carefully remove and place on a baking tray. Spread raspberry jam over the pastry (warming slightly if required); thicker than you would on toast but not insanely so.

Mix the dry filling ingredients together, then add the wet. It should come together in a nice semi-stiff batter that tastes almondy. Add a spoon more flour/water if required to get the consistancy right.

Add to the pastry case (ensuring that all jam is covered and the top is smooth), then bake for a further 25-30 mins at the same temperature as before.

It's done when the top starts to go golden and an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean. The pastry should be nicely golden, but not burnt.

Give the pastry a trim with a sharp knife, knock the surface of the cake slightly to give a smooth top, then allow to cool.

When cool, roll out fondant icing to about 5mm (using icing sugar to stop it sticking to the pin / board). Tescos own brand fondant was vegan when last checked/purchased (a few months ago). Again, you can make your own fondant if you've too much time on your hands.

Carefully place the fondant sheet over the top of the cooled tart, then use a sharp knife to cut it in place. You should cut as close to the edge of the pastry as you can (rough cutting a cm larger first will help). Push any rouge fondant up against the edge once complete with a blunt knife.

Place a single glace cherry half in the centre and push down. Keep extras on standby incase there's a fight over who gets the cherry.

You can make a non iced version by increasing the filling ingredients to 100g sugar, 150g almonds, 125g flour, 1/2 tsp baking power, 3tsp essense, 150ml water and 50ml water, then sprinkling with sliced almonds before baking (push them down slightly first). This is more traditional, but not as nice IMHO.

The whole thing will serve 8-10 people and it should be easy to adapt for individual sized tarts.

Mustard Tofu & Chive Mash

I felt bad for not posting any recipes, and for eating far too much junk food. If you look really close you'll even see green bits!

This is a really simple recipe with just a few ingredients. It's basically a honey mustard sauce with agarve in place of honey. It does the trick and gives a similar overall taste.

Pasta works equally well; I just fancied mash because I've not had it in a while.

  • Firm Smoked Tofu
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 4tbsp Wholegrain Mustard
  • 150ml Single Soya Cream
  • 2tsp Agarve Nectar
Slice onion, mince garlic and cube tofu. I use a block of Taifun Smoked with Almonds and Sesame Seeds (Waitrose / independant health food stores).

Fry over a medium heat till the onions soften and start to caramelise. Remove from the heat, add the mustard (4 level tbsp) and stir so that everything's coated. Pour in the cream and put back on the heat.

Quite a few wholegrain mustards come with white wine as an ingredient, so its worth looking for one labelled vegan.

When the cream's been heated, add the agarve 1 tsp at a time. Taste until the balance suits your palate. Adding too much will make it oversweet and ruin the other flavours - 2 tsp is just right for me.

Allow to simmer and reduce until you've a sticky, slightly sweet sauce / coating on the tofu and onion.

Mash Ingredients:
  • Potatoes
  • Single Soya Cream
  • Margerine
  • Salt
  • Chives
I didn't forget to include quantities - I just never measure them and adjust each time to taste. As a general rule: use 2 medium sized potatoes per portion.

Peel and chop, boil until done and drain. Pass once through a ricer, stir then add the other ingredients until it tastes good.

Pass through the ricer again if you can be arsed, the stir in a generous amount of chopped chives.

If you've spent too much time faffing about (taking pictures doesn't help) then transfer back to the pan and heat over a low flame.

Serve immediately.

The Warehouse (Birmingham)

So; I've been to The Warehouse approximately a million times since 2006. Despite having been countless times since I started the blog; I don't think I've actually dedicated a post to it.

As I seem to have become a lazy blogger who posts restaurant reviews rather than actually creating new recipes; having been again last night I thought it was about time.

The Warehouse is a vegetarian "somewhere between posh cafe and low end restaurant" in the centre of Birmingham. Their vegan desserts are usually a little disappointing, but starters and mains very good. It's not overly expensive - 2 people can eat 3 courses each for around £35.

It's very close to The Bullring, in a fairly undeveloped former industrial area (Digbeth). On-road parking is free on Sundays and if you're willing to walk 5 minutes; there's spaces further away from the centre that are always free.

There's an all vegan shop downstairs (One Earth), which is alright but doesn't take cards (and I rarely carry cash). In the evenings you have to ring the doorbell to be let in, as the building itself is also shared with Friends of the Earth.

The decor's cheap and cheerful, with a changing selection of art work for sale displayed on the walls - none of which so far I've been tempted to buy. Service is very good and waiting times generally reasonable (though we did wait an hour recently when we went Saturday lunchtime).

The vegan choice is probably more than 50%. Sometimes though the vegan option looks rather pathetic compared to the vegetarian version (almost always the case with their desserts). There's no particular focus on one cuisine - there's always a curry, a few mexican dishes and a random selection of other things. They've "light bites" (burgers, sandwiches, tortilla wraps etc) as well as full main courses.

The closest place I've found on my travels similar to The Warehouse is The Whale Tale cafe in Lancaster (similar price, choice, quality, building etc).

Anyway; I'm aware that you probably don't want to read my waffle and would rather look at some photos, so here's what we had last night....

Starter was a selection of pates, served with an ungenerous amount of tortilla:

The green and black pates appeared to be pretty good green/black olive based concoctions. The orange one was seriously gorgeous - we assumed it'd be pumpkin/butternut squash, but seemed to be more carrot and sesame seed. We're not entirely sure what it was, but it was delicious all the same. I wish restaurants wouldn't scrimp on the amount of bread served with such dishes - you end up having to eat half the pate off your knife.

I've not had a curry at The Warehouse before, but I'm glad I've tried now. I'm a bit of a skeptic when it comes to giant dishes with tiny centres, but the overall portion size was OK.

I'm not sure what's going on with the crispy noodles, and the rice tasted like it'd been cooked a few days ago, but the flavour of the curry itself (thai red) was very good indeed.

Sarah had a "light bite" of tortillas filled with refried beans and melty vegan cheese, with wedges. It's not really my cup of tea, but good value for money at £6. We decided not to trust the creamy accompanyment.

I mentioned that the desserts are generally pretty disappointing, and last night's was no exception. For the record - I make far better sundaes than this. It was alright, but not worth £4.95 by any means. The menu made it sound a lot better than it was!

The best dessert they do is carrot cake, but you can buy it downstairs to takeaway for half the price.

I mentioned that I've been loads of times before, and I reckon I'll be be going many times again. It's by far the best place of its genre in the Midlands, and is consistantly good. I've taken various omnis to it in the past and am more confident than I am with some places that they'll produce good food.

Terrace Arts Cafe (Seaton)

The Terrace Arts Cafe in Seaton serves very possibly the best vegan food on the south coast (outside Brighton). It's no Saf or Terre a Terre, but at less than half their price it's well above average.

The menu choice immense; the specials board alone has more choice than most other places. No eggs are used at all - everything is vegetarian and the majority vegan (or vegan option).

Having been 6 times in the past couple of years I've held off blogging about it.

Whilst the food has been consistantly good, there was until our last visit a fairly fundamental problem. Now that this appears to have been addressed; I'm happy to recommend it to others.

I don't buy into the whole concept that orders must arrive within 15 minutes, and don't mind waiting half an hour for good food. At the Arts Cafe however the wait was more a "enough time to go to the supermarket and buy the ingredients before cooking" wait. It happened every time we went - the longest being over 2 hours from ordering.

Ideally restaurants do 90% of the prep before they open; finishing off dishes when they're ordered. Here however each seemed to be made from scratch. As most were complex and had lots going on; if 4 people ordered different things there'd simply be too much work for one person to do.

Last time though we were pleased to see the owner out of the kitchen in incharge of front of house. The choice is still huge, but waiting times down to normal.

I can't remember exactly what we had, but I took a few snaps as usual of our shared starter and one of the mains:

The portion sizes are pretty generous and all food is very fresh. Flavours are good in most dishes and many come with lovely creamy sauces. I've had their burger a couple of times but probably wouldn't have again (the second time I forgot that I'd had it before!).

I've not been so impressed by their desserts - something described as rocky road was not at all to my taste. We did get a pretty decent sticky toffee pudding last time however:

I'm really pleased to see that they've sorted the waiting issue now and will certainly return when next down that way (normally a couple of times a year). It's probably in my top 10 favourite places in the UK.